Is Lil Miquela Real?
In 2018, the glamorous, perfectly-curated world of Instagram influencers is hardly a mystery—and yet, one Instagram star remains an enigma: Lil Miquela.
Miquela Sousa is a 19-year-old Brazilian-American model, singer and Instagram personality. She's beautiful, she hangs out at Coachella, she wears chic street wear and she books high fashion spreads in publications like V magazine. She's the ideal representation of the California It Girl archetype—and also, she's not real. Or is she?
Lil Miquela was "activated" in 2016 when her Instagram account, @lilmiquela, went live. Early in her fascinating career, she gained attention online when users began wondering whether or not she was a real person or a virtual simulation, with some arguing that she was a fully CGI creation and others claiming that she was a composite created using the body of a real woman and a digital head. Others believed that she might be at the center of a viral promotional campaign by The Sims game franchise.
The AI star is known for "taking photos" at trendy locations—from art gallery openings to exclusive Los Angeles clubs—and for wearing designer brand clothes, including Chanel, Vetements and Supreme. She also has a number of other social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) and has used her platforms to support various advocacy campaigns, movements and social causes. In August 2017, she even released her first song, "Not Mine," drawing comparison to Japanese virtual music icon Hatsune Miku.
In April 2017, the mystery surrounding Lil Miquela exploded when a sentient pro-Trump AI robot named Bermuda—supposedly created by a corporation called Cain—hacked Lil Miquela's account, deleting all of her photos and posting tags leading back to her own Instagram account, @bermudaisbae.
After Lil Miquela regained ownership of her Instagram, she shared a message to her followers, admitting that she was "not human" and claiming that she was created by a Silicon Valley organization before being freed by a company named Brud, which, unlike Cain, is an actual organization with real humans on staff. She also promised she would soon share more information about her creation and her purpose.
For now, it's clear that Lil Miquela is not human—but to her 1 million followers, she's as real as they want her to be.