Sometimes I think that we’re already in a Black Mirror episode. The fact that we have Sophia, an actual robot that can interact with humans, already freaked me out. But there’s another trend that’s taking over: brands are using virtual influencers.
No, this isn’t your usual Instagram personalities. They’re AI-generated influencers who share photos that are just as real as any sponsored post. It’s also astounding and weird to see them posing in real-life scenarios and wearing the latest fashion pieces. Some of them are even starring in magazine covers and billboards. Is this the future? What’s happening?
To keep you up to speed, we’ve listed some of these virtual influencers. We’re also including non-AI ones that probably started it all.
This virtual band comprised of four animated members. They came to the scene in the late ’90s and even after it was revealed that Blur’s Damon Albarn is the vocalist, Gorillaz still gained a cult following. In 2011, Converse collaborated with the band for limited-edition sneakers. A few years later, Jaguar Land Rover got bassist Noodle as their global ambassador.
In 2014, Kenzo introduced an quintilingual avatar named Knola during their spring/summer ’15 presentation. Dazed reported that she was flashed on giant screens and was controlled by a real person backstage. “She represents this multi-cultural vision of humanity in the future,” Humberto Leon said. However, it seems like whoever created Knola also gave her a personality of her own as evidenced by this Q&A from Contemporîste.
Louis Vuitton recruited Final Fantasy XIII character Lightning as the face of their “Series 4” spring/summer campaign. Nicolas Ghesquière said that this was the brand’s way of combining reality and the virtual world. He also worked with Square Enix artist and designer Tetsuya Nomura to create the campaign.
Shudu ultimately caught everyone’s attention when Fenty Beauty reposted her photo on their feed. Many thought she was a real person, one model even noted how Shudu is an inspiration for black women everywhere. But she’s a 3D art project by photographer Cameron James-Wilson. Still, she’s dubbed as the “World’s First Digital Supermodel” who’s been featured on the cover of Ulihoumism Magazine and often “wearing makeup” from brands like YSL Beauty and Pat McGrath.
She first burst into the scene during Prada’s fall 2018 showcase. The CGI-generated influencer is surprisingly making a huge name for herself as she’s featured in King Kong Magazine and Highsnobiety (even doing an IG takeover), an advocate for Black Lives Matter, and released music on Spotify. I don’t know if I should be impressed or be scared, TBH.
Blawko seems to have been created by the same people behind Lil Miquela. He looks like a rapper and was first seen squat-posing next to Miquela during Coachella. His Instagram account is filled with gameplay screenshots, memes, and streetwear OOTDs. He also has a YouTube channel where he plays Fortnite and he even has a facecam on the lower left side of the screen.
Ready for something complicated? Bermuda became famous because she allegedly hacked Miquela’s Instagram account. Their drama was an actual saga that even The Cut didn’t know what was going on. (I tried keeping up too and I got a headache from it.) But from what we’ve gathered from her posts, Bermuda is a Trump supporter, she idolizes Iggy Azalea, and she has mocked Lena Dunham and Oprah. So far, she’s not endorsing any brands yet.
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