miquela

Meet Miquela: The Virtual Influencer and CGI Celebrity

This valley is starting to look uncanny.

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Whelp, we knew this was coming. Miquela, aka “Lil Miquela” is a digital avatar/music artist who is poised to become the first virtual celebrity. Miquela was created by entertainment company Brud, which describes themselves as makers of “story worlds that have the power to introduce marginalized ideas wrapped in the familiarity of entertainment.”

View this post on Instagram

So. I’ve been using my stay-inside-energy to focus on music. But on some real stuff: it's been HARD. Turns out studio sessions on Skype aren't really a thing. Also, it's kind of impossible to be productive when your mind is somewhere else. I keep thinking about how hard folks have been impacted – musicians and music industry workers included. Obvious next question: What can I do to help? I hit up a bunch of talented homies, and we decided to collab on something creative; we'll be raising money and hopefully bringing y'all some joy at the same time. More news on that dropping soon, but for now: text 'MIQUELA' to 50155 to donate to @musicares in partnership with the @plus1org Covid-19 Relief Fund. Learn more about this awesome cause in my stories.

A post shared by Miquela (@lilmiquela) on

Miquela was launched on Instagram in April 2016, and soon grew to amass 2.2 million followers, with an additional 550,000 on TikTok. The CGI-generated teen robot has been advertised as an “influencer” and a “Gen Z tastemaker”, and has been racking up followers. She has even launched a music career, and her music videos have garnered millions of views.

The ethnically ambiguous robot teen has garnered a slew of brand partnerships with companies like Samsung, Prada, Calvin Klein and YouTube. If this all sounds depressingly familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it before. The “virtual star” concept has appeared in science fiction books, television series, and films.

There’s the 2002 Andrew Niccol film Simone, where Al Pacino plays a director who becomes obsessed with his digital creation.

There’s also the more recent Blade Runner 2049, which starred Ana de Armas (Knives Out) as hologram AI companion Joi.

ana de armas

(image: Warner Bros.)

Now, Miquela has signed with mega agency CAA, as their first digital client. They will rep Miquela for any appearances in film, television, music, or any sort of branding. As for who provides the real singing voice for Miquela, Brud is evasive, saying “Miquela, like many artists, uses pitch-correction tools and other software to make sure she’s nailing her performance. She may be a robot but nobody’s perfect.”

Brud president Kara Weber said in a statement, “Miquela has cultivated a passionate fandom and now finds herself in the unique position of both reflecting and influencing culture, … There are unprecedented opportunities for high-fidelity virtual characters to push the bounds of what we’ve seen in any content and advertising to date. We look forward to developing that opportunity with CAA.”

But will Miquela have any sort of career or is she a novelty, a flash in the pan? While I still think we are a long ways away from a digital movie star, CGI creations like Miquela could be a way forward for a film and television industry that is struggling to figure out how to create content in a post-pandemic world.

What do you think of digital celebrity? Does Miquela have more power as an influencer than say, Kim Kardashian?

(via Variety, image: Instagram/@lilmiquela)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.