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Who are these digital models who have invaded our social media?

Written by Amal Asebriy

‘Influencers’ of a new kind have invaded our virtuel world. What kind? computer-generated cyborg ones.

Have you ever heard of (or seen) Lil Miquela, Shudu Gram and Blawko22? You might have stumbled upon these Instagram accounts without having the slightest doubt they were unreal. In fact they’re not real at all. Yet they are acknowledged as Instagram “influencers” with thousands and millions (the case of Lil Miquela) of followers.

The new phenomenon sees strange hyperrealistic avatars become online superstars in a short amount of time. Lil Miquela for instance is a Spanish, Brazilian and American ‘influencer’ with a candid face punctuated by pretty freckles, hazel eyes, a brown mini-fringe … Aged 19, the young woman by the ‘real’ name Miquela Sousa is a young model and occasional pop singer living in Los Angeles. So far she’s amassed around 1,1 million followers and is often seen posing with other models and artists. Still, no one seems entirely sure who exactly is behind the account.

Same goes for another digital model named Shudu Gram. With a slender silhouette, flawless black-shaded skin and breathtaking beauty, Shudu Gram is a supermodel. Distinctive clue ? Created by fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson in April 2017, it is an avatar made of electronic codes, the creator was inspired by the Princess Barbie doll from South Africa. A choice that can be explained according to him, by the lack of diversity in modeling. With an Instagram account already displaying 100k subscribers, Shudu’s goal is to collaborate with emerging designers from emerging economies and under-represented countries. In fact, only nine months into the plateforme and Shudu Gram already landed her first gig with Fenty Beauty by Rihanna as a model for new lipstick bringing sudden notoriety to the first ‘Digital supermodel’.

🍊🍊🍊 . . 📸 . #fenty #fentybeauty #mattemoiselle #sawc #3dart

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Digital platforms don’t reflect the entirety of our reality as it is, but to add a new generation of unreal influencers who seem to endorse aesthetics way above authenticity might cause a sort of depression to the one sitting at home on their phone. Still the number of followers are increasing and reasons may vary. Some are probably following out of mere fascination by something so strange, and others on the other hand might value a highly stylized content disguised in a documentation of reality. But then again how is that any different from the real-life ones who master numerous tools (filters, angles, airbrushing…) in the service of a ‘perfect’ aesthetics profile?