In the post-social media era, the landscape of fashion has changed with the rest of the world—and the latest Calvin Klein campaign, starring Bella Hadid and CGI influencer Lil Miquela, aka Miquela Sousa, is further proof of that. Good luck telling what’s real and what’s fake in the newest video clip for the brand’s “I Speak My Turth” campaign, which has so far featured the likes of Billie Eilish, Chika Oranika, Noah Centineo, Shawn Mendes, Kendall Jenner, A$AP Rocky and more.
“Life is about opening doors,” Hadid cryptically says in the video, before metaphorically opening one door that leads her to locking lips with Lil Miquela, “creating new dreams, that you never knew could exist.” Fittingly, the brand shared the video on YouTube with the description and question, “19-year-old robot Lil Miquela blurs the lines of truth and fiction with Bella Hadid. Is this a dream or real?”
It’s as real as anything else in our digital world, which has been overtaken by a new wave of CGI influencers over the past year. Though Lil Miquela is perhaps the most recognizable one, she’s been joined by Elsa, Jocelino, Hxeoni, and Ruben—the foursome that starred in Balenciaga’s fall campaign and were created specifically for it at the direction of design head Demna Gvasalia—plus Shudu, who’s modeled for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty Instagram, and, of course, Bermuda, Lil Miquela’s manufactured rival.
As eerie as it is to be confronted by the replacement of humans with CGI ones—in fashion or beyond—there is something especially unsettling about seeing Lil Miquela making out with Bella Hadid. Maybe it’s because Hadid has a shadow in the campaign and Miquela doesn’t; maybe it’s because she looks otherwise as real as Hadid, glowing skin included; or, maybe, it’s because the animated influencer posted her campaign with sentient, existential captions like “I am here. That is my truth” and “No one else can define our own truths.” At this point, who’s to say that Lil Miquela’s truth is any more real than our own ones? Or authentic? After all, anyone with an Instagram account these days is living a performative life; Lil Miquela is just upfront about it.