Robots are Setting The Beauty Standards of Our Future

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

"Well, everything comes from Miquela," insists Nicole de Ayora, chief content officer at entertainment company Brud. She is referring to her employer's hero product, a 19-year-old digital apparition named Lil Miquela. "We're just her managers; she's acting alone. Her life will continue to evolve. She just found out she was a robot," de Ayora says, pausing to search her memory, "I guess, two years ago, now? So she’s still figuring out what that means. And she’s been an influencer since she was born."

On Flaviana: Louis Vuitton top. Cult Gaia and Monica Sordo earrings. Makeup colors: Fill & Fluff Clear Eyebrow Pomade Pencil and SFX Créme Colour Face & Body Paint in Red by Nyx. Fashion editor: Rajni Jacques. Hair: Shingo Shibata. Makeup: Jezz Hill.

Since the goddess Isis presided over the people of ancient Egypt from wall- length glyphs and spoken lore, humans have been obsessed with projecting their dreams, woes, loves, ethics, and morals onto the most beautiful and successful among them. Before long, Cleopatra championed eyeliner and courted peace over Egypt. Then we had the regents of Europe; then it was aristocrats; then actors, musicians, supermodels. Our paragons follow wherever our eyes take us, from churches to smartphones. Influencers, the Egyptian gods of today, command the lion's share of public attention.

Miquela is certainly the first influencer to combine CGI with real- world photography, but she’s 60 years late to the title of "first nonhuman influencer." The true first has earned billions holding down a diverse hot-pink rainbow of careers: Barbie was invented not as a toy, but as a svelte canvas on which young girls could project their hopes and dreams. And then that canvas was sold as a toy. Despite lacking a respiratory system, Barbie still issues missives (like "If you can dream it, you can be it!") to an eager public. She is discussed in the third person. She is as real as Miquela and Rihanna, and potentially wields more power than both combined. At age one and a half, a child learns to identify their mirror image as a representation of their self. They meet Barbie at around age three.

Brud, de Ayora assures me, has the technology to make Miquela look as real as a kick to the head, but the company prefers to keep the seams visible (literally poreless skin, bangs that defy gravity) — the visual cue that she is digitally created is important to her overall appeal. "I have a little quote from Miquela on this, as well," de Ayora says, before reading what appears to be a prepared statement from the influencer: "She says: 'Real means whatever you want. Is Kim Kardashian real? Is there a guy who thinks of himself as the Tiger King? I think real is whatever you believe in, and whatever you want to believe in.'"

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