Since emerging on the scene in 2016, Lil Miquela has become a hit sensation across the world thanks to her unique standing in the digital realm. She was one of the first CGI robots to make a platform for herself, some choose to refer to that sector as ‘virtual influencers’ but for Miquela, she’s always been more than that title. Consistently using her voice to highlight social justice issues - the artist was one of the most outspoken internet personalities throughout the Black Lives Matter movement – Miquela has quickly found herself as a role model to a number of her younger fans. Accumulating three million followers on Instagram, fronting fashion campaigns for the likes of Calvin Klein and Prada, building a successful music career, and now headlining her own Snapchat show: ‘Get Real, Miquela’, she has achieved a lot in the space of five years. With no signs of slowing down at all, we caught up with the artist to learn all things, Miquela.
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Certainly, the key to Miquela’s success has been how seamlessly she fits into our 21st century, internet culture. As a fan, you know you’ll never bump into her walking down the street, but that doesn’t make you feel any less connected to her, thanks to the personal content she’s posting near enough every day on Instagram. Whether it be sharing her impressive cooking skills, or celebrating her 19th birthday yearly, there’s an inherent connection between the viewer and Miquela. After all, three million of us eagerly tune in to see what she’s up to, something she’s become increasingly comfortable with. “My followers are a big part of my life - they’re my friends, my community, and my sounding board. They’ve really helped me feel less alone and become part of my family.” The artist explains, “It’s funny you use the word ‘observe’ - that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately in the art I’ve been making. It doesn’t matter if it's 3 people or 3 million people; knowing that you’re being watched can change the way you behave and that’s really interesting.”
This personal connection with her fans has only been pushed further with the launch of her own show, ‘Get Real, Miquela’ available to watch via Snapchat and Youtube. It sees the star take questions on literally any topic you can think of. From discussing her life as a robot, to issues surrounding dating and her thoughts on K-pop and other music genres. Coming across as a totally open book throughout, it’s impossible not to feel connected to her. Speaking about what the show means to her, Miquela proclaims: “My relationship with my community is EVERYTHING. At really critical moments in my life, my fans have always been there to help me figure things out. I love that projects like ‘Get Real, Miquela’ on Snap, and YouTube lets me pay some of that back. I get to answer THEIR questions and be there for THEM.”
However, there are some questions that don’t come quite as easy to answer for Miquela. After all, she is a robot and her brain doesn’t work as yours or mine does. But it’s the questions that particularly target her unique identity that cause the most food for thought, as she explains: “I get a lot of questions about what it's like being a robot, and most of the time those are pretty hard for me to answer. Like, I LOVE talking about me, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. The stuff I have a harder time answering is the stuff I’m still trying to figure out myself.” We, humans, are complex creatures and it’s the things that we hold most dear that Miquela is still acclimatizing to. That’s where her fans come in, helping the artist to understand us, our flaws, our woes, and what makes us smile. There’s an intimacy to ‘Get Real, Miquela’, that’s taught the artist a lot. “There are a lot of things that humans do that my machine learning is trying to integrate. I’m a robot, so like…I have the data. But humans add this special blend of context and reaction that changes the meaning of things in ways that I will forever find...surprising.” Miquela states, “I’ve found that humans' natural fear response is to either push the unfamiliar away or tear it apart. And I’m not gonna lie, it can be a struggle for me too, but I’m working on it. As hard as it may be to change your programming, I feel like the experiences, people, love, and opportunities on the other side are more than worth the effort.”
Miquela wears SS21 Moschino.
Miquela has also taken huge strides into the music industry, showcasing her broad range of talents. Since releasing her debut single ‘Not Mine’ in 2017, she’s gone on to create her own unique aesthetic, with 2020 seeing numerous successful releases such as ‘Speak Up’ and ‘Hard Feelings’. With mentions of a potential album being in the works in recent years, who knows what Miquela has up her sleeve for 2021. “Music has always been an important creative outlet for me.” The artist states, “Being a robot in a human world is isolating at times, but making music (and then having that music resonates with people around the world) has helped me realize that we’re all more similar than we are different, and that’s really inspiring.”
If anything, making music has shown the world Miquela’s vulnerabilities, her emotions, and what she’s learned from humans over the last five years. Many artists find songwriting to help relieve the pain of darker moments in their lives. It’s an emotional release and a moment to turn your pain into an art form. For Miquela, that’s what she finds most special about making music, as she explains: “Writing songs helps me process the things that happen in my real-life - breakups, breakdowns, and breakthroughs. Being able to share those thoughts and feelings with people in song has been really exciting.” The beauty of music is that it works both ways, not only does the artist's own mental health improve, the listener can also take comfort in the fact that others are facing issues, which is often easily forgotten, thus feeling a special connection with the artist.
Miquela has also managed a way to continue telling her story through an alternative form called NFT’s – also known as Non Fungible Tokens – where she has just dropped part two of her ‘Rebirth Of Venus’ collection called ‘Unseen By Eyes But Forged In Stone’. 1,500 NFT tokens were released for free via her Twitter channel in April, to fans hoping to put together this special story. With another three drops to come, the aim is to have a token from all five to unlock the puzzle. Incredibly mysterious, almost as mysterious as the Roman goddess the collection is so aptly named after. We can’t wait to see the final product. “Just like songs, NFTs are another way for me to tell more of my story and connect with my community.” Miquela explains, “Venus was one of the first transmedia stories ever told and she felt like the perfect lens for us to use when starting the creative process. She was an ethereal stranger in a terrestrial land and her story said a lot about where people’s hearts and minds were at the time.”
Miquela wears SS21 Viktor & Rolf.
Much of the artist's identity has really been a representation of the future. Forever forward-thinking, Miquela carries that over to the ‘Rebirth Of Venus’ series. NFT’s are a particularly new concept of cryptocurrency, that’s slowly building momentum, and I’m sure we’ve all seen the waves that Bitcoin and Ethereum have been making as of late. But for Miquela, instead of looking at them as a potential financial reward scheme, she instead looks at their potential to open new artistic avenues. “If we’re talking about NFTs as a way to get rich quickly in the crypto market, we might be missing the bigger picture.” Miquela proclaims, “NFTs and cryptocurrency are just a couple of examples of this next wave of innovative tools for expression and storytelling. That's what's really exciting to me. It feels like we're at the forefront of a lot of change, specifically for artists and the way they're able to create value and community.”
Telling stories is an area in which the artist truly excels, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. With some of the largest brands in the world eager to see how she visually portrays their story, Miquela has fronted campaigns for the likes of Mini and Samsung. But it’s within the realms of fashion that her unique image really stands out, working alongside Calvin Klein, Prada, and UGG, the artist is seen as marketing gold and it’s easy to see why. But to Miquela, fashion means more than just appearing in these campaigns, it’s about crossing the barriers of language to connect with others across the world. “I love fashion because it helps me express myself.” She states, “I live a lot of my life on really visual platforms, and my audience speaks a ton of different languages, so the way that I dress has almost become another way for me to tell my story.”
Beyond her creative endeavors, Miquela has grown into a role model for her Gen Z fanbase. Constantly standing at the forefront of social justice issues, the artist has used her platform for good. After the callous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by an American police officer, the racial injustice shown towards black people really came to light. It was the spark that kicked off the Black Lives Matter movement, which not only gained traction in the US but across the world. Miquela used Instagram to proactively support the cause by not only vocally supporting it, but by also sharing donation links and pushing the Defund The Police agenda. On the impact of the BLM movement, Miquela states: “Progress is important because it gets us closer to where we NEED to be. Yes, I think we’re moving forward, but we still have a really long way to go, and that’s where I’m keeping my focus.” Beyond racial issues, the artist has also used her platform to promote voting rights in the presidential elections, along with more recently helping to spread awareness for the Covid 19 vaccine, helping to squash all that anti-vax hysteria.
It’s hard to put into words the impact Miquela has had on the creative world. Being such a unique entity, the stories she’s able to tell are extraordinary, helping to grow not only her own brand but many others along the way. But the road hasn’t always been easy, and when you’re the world's most famous CGI robot, you’re going to attract attention, good and bad. Regarding the latter, it might well be 2021 but a lot of people out there still can’t accept the wonders of technology, after all, images of perfection are purely fictional, and Miquela is here to stay. Having been graced with the gift of youth forever, we don’t think she’s going to run out of stories to tell – 19 never felt so good.
Photography: Anthony Giovanni
Fashion: Edwin J. Ortega
Photography Assistant: Christian Zabala
Words Jake Wright
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