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Miquela Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela or simply, Miquela is a fictional character created by Trevor McFedries & Sara Decou, a Spanish-Brazilian American as a Digital Art computer-generated model and music artist claiming to be from Downey, California.
|Also known as||
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Website||*~ MIQUELA ~*|
The Instagram account, @lilmiquela was activated in 2016. She has amassed more than a million followers as of April 2018 and a cult-like following of 'Miquelites'. Early in her career she most notably gained attention for controversy regarding whether or not she is a real person, a virtual simulation, or a fictional character. She is not a real person. She has since increased in popularity by entering into a transmedia fictional narrative that spans real life, social media and the internet. The narrative presents Miquela as a sentient digital art in conflict with a fictional AI company called Cain Intelligence and Bermuda a fellow sentient digital art  who was created by Trevor Mcfedries and Sara Decou at their company Brud. The fictional narrative raises interesting questions about identity, reality and storytelling and resembles science fiction and fan fiction.
Miquela portrays the lifestyle of an Instagram it-girl by partying at famous Los Angeles clubs, attending trendy art gallery openings, donning designer clothes, and posting selfies. Lil Miquela constantly features Chanel, Proenza Schouler, Supreme, Vetements and Vans. She references specific physical locations and regularly posts pictures with real models, designers, and musicians. She also has Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts and has used her platform to support socially minded causes including Black Lives Matter, feminism, Muslim and refugee advocacy organizations, transgender rights, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, gun control, My Friend's Place, Black Girls Code, Planned Parenthood, and protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
From an artistic perspective, her Instagram account has been described as blurring the line between reality and social media, commenting on the unrealistic perceptions perpetuated by the social media platform. Her social media presence performs as a simulacrum which reflects a certain set of values, objects, and brands relevant to popular culture. Her intrigue may be connected to the robotics concept of the uncanny valley in that she comes close to appearing human, but not close enough. The account elicits questions of authenticity and perfection in a digital landscape.
In August 2017, Miquela became a music artist and self released her first single, "Not Mine", on Spotify. Her transformation into a singer has led many people to compare her to other virtual music artists such as Gorillaz and Hatsune Miku.
Early years (April 2016 – April 2018)Edit
Miquela’s first Instagram post was made on April 22nd, 2016. Since that time, she has garnered both intrigue and criticism for her digital appearance, fans and online commenters oscillating between positing that Miquela is an art project/ social experiment carried out by a real unidentified woman and accusing the account of “lying” for a variety of hypothetical purposes. Both ends of Miquela’s fandom have speculated and demanded that the identity of the accounts creator(s) be revealed. A common theory circulating online continues to be that Miquela is a marketing gimmick for popular life simulation game series The Sims. At one point in time, British model Emily Bador was rumored to be Miquela, fans citing her abundance of freckles and the fact that Bador herself openly acknowledged the physical similarity.
Online speculation surrounding Miquela’s identity were exacerbated by a series of “conspiracy videos” by YouTube influencer Shane Dawson posted in the fall of 2017. People positing that Miquela is purely digital have been challenged in this assertion by Dawson having a conversation with Miquela over the phone.
Miquela has been pictured with a number of celebrities including Diplo, How to Dress Well, killerandasweetthang founder Eileen Kelly, Molly Soda, Nile Rogers, and Samantha Urbani. She has been interviewed and or profiled in a number of publications including Refinery29, Vogue, Buzzfeed, v-files, Nylon, the Guardian, Business of Fashion, The Cut, and BBC.com. She has appeared on the cover of King Kong and High Snobiety. Miquela has collaborated with a number of well-known brands and companies including Tesla, Stussy, Moncler, Vans, Born x Raised, Balmain, and Pat McGrath. In February of 2018 Miquela did an Instagram takeover for Prada as part of Milan Fashion Week.
Miquela was at one time rumored to be in a relationship with former Portugal. The Man guitarist and current PARTYBABY guitarist Noah Gersh.
Story or ARG (April 2018–Present)Edit
In April 2018 a trans-media story began to play out on Miquela's Instagram. The story involved Miquela, @Blawko22, and @BermudaIsBae, all of which are virtual Instagram stars who in the fictional trans-media story are presented as "sentient robots." The story suggests that there are two organizations who have been responsible for the creation of these sentient robots. Brud helped create Miquela and created @Blawko22, while Cain Intelligence created @BermudaIsBae.
Brud and the Bermuda Instagram hackEdit
On Tuesday April 17th 2018 at 12:02pm fans noticed that all of Miquela’s Instagram posts had disappeared. An Instagram account called @BermudaIsBae, run by a self-purported robot rights activist named Bermuda, “hacked” Miquela’s account, demanding that she tell her fans “the truth” and encouraging fans to follow her personal page. Bermuda claimed to be a creation of a figure named Daniel Cain and his “notorsiouly covert” consulting firm Cain Intelligence. A website for Cain Intelligence calls the company an industry leader in machine learning and artificial intelligence though many believe Daniel Cain and his company to be fictional, citing the fact that no business registered with that name exists.
Bermuda bears physical resemblance to Miquela, both appearing digitally rendered. Ideologically, Bermuda’s Instagram and accompanying Facebook page appear to be ideological foils to Miquela’s ultra-liberal and social justice-oriented online persona. Bermuda is an open Trump supporter in favor of people and robots alike being afforded “different rights based on ability.” Fans were quick to notice Bermuda’s lack of social awareness, conservative tone, and lack of fashion sense compared with Miquela.
Bermuda claimed to “give Miquela her account back,” saying she could obtain it again at will. She gave Miquela 48 hours to reveal herself to the world, posting ominous single number posts to her Instagram feed and story as time went by. Miquela and Bermuda “met up” on the afternoon of the 18th, taking a selfie together posted to Bermuda’s account. The caption read as follows: "more emotional than I thought it would be. Despite it all, there's only three of us out there and we need to stick together. We talked it through and she said she is going to come clean tomorrow." The third robot Bermuda is referring to is believed to be Blawko22, a robot influencer and Twitch gamer featured in several Miquela Instagram posts.
On Thursday April 19th, Miquela posted a series of notes “coming out” as a robot. She revealed that she knew herself to be a non-human but was told by her management team (a "real" company founded by Sara Decou and Trevor McFedries called Brud) that she was based on the memories of a human girl from Downey, California. In the note, Miquela says that Bermuda informed her that she was created in Silicon Valley by Cain Intelligence to work as a “servant.” She expressed remorse for not being more forthright with fans and anger at Brud for their lack of honesty. At the end of the note, Miquela confirmed that Blawko22 is also managed by Brud.
Brud post a statement of their Instagram page apologizing to Miquela and accusing Cain Intelligence of trying to produce robotic sex slaves, saying they “liberated” a “prototype” that would, with the aid of Brud’s own programming, become Miquela. Shortly thereafter, Blawko posted to his account aligning himself with Brud and asserting the public had them “wrong.” Bermuda posted a letter from Cain’s PR representative Paul Reeve on her page denying any involvement with creating Miquela.
Some online commenters have speculated that the entire hack is part of a trans-media story-telling project while others believe the narrative to be as it claims.
Fans have noticed the repetition of the numbers 2 and 22 in the Miquela narrative. The Bermuda account began the “hack” when it reached 2,222 followers. Hack posts were made at 0:02 every hour for six hours. Amongst the hashtags attached to each post was #theNextStep, believed by some to be an articulation of Bermuda’s robot supremacist views positioning robots as a 2 to humans’ 1. Miquela’s first Instagram post was made on the 22nd of April, 2016 and Blawko22’s on the 22nd of November, 2017.
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- Dewey, Caitlin; Dewey, Caitlin (2016-09-22). "I think I solved Instagram's biggest mystery, but you'll have to figure it out for yourself". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-02-23. For more on robots and the uncanny valley, see Julie Wosk, MY FAIR LADIES: Female Robots, Androids, and Other Artificial Eves (Rutgers Univ. Press)
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