The Rise of AI Influencers: Virtual Celebrities Making Millions from Fashion Giants
Meet Lil Miquela, Imma, and supermodel Shudu, AI-powered characters that have made millions through partnerships with fashion giants like Dior, Calvin Klein, Chanel, and Prada.
With nearly eight million followers on social media platforms, these virtual celebrities have become a sensation, captivating their audiences with every detail of their seemingly human lives. Lil Miquela's relationship with fellow virtual star Blawko has particularly intrigued fans worldwide.
The virtual influencer industry has skyrocketed in value and is currently estimated to be worth a staggering £3.5 billion. Experts project further growth, predicting a 26% increase by 2025.
Behind these realistic profiles are tech firms utilizing computer-generated characters made by graphic designers and digital artists employing artificial intelligence. These firms can earn up to £8,000 for a single social media post by collaborating with major brands.
The authenticity of these virtual influencers is so convincing that many followers genuinely believe they are interacting with real humans. Nordic model Milla Sofia's recent stint on Twitter, where she shared supposedly authentic bikini pics from exotic locations, left fans convinced she was a real person, despite her account stating she is a "19-year-old robot girl."
The allure of virtual influencers lies in their limitless potential for creativity and engagement. They are not bound by human limitations, can be in multiple places at once, speak any language, and perform incredible feats. Brands can exercise greater control over their messaging and enjoy a consistent online presence without the fatigue of real-life influencers.
Notable examples of successful collaborations include car maker Renault creating the virtual beauty Liv for a TV advert, and Samsung hiring Lil Miquela for its #teamgalaxy campaign, projected to earn her £9 million this year.
Virtual influencers like Lil Miquela (3.6 million followers on TikTok and 2.7 million on Instagram), Shudu (240,000 Insta followers), and Imma, who secured a deal with furniture giant Ikea, are gaining popularity, especially among Gen Z, who seek novel and unique engagements.
Despite the excitement surrounding AI influencers, there are concerns about blurring the lines between reality and fiction. Striking a balance between virtual and real influencers is crucial to avoid alienating customers.
While AI influencers offer numerous advantages to brands, they can never replace the authenticity and emotional connection that real brand ambassadors like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylie Jenner provide. Ultimately, it's the storytelling power and human touch that wins the hearts of audiences worldwide.
Worth: An estimated £10million and can charge up to £8,000 a post.
Profile: Claims to be a 19-year-old robot living in LA but was created by American AI company Brud.
Loves Cardi B, supports #blacklivesmatter and transgender rights.
Computer wizardry to create and mix music lets the Brazilian-American have songs on Spotify.
Has partnered with brands such as Pacsun and Prada.
Followers: 2.7million on Instagram, 3.6million on TikTok.
Controversy: Model Bella Hadid was accused of “queer baiting” after “kissing” Lil Miquela in a Calvin Klein advert. The firm later apologised.
Worth: Valued at £440,000 a year until she mysteriously stopped posting in 2020 amid a row over her inventors.
Profile: Trump supporter who trashed other influencers. Posted memes condemning Hillary Clinton.
Her virtual boyfriend is Blawko.
Followers: 244,000 on Instagram.
Controversy: Bermuda was thought to be the brainchild of mysterious US firm Cain Intelligence.
But when she allegedly hacked Lil Miquela’s profile in 2018, it sparked rumours she was also created by Brud.
Worth: £100 an Instagram post.
Profile: The curvy “model” first appeared on Instagram in February 2021, calling herself a singer, DJ and producer – but little else is known.
Appears to be based in America.
Followers: 3,500 on Instagram
Controversy: None . . . yet.
Worth: Having set up her Instagram profile just last month, there are not many financial details on Milla.
But with 52,000 followers, she could charge up to £350 a post on the platform.
Profile: Pictured in a selection of itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikinis.
Followers: 52.7k on Instagram, 90,000 on TikTok and 12.5k on Twitter (now X)
Controversy: Mila looks so realistic that X users were fooled into thinking she was real.
It appears many were too busy admiring her pictures to read her bio, where she describes herself as a “24-year-old robot girl living in Helsinki”.
Worth: £505,000 a year and £1,000 a post.
Profile: Japan's first virtual model, invented by tech firm Aww Inc, who is known for her bubblegum pink bob.
She has worked with top brands including Porsche Japan, Ikea, Dior, Puma, Nike, Valentino and Amazon.
Followers: 11,100 on Twitter (now X) and 399,000 on Instagram.
Controversy: Took part in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, where she “participated” in the closing ceremony, marking a first for the virtual world.
Worth: An estimated £159,000 a year and £600 per Instagram post.
Profile: A streetwise bad boy who lives in LA and dates Lil Miquela.
They were created by the same tech firm, Brud.
Never seen without a mask covering his lower face, even before the pandemic.
He was once represented by top PR firm Huxley and has worked with fashion brands including Balenciaga and Supreme.
Followers: More than 224,000 on YouTube and 130,000 on Facebook.
Controversy: Once “dated” Lil Miquela’s rival Bermuda, which led to even more questions about who was behind the Trump-supporting influencer.
Worth: Earns around £96,000 a year and can charge up to £400 a post.
Profile: The creation of British fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson, she claims to be the world’s first AI supermodel.
Recently seen in Louis Vuitton cothing for a shoot in Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
Followers: 240,000 on Instagram.
Controversy: Cameron-James was accused of denying real black women the chance to model.
He later said: “There’s a big kind of movement with dark skin models. So she represents them and is inspired by them.”
Worth: Not yet known
Profile: India's first meta-influencer launched her career as a “dream chaser, model and traveller” last year.
She attends music festivals worldwide and has endorsed Indian brands including Morris Garages and Navro phones.