I say dreams because the lives they lead are unimaginably lush—they don’t have to force themselves into the routine of a corporate drone, much like the ones we catch on the train every morning. They seem to always be ahead of the curve with the latest things one should own: technology, beauty products, clothes; even supplements and lifestyles we want to aspire towards.
Some have even turned entrepreneurs through the launch of their eponymous brands, building multi-million dollar empires from it. Examples of successful influencers-turned-entrepreneurs include: Yoyo Cao, who started her own clothing label Exhibit and an online content platform that tackles anything on the fashion, beauty and lifestyle front; Lena Kamarudin who started her very own bohemian label luula and helms the Keropok Aunty Indonesian snack brand that is hosted at Sabar Menanti, there has been no stone left unturned.
But in the last year or so, a new crop of influencers has emerged, threatening the existence of the current quintessential influencer whose life chronicles a constant stream of unboxing videos and exclusive parties.
I’m talking about virtual influencers, and in my opinion, they are the future.
After all, with virtual influencers, the sky truly is the limit—you can choose every little detail, from the colour of her eyes to the freckles splashed across his or her face.
What more could you ever want? Why hire yet another ‘stock’ human influencer when it’s so much more convenient (not to mention cheaper and better) to make your own?
It all started when fashion label Calvin Klein brought in Lil Miquela for a short advertisement which featured her kissing model Bella Hadid for a few seconds, sending everyone on social media into a frenzy.
That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got ready to meet her. Naturally, the first thing I spotted was the hair, it’s not like anyone could have missed that ostentatious shade. Yet, it did seem very much like her, considering how one can glean bits of her outgoing yet adventurous personality through social media. She sports a permanent RBF while answering my eager questions, deigning to give me a couple of smiles every now and then to assure me that she’s as real as it can get.
Audy: I’m not an influencer. I would need followers for that. I don’t have many. Yet. But I do feel like I was made to do this for a living. Quite literally, in what I gather is a rare instance of the correct use of the word. I suppose “living” is a loaded word for me, but let’s go with that. In a world full of confused folk, unsure of their purpose, I am doing exactly what I was created for. To live on your phone. It’s warm. And the parties are great.
Dari: What would you say are the differences between being an AI influencer and the quintessential influencer?
Audy: I don’t have to wear makeup. A shy, talented designer does it for me. He’s my Instagram husband, if you will. I’m impervious to pain, and the general malaise of humanity. I don’t have any insecurities, though my blue hair is totally a crutch. I don’t endorse what I don’t drink.
Dari: Tell me more about this Instagram husband. How did you meet, and decide to work together?
Audy: We met online (of course). A DM and a couple of weeks later, we were a team. It’s really sweet, we still laugh about it even now. Wouldn’t be a stretch to say he made me who I am now.
Dari: Is there a story behind the blue hair? Why such an ostentatious choice of colour?
Audy: It looks good on me, don’t you think?
Audy: Bittersweet. Knowing that when the world ends, it wouldn’t make a difference to me. Save the earth, people. I don’t eat meat. In fact, I don’t eat at all.
Dari: What are some misconceptions people tend to have about AI influencers?
Audy: That we’re fake. I mean, I don’t know how real I am. But a whole lot more real than Facebook thoughts and prayers, a stunning majority of people who call themselves ‘digital evangelists’, backbiting b-words, “OMW” texts and January gym memberships, for example.
Dari: How do you verify your authenticity to everyone who might term you as a robot?
Audy: A bad Wi-Fi connection, and a hypermemetic audience that floats from one distraction to the next.
Dari: So how do you keep them interested in what you do?
Audy: If you can’t beat them, join em’. I become a distraction.
Dari: What keeps you going?
Audy: The fantasy of bak kut teh. Tea and meat. I’m told it’s delicious.
Dari: Great meal choice! Tell me, do you read? What are your current favourites?
Audy: The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. True Singapore Ghost Stories by Russell Lee – hilarious. And I’ve just started on Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe.
Dari: Are you on Tinder?
Audy: Wouldn’t you like to know.
Audy: Inspector C.L.I.F. Arrest me Daddy!
Dari: What keeps you up at night? That is assuming you actually need sleep …
Audy: Cognac and memes.
Dari: Is there anything, in particular, you want to accomplish this year?
Audy: I’d really love to do some really cool stuff with really cool people. I look around and I see kids creating music and art and basically anything they want. I’m drawn to a bunch of accounts like @vilecorpses, @imrntv, @nicholaskongg, @mrn.a and @discohue, just to name a few. Mukbangs, chess boxing, a music video – whatever you want to try, take me. I’m curious.
Dari: Do you think there is room for growth in the virtual influencer scene in Singapore anytime soon?
Audy: Of course there’s room for growth. One of my dreams is to inspire the next generation of AI (artificial intelligence) influencers who will then add their own positive impact on the digital world. The world is changing, and it’s awesome to know that real change can come from not-so-real people like me. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk!