Virtual Influencers

lil-miquela-virtual-instagram-fashion-influencer-1The whole idea of a “virtual influencer” is mind blowing.  But, nothing surprises me in today’s heavily driven technological society.  What struck me recently was when wee discussed Miquela Sousa in class.  She is a Brazilian-Spanish, 19 year old, based in Los Angeles and boasts nearly 1.1 million followers on Instagram, although she is not even human.  She is a digital simulation, who is computer-generated.  However, it is hard to truly tell that she is not a real person.  She posts artsy selfies paired with interesting captions, both which have resulted in engagement numbers in the thousands.  She basically is a celebrity on the Instagram and to her followers, she is somewhat intriguing. She claims to have a personality, like a real person.  She describes herself as, “an artist or a singer or something that denotes my craft rather than focus on the superficial qualities of who I am.”  But, the question which comes to my mind immediately is, if she is not real, who is posting on Miquela’s behalf?  And after some research, she’s not ready to reveal exactly who is the mastermind behind her artificial creation.

The fashion industry has embraced this super technology in the past.  About five years ago, Marc Jacobs, who at the time was creative director at Louis Vuitton, designed costumes for a holographic Japanese pop star named Hatsune Miku.  This Japanese “pop star” had also come into fame and had “collaborated” with Lady Gaga and Pharrell.  Modeling Jacobs’ designs this holograph was one of the firsts to step on the scene and becoming a virtual trendsetter.  Then, three years later, Louis Vuitton, now designed by Nicolas Ghesquière, casted their collection “Final Fantasy” heroine, Lightning, in its spring 2016 campaign.  This showcased Lightning, who wears pink hair and sporting Louis Vuitton luxury handbags. It is interesting to see how the fashion industry is so accepting and willing to work and promote with virtual influencers like Miquela.  This reminds me a little of Duffy’s idea of the entrepreneurialism of the self.  However, in a different way, a company, or someone is using Miquela as a front to monetize off of the idea of a human influencer.  The use of this is also deceiving because she is carefully curated to fit the ideals of an influencer.  From trendy clothes, makeup, meeting with celebrities and traveling a glamorous life, it is interesting how the people behind Miquela are positioned, without putting their real identities at a disadvantage. This creates a whole new opportunity for people to become entrepreneurial fashion bloggers, but using a digital simulation or other uses of technology.

Also, influencers like Miquela open up a whole new door for technology and fashion.  Never mind, wearable tech, it is now about influencing using technology.  Like in Wissinger’s article, she describes how more research into wearable tech is necessary.  Especially, things which exhibits gendered attitudes toward feminine  women.  Miquela emulates the idea of a feminine women on Instagram and at the same time is calling attention to the influx of the growing fields of biotech and synthetic biology.  This is something that is becoming more and more known across platforms.  And the fact the people behind Miquela are getting so much publicity for having a digital simulated influencer, it probably will become more and more prevalent in the future.

I do believe that accounts like Miquela’s  which exist are bizarre, but I can see why they do.  We are in a world where technology is advancing everyday.  And now having the ability to have a fake “Instagram celebrity” is the next phase.  Although, these people are making money off a fake simulation, they are still using her as a business platform. It is interesting to see where this all will go in the future and see exactly who the creators are and exactly how they are benefiting from creating an virtual simulation account like Miquela.

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