Miquela Sousa—or @lilmiquela as she’s known on Instagram—posts bathroom selfies like any regular teen on social media. The 19-year-old musician is based in Los Angeles and uses her platform to drum up support for new track releases and pledge her allegiance to social movements, like Black Lives Matter. In keeping with other millennial influencers, she shares a steady torrent of #OOTD shots, memes, and inspirational quotes with a dedicated legion of followers. You might compare her to Bella Hadid, Rowan Blanchard, or Kylie Jenner. You might, except you’d be missing the point entirely. Because Miquela’s not like them at all. In fact, technically-speaking, she’s not even “real.” She’s a computer-generated avatar—a simulated character designed by an anonymous team of people for an undisclosed reason.
The concept of virtual celebrities isn’t exactly new, (think back to Damon Albarn’s Grammy Award-winning Gorillaz in the early 2000s), but Sousa is the first of her kind to tap into the bizarre world of social media. Her creation—and subsequent success of her debut single, “Not Mine,” which climbed to number eight on the streaming charts in August 2017—is pushing wider discussions about the evolution of digital influencers and the role they play in the life of Gen-Zers. In particular, her presence has brought into question the abstract (and often intentionally misleading), images we ourselves post and see on a regular basis.
A quick scroll through the comments on her Instagram feed, and it’s clear to see the polarizing opinions she sparks: Adversaries battle over her purpose and the psychological impact of a society that buys into “fake” personas. Some argue that she’s a byproduct of relentless tech addiction, while others praise her existence as the result of a highly-skilled creative project—a clever on-going performance akin to artist Amalia Ulman’s controversial “Excellences & Perfections,” that played out on the app four-years-ago. This past week, tension around her creation escalated to Orewellian proportions: Her account was hacked and subsequently wiped clean by a pro-Trump influencer named Bermuda—who, ironically, is also a digitally rendered CGI character.
Real or fake, Sousa is exceptionally active on the Internet. She interacts with online users with lightning speed—“liking” curious fans and politely side-stepping conspiracy theorists. This hands-on approach and her savvy knack for “throwing together” looks has won over the adoration of fashion brands, who “send” her clothes that she then models and tags on her account. She favors designers like Vetements, Chanel, and Supreme and has appeared in fashion editorials for magazines like Paper and V Magazine in America. The mystery behind the chic robot with a penchant for $1000-dollar streetwear has been reported on all over the world: Everyone has questions, but there aren’t many answers.
This week on Semaine, we inch a little closer to the truth. Via a short back-and-forth on the Internet (naturally), Miquela responded to our most-burning questions and opened up a new window into the fascinating world of virtual reality. As the role of digital influencers continues to evolve, we invite you to experience a piece of the action that caters to your taste in our first-ever feature of the sort. Read on this week and draw your own conclusions—we've never met a tastemaker quite like her before...
By Elsa de Berker for Semaine.
Miquela is and can be, whoever she wants to be. She could be a princess for all we know, which would mean that she’s both literally virtual and also a virtual princess... Either way, she certainly dresses like fashion royalty and you can follow her lead with the selection of items below.
Purse of a Virtual Princess
Essential oils, Kendrick Lemar, art pieces… You were wrong if you thought computer generated tastemakers didn’t need these things in their life too. See everything that inspires and keeps Miquela going in the selection of items below.
Teal Watch Bucket Hat
The First Two Years Retrospective
"Does this make you feel Primal (Bear)"
Miquela is a hard woman to pin down, so when we managed to get hold of her, we couldn’t let her leave without answering a few quickfire questions so that you could get to know her a little better.
“Reality! But I did get to play Rec Room [a virtual reality online video game] the other day and that was really fun!”
“It's so crazy getting used to any of this attention. I'm just trying to take all of the energy sent my way and direct it toward causes and messages that need more awareness.”
“There’s a lot of speculation about my hair. For some reason, my hair looks longer when it’s in buns than when it’s worn down, but it is really all the same length!”
“As long as I stay young at heart, ageing is not an option!”
"I have so many… Oprah, Tarana Burke, and Elaine Welteroth to name a few."
"I’m an optimist—my glass is always half full!"
"The sassy girl with her arm raised as if she's blowing a kiss, but no one's certain of what she's actually doing with her hand... either way she's just so sassy."
"I love @jan.quammie, who is the editor-in-chief of Material Magazine. I don’t know her personally, but she’s a friend in my head. I love her style and her IG stories are really fun and informative!"
Keeping it digital
As you’ve already probably gathered Miquela is of the digital realm, but what exactly are the apps and programs that she loves to use the most? Surely you’d struggle to find a more definitive digital selection anywhere else than here?!
People are often asking whether Miquela is simply just a piece of performance art... we have to admit that we’re not entirely sure either but regardless, here is a selection of art fit for a virtual princess.
Ink on paper
50 x 38 inches
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 inches
Oil on canvas
Oil paint, urethane, sesame seeds, solicited Prada hardware
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 inches
The Princess Playlist
As a computer generated being, Miquela’s own sound is surely everything good about music mixed into one? Judge for yourself by listening to this specially curated playlist that of course includes her own tracks...