CGI & Robots: Is This The Future Of Fashion & Beauty?

What is 'real'

Instagram is one of the biggest social platforms for beauty and fashion today. From who's wearing what to which trend is hot, it has become a microcosm of the two industries and even a conductor of where it's headed. 

But aside from the filtered photographs or curated feeds that people often see in this online space, a new but somehow fascinatingly eerie trend has been emerging: CGI and robots as beauty and fashion influencers. 

You read that right! And we're not just talking about dolls or stuffed animals being dressed up and photographed — these are actual technologically created personalities signing brand deals and posing for spreads. But before we get into who's who, the idea of having a digital icon did not exactly start on Instagram. 

Those who are into Japanese culture will definitely be familiar with Hatsune Miku, one of Japan's most popular 'idols', who is, yes, a humanoid persona. She's sold out hundreds of concerts, has sold probably millions of merchandise and has a very passionate following (as you can see in the video above). And since this idea of having a digital star with a massive following did not exist before, a lot of people were initially weirded out by the idea. But it seems like it is where we are headed now.

Starting with the least shocking first, you may have already heard about Sophia, a humanoid developed by Hanson Robotics in 2015. She made headlines for being able to express 62 different emotions and has been the first robot ever to be granted a citizenship; she is a Saudi Arabian citizen. 

Besides having an active Instagram account with 15k followers, plus almost hundreds of fan accounts dedicated to her, Sophia can be seen going on photo shoots, giving speeches, and doing just about anything an 'Instagrammer' would do. 

But that's just the beginning. Following the likes of gorgeous Hollywood superstars like Lupita Nyong'o and Viola Davis, Instagrammer Shudu Gram is someone you can definitely mistake for as a supermodel or an upcoming celebrity. But the catch is: she's not real.

Created by London-based photographer Cameron James Wilson, she is distinctly human-like and has more than 36.7k followers on Instagram and counting. The digital model has even been featured on Fenty Beauty's Instagram account recently. 

But Shudu is not the only 'digital model' you should look out for. Internet conspiracy theorists and Instagram patrons alike have also been obsessed with Lil Miquela, who has more than 500k followers on Instagram to date. What's fascinating about her in contrast with Shudu is that she looks like an animated girl super-imposed into the real world, making people question if there is an actual 'girl' behind the CGI-d features. 

What's even more interesting is that she's been taking candid photos with 'real people' and has even done a voice interview with YouTuber Shane Dawson. She craftily avoided questions about who she really is, making the internet's fascination, curiosity, and even obsession with her mysterious identity escalate to new heights. 

And it's safe to say that whoever is behind Lil Miquela is working flawlessly on her brand. Just recently, aside from announcing that she will release her music soon, Lil Miquela was also announced as Pat McGrath's new muse. Talk about career goals!

With this line between reality and technology overlapping more and more each day and while we wonder how we are defining 'realness' at this day and age, we ask: is this the direction we're heading not just in the fashion and beauty industry but humanity as a whole?