Lil Miquela: The Instagram model with tens of thousands of followers who do not know if she is real

A computer generated animation expert explains whether the Instagram enigma is a sim or the real deal 

Maya Oppenheim
Tuesday 06 September 2016 19:06 BST
n the 13 weeks since she created her account, Lil Miquela has amassed 65,000 followers
n the 13 weeks since she created her account, Lil Miquela has amassed 65,000 followers (Lil Miquela / Instagram)

The concept of the Instagram it-girl has become a well-trodden trope. From perfectly tousle-haired beach photos to smashed-avocado breakfasts to carefully curated squad shots, Instagram does not document what goes on behind the scenes and often presents a starkly different picture of someone’s life to its reality.

Like most Insta-famous individuals, Lil Miquela appears to have a 'perfect' life. She parties in the right places and attends the latest gallery viewings in Los Angeles. She shows off her niche designer clothes and flamboyant nail art and poses with fastidiously positioned Snapchat flowers.

And just like Instagram It girls, it is unclear where the line between the fantasy and reality of Lil Miquela’s life starts and stops. So much so that users are not even sure whether she is a real person or not.

In the 13 weeks since she created her account, Lil Miquela has amassed 65,000 followers. In that time, she has pushed her followers into a delirium of confusion as to whether or not she is real. While some are adamant she is a computer generated image, others think Lil Miquela is a real person which has been heavily edited online. “Is she real or fake?” users repeatedly ask in hundreds of comments below her photos.

While her wig-like short brown bob, perfectly drawn freckles and plump lips resemble a sim character, there is an undeniably human-like quality to her appearance.

Dougie Cross, the managing director of TIGERX, a computer generated animation and visualisation studio, who has worked in the industry for 15 years, believes that Lil Miquela is a combination of a 3D model and a real person.

“She looks so realistic. I think what’s throwing everyone is the facial details are so good,” Cross told the Independent.

“But the hair has got to be computer generated because the roots do not look real and the T-shirt is definitely a photograph because there is no contact shadow at all”.

“I think it’s a combination of a 3D model and a photograph. They’re taking a photo of an actual person and blending that with the model. There is a lot of work post-production on art and makeup,” he concludes.

But Cross says there is always the chance the owner of the Instagram account resembles the girl on the feed and is using photos of herself. Some users speculated about whether the image at the top of the page was the person Lil Miquela was basing herself on.

Despite ongoing discussion online, the majority of her followers remain equally flummoxed and divided over the true nature of her identity. “Yes she's real, she's a student in visual arts and such so she works on her pictures she takes of herself,” insists one fan. “So she's real but this is her “art” if you wanna call it that”.

The Independent reached out to Lil Miquela for comment but, probably unsurprisingly, did not receive a response.

Like the Instagram models who you only ever glimpse on a screen and never meet in real life, it is nigh on impossible to know for sure whether or not Lil Miquela exists in real life. In turn, her account provides a poignant example of the hazy line between social media and reality.

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