Brands are increasingly approaching social media influencers to promote products in an emerging practice called marking influence. This essay explores the character Lil Miquela and her role as a social media influencer.
Personal Biographical Background
Lil Miquela Lil Miquela or Miquela Sousa is a computer-generated personality. The character is presented as an American musical artist, model, and social media influencer with Brazilian-Spanish heritage. As a character, the Miquela was created in 2016 by Sara DeCou and Trevor McFedries, a project that started as an Instagram profile in Los Angles, backed by Silicon Valley financiers (Tiffany, 2019). The account presented a fictitious narrative depicting Miquela as a computer-generated imaginary (CGI) persona and a model conflicting with other online projects while promoting different types of fashion-related brands. As a character, Lil Miquela has featured in several product endorsements, including luxury brands such as Prada and Calvin Klein and street-wears. The Lil Miquela Instagram account had reached more than 2.8 million followers by October 2020. Miquela recently appeared in commercials from Japan to London as part of the UGG collective advertising campaigns. The character is vast and attractive on Instagram, attracting millions of followers (Tiffany, 2019).
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Description of Lil Miquela’s Online Profile, And the Development of Online Presence
At a glance, the character Lil Miquela could inexplicably be mistaken for a “real” person, living and breathing. In her Instagram profile, Miquela wears real-life clothes designed by street-wear brands, including Supreme and luxury labels such as Chanel. Miquela hangs out with celebrities, including influencers, artists, and musicians, in popular real-life restaurants in Los Angles and New York, where she “lives” (Tiffany 2019). Lil Miquela has featured in photographs with several celebrities, including Nile Rogers, Molly Soda, Samantha Urbani, among others, and has been profiled and “interviewed” in numerous publications such as Vogue, Refinery 29, the Guardian, Nylon, Business of Fashion, and also featured in the cover of Highsnobiety in 2018. Lil Miquela did an Instagram seizure for Prada in the “Milan Fashion Week” in February 2018, and Calvin Klein ad with Bella Hadid in March the same year (DLA Piper 2019). Despite being computer-generated imagery, Miquela has displayed all features of a real person. For instance, her body cast a shadow when photographed in daylight, and even complains of allergies and temperature in her tweets such as “39 degrees out I’m still getting this iced matcha.” In selfies, one can quickly notice the spots on Lil Miquela’s face and the gap-toothed smile, and her smooth as glass skin. However, critics have noted that Miquela’s big brown eyes fail the ultimate test of a real person (Tiffany 2019). Virtual influencers, which are computer-generated imagery (CGI) robots or creations, are the most recent social media marketing trends. The CGI technology used to produce computer-generated pictures now is now being used to generate new virtual but realistic models and Instagram influencers (DLA Piper 2019) such as Miquela, many others.
Products/Services Recommend/Promoted By Lil Miquela
Lil Miquela promotes varieties of brands, mainly in the fashion industry. As a marketing tool and social media influencer, Lil Miquela has featured in many product endorsements for street-wear and luxury fashion brands, including Prada and Calvin Klein (Tiffany 2019). Lil Miquela recently signed a deal with Chanel and Fendi as brand ambassadors and influencers. Computer-generated imagery characters or virtual influencers is a new dynamic, particularly in the fashion industry marketing approach for brands interested in online marketing to move their products. The primary reasons for virtual influencer characters such as Lil Miquela are that they can adapt to varying contests and do not regularly behave with brand identity (Audrezet, De Kerviler, & Moulard, 2018). Everything Miquela does is controlled by the account manager, who oversees the target audience’s messages. Besides influencing the fashion brands, Lil Miquela is also a virtual musician, having released her first single album in 2017 called “Not Mine,” and several other singles that followed, including “Over You,” “Right Back,” and others in collaboration such as “Hate Me” produced in partnership with Baauer (Tiffany 2019).
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Pitfalls Li Miquela Has Experienced/Accusations of Questionable Behavior
Lil Miquela has experienced challenges with cyber-attacks, including the recent case where her Instagram account was hacked by rival Bermuda, a pro-Trump Instagram influencer, forcing Miquela to reveal to the world the truth about her computer-generated imagery creations. With the attack, Miquela’s creators and nature’s mystery came out, though it is still unclear why the attack happened, leading to Bermuda deleting all Miquela’s IG photos and replacing them with hers. Because the CGI’s influencers, including Miquela, are based on artificial intelligence systems, it is essential to consider cyber-attacks’ potential risks. Miquela also recently complained about not being paid by the fashion designers to wear clothes. However, she has since signed deals with Fendi and Chanel after appearing in the Prada fashion and her promotional activity for Diesel and Moncler (DLA Piper 2019). To note, in light of the CGI persona influencer trends, many fashion brands soon might begin to create their virtual influencers just like Lil Miquela to control brand information passed to the target audience.
Lil Miquela is an entirely computer-generated imagery personality and online influencer, mostly for fashion brands. Despite the tremendous following, she may not feel the pain or appreciate the difficulties of walking in stilettos for what she says on the Instagram platform as everything about Miquela is manufactured.
Audrezet, A., De Kerviler, G., & Moulard, J. G. (2018). Authenticity under threat: When social media influencers need to go beyond self-presentation. Journal of Business Research.
DLA Piper (2019). Lil Miquela, Shudu, Bermuda and Sophia The Robot: CGI and Robot IT Girls Whom Will Become the Influencers of the Future. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=b30cbacf-f173-4772-9f99-8b6b9b572d44
Tiffany Hsu (2019). These Influencers Aren’t Flesh and Blood, Yet Millions Follow Them. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/business/media/miquela-virtual-influencer.html