The London-based digital lifestyle magazine Dazed announced three new contributing editors for its beauty edition this week—including an Instagram influencer who happens to be a computer simulation.
An “it girl” and virtual avatar named Lil Miquela will be the site’s contributing arts editor, thanks to her experience as “a musician and activist on the side of her modeling work,” according to the announcement. Miquela will join Aquaria, an American drag queen and recent Ru Paul Drag Race winner, who will be Dazed’s contributing entertainment editor, and the trans model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, who will serve as the magazine’s contributing LGBTQ+ editor.
Dazed was mostly applauded for selecting Aquaria and Bergdorf (who made headlines when she was fired from a contract with L’Oréal after commenting on white racism). But many rolled their eyes at the appointment of Lil Miquela, who is the creation of a Los-Angeles-based start-up called Brud. The company was co-founded by the 33-year-old former DJ Trevor McFedries, and has raised around $6 million in VC funding from big Silicon Valley hitters like Sequoia Capital, Techcrunch reported in May.
Some found the hiring of an avatar instead of a human problematic:
Lil Miquela was introduced to the world back in 2016 as Miquela Sousa, a Brazilian-American 19-year-old influencer. She has since been featured in several magazines, including V and Papermag, and per her Instagram profile is politically left-leaning, supporting causes like Black Lives Matter and the Innocence Project. She was briefly involved in a complicated drama earlier this year with fellow virtual influencer @bermudaisbae (aka Bermuda) who allegedly “hacked” Miquela’s Instagram. But as Bermuda is a fellow Brud “client,” it was surmised that the whole thing was an elaborate PR stunt by Brud.
The creator of Miquela and her Instagram presence is anonymous, and it’s unclear who acts as her “voice” in the form of her photo captions—and how much of that voice is programmed by a human vs. an algorithm. But Miquela’s Instagram feed, with its 1.4 million followers, looks a lot like that of any other major influencer on the platform: photos of the CGI posing in popular brands such as Stussy and Off White, lounging next to an uneaten tray of In-N-Out burgers, or paddling in a pool with a Supreme floaty. There are also shots of her rubbing shoulders with celebs in Chanel or sitting in the front row of Prada’s last fashion show.
The Instagram profile screams #SponCon, but the brands Miquela sports are not disclosed as paid or sponsored posts, per Instagram’s policy (which could be a violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s endorsement guidelines). Perhaps virtual influencers are not subject to the same rules human ones are?
Miquela also exists on Tumblr and has a verified account on Twitter. And she has two singles on Spotify, although no one knows whose actual voice is actually singing, or if it’s all digitally manipulated.
As for her role at Dazed, neither Brud nor Dazed immediately responded to a request for comment, so it’s unclear how involved she will be in the site’s editorial operations. “Contributing” roles can vary quite widely, and many contributing editors do little or no editing—and instead are given the designation for their following, reputation, or freelance writing. Dazed’s announcement does not say whether anyone will be compensated for Miquela’s role.