Could CGI or “sentient robot” Instagram influencers be taking over the industry?

Have you heard of Miquela Sousa AKA Lil Miquela? She’s a fictional-but-real-on-Instagram avatar created as a digital art project. Miquela is the brainchild of Trevor McFedries and Sara Decou from the tech company Brud, which specializes in robotics and AI. She’s also an Instagram model, influencer, sentient robot, and music artist hailing from California.

She might not be real, but the money she makes is.

Lil Miquela dressed in Alexander McQueen for Vogue Magazine's September 2018 Issue

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Is this it? 🐾

A post shared by *~ MIQUELA ~* (@lilmiquela) on

$125 million

According to TechCrunch, Lil Miquela is still making money, “Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth at least $125 million thanks to a new round of financing the company is currently closing.” More and more investors, TechCrunch reports, are taking an interest in companies like Brud.

In the beginning, it wasn’t clear to audiences whether or not Lil Miquela was real. A publicity stunt changed all of that when fellow CGI influencer Bermuda ‘outed’ Lil Miquela as an avatar. Naturally, this brought up public criticism — why would followers trust someone who doesn’t exist? The very core of influencer marketing is that people trust other people over a brand, so brands pay real people to promote their product. Can the endorsements from CGI influencers, then, be authentic?

Don’t believe everything you see online. 
But, if anything, Lil Miquela poses important reflections about influencer marketing and social media in general: Don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Follow brands and influencers who are transparent about their endorsements and genuine with their opinions — even if they are sentient robots.

Whether or not you believe avatars and CGI have a place in the world of social media influencers, musicians, and models the avatar market remains. Lil Miquela still has 1.5 million Instagram followers and continues to make Brud cold hard cash.

What a time to be alive.