Virtual AI Celebrities Take Off as Singers, Brand Influencers

A story in London’s Financial Times describes how a South Korean company is perfecting an algorithm-driven technology to render realistic avatars based on real people and use them in creating digital celebrities, pop stars, models and influencers in the real world. The company, A-fun Interactive, is opening up an office in Los Angeles soon.

Already some of the most famous avatars have millions of social media follower, brand and merchandise deals and careers in singing and political activism.

“These digital celebrities are only the most visible aspect of a growing trend. As the technologies behind them become cheaper and more accessible, you might find yourself listening to music released by a digital avatar, interacting with one in a convenience store or dealing with them in your workplace. Soon, you may even have one of your own.”

FT describes the digital celebrity singer Apoki as a “Korean Jessica Rabbit” with bunny ears, a cartoon body and flawless skin. Rendered in 3-D, she’s capable of having a conversation in real time.

“According to Kevin Allocca, head of culture and trends at YouTube, there were as of May ‘more than 5,000 channels self-describing as ‘virtual youtubers’ and videos from these channels had garnered more than a billion views.’ ”

Virtual influencers include fashion models for the style house Balmain and Lil Miquela, an multi-racial influencer with 1.8 million follower on Instagram. Found at @lilmiquela, she was created by LA-based Brud Media and is valued at $125m, according to

A story in the New York Times describes how a virtual kiss in a Calvin Klein commercial between Bella Hadid and Miquela Sousa (Lil Miquela) sparked controversy, even though it wasn’t real because gay groups called it “queerbaiting,” since the virtual star is identified as straight. It boggles the mind, because many followers believe she is a real person. Most are Gen Z or Millennial followers, primarily women.

More than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela’s songs on Spotify. Her credits include modeling for the Italian fashion label Prada, giving interviews from Coachella and flaunting a tattoo designed by an artist who worked on Miley Cyrus, the New York Times reported.