She sits in a booth at a busy café in Milan, Italy, huddled in close next to her cute blond friend. They both stare sweetly at the camera in front of a table of empty plates and discarded glasses, and pose for a photo that has been liked more than 76,000 times.
“Insert caption about Eminem and Mom’s spaghetti”, she has typed playfully alongside the image.
Except, she didn’t type it at all.
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Because she doesn’t exist.
Lil Miquela is AI – she’s 100% computer-generated.
Lil Miquela is an instagram “influencer” who has 1.1m followers. She’s featured in fashion magazine photoshoots, been interviewed for articles, has scored endorsement deals and often hawks sponsored posts.
She also regularly appears in photos alongside other fashion insiders. That picture from Milan I mentioned earlier? It was real, and so was her blond friend – it was Miquela who was digitally added afterwards.
The fact that she is completely artificial is not just news to some of her followers, but also to Miquela herself, who “self-realised” just last month. Her most recent post thanks fans for their support as she’s still “working through it”, after she was outed as AI on April 20.
Even that confession hasn’t convinced some that she’s not real, with one passionate fan writing just yesterday, “Can you guys stop bullying her for God damn once!! She’s perfect the way she is stop critique her or you guys seriously going to regret It.”
A little sleuthing reveals that she’s actually come a long way since she first burst onto the Instagram scene 2 years ago, but it still boggles the mind. I mean, it’s one thing to be envious of perfectly polished and highly photo-shopped Instagram models. It’s something else entirely when the actual person doesn’t exist…
It’s definitely messing with my noodle today. But, it could be a sign of things to come, according to Dr Tama Leaver, associate professor of internet studies at Curtin University.
Dr Leaver has written about authenticity on social media, and says Miquela could be the “pinnacle” of influencer culture.
“At the end of the day, in some ways, she is a pure influencer,” Dr Leaver says, “[as] she is all the influence – without all the stuff we are not supposed to see.”