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Lil Miquela is proving influencers no longer need to be real

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Image courtesy of @lilmiquela
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Lil Miquela’s Instagram captions are carefully comprised of all the essential millennial language. Representative of the hyper fashioned generation she’s a part of, Instagram rising gem Lil Miquela’s poses impeccably mimic the gestures and the language that have become ubiquitous within the realm of Instagram. Every detail of Lil Miquela flawlessly curated account screams of millennials’ stereotypes and edgy social media archetypes; she ticks all the boxes required to be the ultimate Instagram phenomena: unapologetic, nonchalantly passive at times, spontaneous, and politically engaged. Unsurprisingly, Miquela isn’t only an it-girl, she’s an electro-pop musician, and above all, she’s an incredibly realistic computer-generated image.

It is not immediately obvious that Miquela is a virtual simulation when scrolling through the over 200 pictures published on her Instagram feed. In the background of her stylish portraits, actual LA art galleries, alleys and clubs speak of a real world, and the friends she poses with in her pictures—real young creatives on Instagram—bridge the gap between what’s fake and real within the it-girl account. But despite Miquela's obvious CGI features, there is something incredibly authentic about her demeanor, so much so, that many believe she might be a digitalised version of a breathing, living girl.

Who is behind the creation and the management of Miquela’s virtual life remains a mystery, but it is hard to believe that the African Brazilian music artist is the product of a bored graphic design student. As Miquela’s popularity grows and with that her status, it is becoming apparent that behind her viral and lucrative success (she currently has over 500 thousand followers to whom she promotes her music and merchandise as she is sent branded goods just like any other real influencer), there is a team of post-digital professionals who are very much aware of the potency and potential behind the world’s first digital Instagram influencer.

Surpassing Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is the social media platform where the distinction between reality and fantasy gets blurred: as much as the platform is arguably used to display the everyday life of users, it is also widely deployed to create fake realities and characters that survive exclusively within the platform’s algorithms. Lil Miquela however has managed to push those boundaries: her fictional character is paving the way for an upgraded level of interaction between CGI entities and humans. Lil Miquela exists at the threshold between the digital and physical realms, through her musical practice and her influence she is impacting the real world, and her communicative power is not something that can be undermined. From charity work to conversing with her followers like any other Instagram persona, Lil Miquela’s behaviour is human in many regards. With her ability to influence the virtual realm of Instagram’s branded pixels as much as the real world, Miquela’s existence is proof that the digital world is beginning to leak into our own. Her humaness—or otherwise—no longer makes much difference at all.