Nineteen-year-old Miquela Sousa, or “Lil Miquela,” is the first member in a generation of CGI influencers created by Trevor McFedries and Sara Decou of Brud— an LA-based media company specializing in robotics and artificial intelligence. The Brazilian-American musician, model, and influencer has over three million followers on Instagram and was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2018.
As of 2021, the influencer marketing industry is valued at $13.8 billion, a staggering jump from it’s 2020 valuation of $9.7 billion. Real influencers can be unreliable and more expensive— where startlingly human-looking fictional influencers are unproblematic, and can be designed and manipulated to sell products however and wherever companies want them. They are, in short, the perfect brand representatives—their accounts tell rich and curated stories of complex, modern individuals loved by millions of real fans across the globe. As influencers continue to blur the line between marketing and entertainment it begs the question: does it matter if they aren’t real? And how far will companies go to garner attention?