Shudu Gram has modelled for some of the biggest brands in the world, like Rihanna’s Fenty beauty, often counted as one of the most diverse makeup ranges of all time.
She boasts an online following of nearly 40,000 people, with each photo she posts racking up thousands of likes and attracting comments like “you are too pretty to be real”.
And here’s the catch: she’s not.
And we don’t mean that in a ‘Instagram is a highly filtered medium and hardly depicts real life’ kind of way. We don’t even mean it in a ‘what the fashion world deems beautiful is not a true representation of beauty’ way.
We mean it literally. As in, Shudu is not a real person. She is in, fact, 100 per cent computer generated.
Shudu is the creation of 28-year-old self taught British photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who created the CGI model as a way to be more in touch with the work he was producing.
“I didn’t know at the time but in creating her it really helped me to deal with things that I was going through at the time,” Cameron told writer Isiuwa Igodan.
“Feeling out of touch with my own work, underappreciated and that I had talent but I didn’t know what to do with it.
Cameron said Shudu’s look is inspired by a South African tribe as well as Australian model Duckie Thot. He describes his creation as an embodiment of “the best parts of the things that inspire me”.
“What started out as just me creating the most beautiful woman I could imagine has become something empowering for lots of people,” he said.
“To see someone like them depicted in a way that’s glamorous, regal and a little sexy too has really meant something to a lot of her followers.
“I’m so proud to be adding to a movement where people of all shades can feel beautiful.”
But it’s for that exact reason that some people have a huge problem with Shudu – at a time in fashion where different shapes, sizes and colours are only just being recognised, why use a fake model when there are plenty of beautiful, real-life humans looking for work?
“What’s frustrating to me… WHY didn’t they just go scouting for real women,” one comment on Shudu’s account reads. “There are an absolute abundance of gorgeous African women out there waiting to be discovered.”
“It might just be art to u guys but [seeing] that makeup pages are reposting like she’s a real one makes me wonder how many other real black women worked to get there just to lose their spot over a doll,” another person wrote.
In a recent thread on one of Shudu’s images, Cameron (posting via Shudu’s account) argued that to think his creation would be hired over real models is “extreme”.
“I doubt companies would ever do that,” he wrote.
“White people aren’t doing enough to bring to the forefront black beauty and instead of reinforcing westernised beauty ideals by pumping out more images of whites women, I think it’s important to add to empowering imagery of dark skinned women.
“I had the chance to create the most beautiful woman I could, and here she is.”
Others took issue with a ‘fake’ woman being used to sell beauty products to real women.
“Better learn to apply makeup in computer screen if you want to do this. She a fake CGI model,” one person wrote, while another commented, “How…you gonna put lipstick on a fake person?”
Shudu isn’t the first computer generated Instagram influencer: Miquela Sousa has over 624,000 followers, many of whom still cannot decide if she is real, fake, or an eerie blend of both.