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Early February Pat McGrath, Most Influential Makeup Artist of modern times, called her muse a nineteen-year-old girl from Los Angeles Mikuela Sousa (read “mik-uela”) – a good career takeoff for a beginner Instagram blogger. Not long before that, however, the active and modern Mikuela came out: she is not a living person, but a model created using computer graphics. Now the whole world is talking about virtual influencers and their prospects in the world of fashion and beauty.

Virtual woman generated by
with the help of “live” textures, outwardly does not differ much from a real girl, passed through retouching – as a result
they start playing in the same territory,
halving the detrimental effect

Now Mikuela has six hundred thousand subscribers on Instagram, online publications write about her, her video is gaining a very real, albeit modest, number of views, and “Black lives matter” is displayed in the profile description. Big brands offer her advertising posts, and she has already managed to “shoot” for a print edition. She writes faceless music – in the generalized spirit of Rihanna and FKA twigs, but the main thing that distinguishes Mikuela’s project is her similarity to all influencers at once, as if her personality was compiled according to the list of the most popular hashtags. At the same time, the account has been active for several years – however, two years ago, subscribers did not admire the alien data, but argued whether this was a real girl, too keen on processing photos, or a product of the creativity of an ardent lover of The Sims. Then the blogger clearly frightened the potential audience – now the times are good for the CGI fashionista.

A similar story, which unfolded, however, much faster, happened with the new face of Fenty Beauty: it was the “world’s first digital supermodel” Shudu Graham, who, on the whole, looks like an ideal exponent of values ​​and the concept of Rihanna’s brand. The phrase “digital influencers” is firmly stuck in the headlines of articles on the latest marketing methods – and judging by the frequency and intonation of such publications, there will be more and more virtual models, and they will advertise more and more actively. While there is nothing fundamentally new in either the use of CGI or the creation of virtual characters, this generation of Photoshop supermodels is truly intimidating. And the point is not in pessimistic reflections about the future in the style of “Black Mirror”, but in good old objectification.

It is not for nothing that everyone is so fond of condemning “crimes against anatomy”: advertising photography has long reached a special level of existence, where living people are not like ordinary people, but like the embodiment of the ideals of brands and magazines. Filters and masterful photoshop often make living women look like an artificially created picture. The traditions of computer images, familiar from popular games, are also alive: the figures break the laws of physics, the fantastic proportions of faces look like the result of the work of a perfectionist surgeon. Modern computer graphics are quite capable of overcoming the effect of the “ominous valley”: the surface of the skin and hair of the drawn 3D-models look more and more realistic. Thus, a virtual woman generated with the help of “live” textures outwardly differs little from a real girl, passed through retouching – as a result, they start playing in the same territory, dividing the harmful influence in half.

Let in computer graphics itself
there is no sedition in itself, there is a special cynicism in making money on our complexes with its help: now play
women’s insecurity will be especially easy

While the owners of Mikuela’s account remain anonymous, the author of the second character is known – this is the photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who admits that when creating Graham he was guided by the model Ducky Toth, and also a Barbie doll in the form of the “Princess of South Africa”. As part of the art experiment, Shudu looks, perhaps, interesting – but in the context of advertising and mass culture, she becomes another banal fantasy about an ideal woman, and besides, male and with a dubious reference. A collective neurosis on the theme of an unattainable “ideal” is born from an unrealistic representation of the body, and virtual experiments in this sense give full play. And even if “living models do not starve,” all the same will have to suffer, just everyone else. The creators of virtual girls do not try to follow the path of fantasy, but, on the contrary, dream at least a little, but to deceive their audience – to make them believe in unreal-real Instagram stars.

It’s not for nothing that Mikuelya is branded as an influencer: an influential blogger not only has an effect on the feeling of beauty of her subscribers – but also makes them buy. The latter is especially important for brands – the virtual fashionista is already sporting Moncler down jackets; the brand didn’t even have to strain and send in a real jacket. And even if there is no sedition in computer graphics by itself, there is a special cynicism in making money on our complexes with its help: now it will be especially easy to play on women’s lack of confidence in appearance.

Yes, we are talking about girls. Mikuela has either a boyfriend or a friend named Ronnie Blavko with exactly the same initial data: he is also a computer graphics product, he is also a mod and also lives on Instagram. Only now the number of his subscribers does not even reach five thousand – despite the regular mentions in the posts of his girlfriend. It seems that people are simply not interested in looking at a conventional man who embodies the image of all fashionable young guys at once, which means that they cannot make money on this.

So far, the general excitement is provoked rather by the novelty of the phenomenon, so that diligently tailored computer models are unlikely to replace the Hadid sisters in the near future. However, the game doesn’t look very ethical anymore. In an interview that the digital model gave to The Business of Fashion portal, she appears to be a completely independent person: she talks about plans for the future, does not want people to ask her about her ethnicity, and calls herself an artist. Mikuela is an open voice and commitment to fighting injustice by speaking out for minority rights. It looks, however, as a tribute to fashion, a simulation of activism, which is not fraught with dangers: a blogger cannot find herself in the position of a real person signing herself with her real name. Do we need “bad” activism when even “good” is not enough? The question is open. Is it ethical to keep reassuring women that they are not good enough? Absolutely not.

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