Full Name: Miquela Sous
Age: 19 years old
Location: Los-Angeles, United States
Career: Brazilian-American model and musical artist
Lil Miquela – Who is She?
I remember first reading an article about Lil Miquela and thinking what a unique idea. I then visited her Instagram profile – not quite believing what I had just read. She looked so real. As a test, I messaged my contacts asking what they thought, not yet letting on that she was indeed a CGI creation.
I was pleased it wasn’t just me when at least half replied saying they were amazed by her beauty. However, on closer inspection they thought she did look slightly digital or anime-like.
Lil Miquela’s existence has been questioned as to whether she is a marketing tool or social experiment. Is it possible her followers really do engage with her as if she is the real deal and are able to feel sympathy for her? This is human instinct for us.
The reality is of course that Lil Miquela is not human. She is an online robot created by US company Brud. When her profile first appeared in 2016, there were some users who struggled to tell whether she was human or not. Nowadays, with the development in CGI technologies, it is even harder to decide.
What is the Truth?
When the profile first started, there was constant debate in the comments about what exactly was the truth. It was only through a publicity stunt by Brud themselves (unknown to users at the time) that all was revealed.
Brud ‘hacked’ Lil Miquela’s account with another creation of theirs (@bermudaisbae). Bermuda refused to allow Miquela her account back until she was honest with users about what she really was. This stunt then allowed Miquela to come forward saying how Brud stole her from a man who was creating her to be a servant but she was then under Brud control.
All of this sounds very much like a new sci-fi film; a theory raised by some fans when they discovered the co-founder of Brud, Trevor McFedries, used to work at Bad Robot (the production company of director J.J Abrams)
When scrolling through Miquela’s profile you have to continually remind yourself she is not real. While Miquela talks about how she is now free to live her life and be who she wants to be – that is still Brud creators talking and controlling her accounts.
Despite the headache of trying to understand and whether users believe or not, Lil Miquela has been an absolute success. To date, she has over 1 million Instagram followers along with a musical career with two top hits on Spotify. She was featured on the cover on Highsnobiety in 2018 and has worked with brands such as Supreme and Prada.
It is hard to say how much influence she has over her followers but through the comments on her platforms she has a support group of loyal fans “Miquelites”. Despite the unreality of it all, many do engage with her whether it be discussing the ethics of certain issues she puts in her captions or asking where her outfit is from.
However, one debate is whether (and how much) Brud are paid for all the partnerships Lil Miquela is involved in. By law, all influencers have to state whether they are being paid to advertise certain products or services. This rule does not seem to affect robots such as Lil Miquela, as none of her posts currently have any type of sponsored content reference, even though she is clearly promoting brands when she does her partnerships.
Brud are yet to disclose whether she has no payment from these or whether simply she is exempt from these laws due to not being real. Many struggle to understand why one would want to follow a robot influencer but with Brud providing her with a very human-like online narrative, it does prove tricky to distinguish her from other real influencers.
Human – v Robot
What is really fascinating about her profile though, is if we are being truly honest how much does it stand out from the rest of the influencer accounts on our explore page? It doesn’t because it fits right in. Is Lil Miquela really just opening our eyes to how edited the human influencers are nowadays?
Minus the human emotion, how much difference is there between having a human edited picture and a robot enhanced image? Emilia Petrarca from The Cut describes how ‘Social-media personalities like the Kardashians alter their bodies and edit images of themselves so heavily that CGI characters somehow blend naturally into our feeds.’
As for competition, followers-wise no one has beat Lil Miquela yet and she has her family extending thanks to Brud who have created two other robots (@ bermudaisba, @ blawko22 ). Other companies who are specializing in CGI and AI robotics are Diigitals Agency (a modelling agency for only robots) and Shudu (a high fashion robot model).
Could this be the future of influencer marketing? It is important to think of all the options; whether it could be seen as safer for CGI robots with no feelings to deal with trolls rather than humans having their mental health affected by the constant negative comments.
Personally, something doesn’t quite feel right just yet about going to accounts such as Lil Miquela for my fashion inspo but who’s to say in few years’ time whether that will be the only choice. Not everyone is supportive of these robot accounts but this may be due to our fear that once again our human jobs are easily being replaced by machinery.
It is hard nowadays to tell what is real on Instagram even if the influencer is human, are they genuine? When they post about personal issues in their lives, is it for the likes or is it for actual positivity in helping spread important messages?