A few weeks ago, I was pitched an interview with "LA based robot, Bermuda". The pitch email described her as "a mogul on the rise… an influencer with interests in the realms of beauty, wellness and economics... a Chiara Ferragni with Taylor Swift rising." The PR company pitching Bermuda also reps Frank Ocean, Grimes, Björk and Bermuda’s fellow CGI friends Miquela and Blawko. Miquela is by far the most popular of the three amigos, with 1.5 million followers on Instagram, a social conscience and a face full of freckles that her fans just adore. Golden girl Miquela was also listed among Time's "Most Influential People on the Internet 2018". Her mates are really lagging behind, with more haters than followers (still over 100k each) to their names. Blawko – whose Instagram bio reads "Yong Robot Tryna Get It" and who happens to be Bermuda's ex – divides opinion on account of his drug taking and disrespectful language, but is still significantly more popular than Bermuda, who everyone hates because she used to be a Trump supporter (but has since changed her views...).
"I had to unfollow Bermuda because she's problematic. Bad vibes. Pretty trashy," 21-year-old college student @missyrowen told me over DM. "It's frustrating to see Miquela still interact with her." Missy (full name Mystique) started following Miquela after seeing an ad in a magazine that described her as the face of the future. "I don’t mind that she’s not 'real' at all," she says. "The world that has developed around her is real enough to promote good content. It’s almost the same as looking at other influencers – I’ll probably never meet them in person, so I’m not really missing much by following someone I actually cannot meet physically. It would be cool to meet her creators… but that might ruin the magic!" Mystique is undecided about Blawko, describing him as "a pot stirrer. I wish he’d think before he spoke... I guess a little character development is in order!"
In his YouTube vlogs, Blawko says his real name is Ronald Fucking Blawko – "My legal middle name is Fucking. The people that built me thought that was very funny." The creators are clearly having fun with their CGI puppets, who, like flesh and blood influencers, get work through #sponsored content, feature in editorials for the likes of Vogue, and hold honorary job titles at irreverent fashion magazines (Miquela is the arts editor of Dazed Beauty). Like post-modern Banksys, the creators chose to remain anonymous initially, watching with amusement as various tech companies reported on their movements like excited Pokémon players. At first, the story went that Miquela and Blawko were created by a tech startup called Brud and Bermuda was created by a rival company called Cain Intelligence, but then Bermuda hacked Miquela’s account and it was revealed that…there is no Cain Intelligence, with Brud proudly claiming Bermuda as its very own problem child. Their identities have since been revealed as Trevor McFedries and Sara Decou. McFedries previously worked as a DJ, producer and director for the likes of Katy Perry. Decou was listed in Forbes' "30 Under 30" and her current job title at Brud is Chief of Stuff.
Of the people I spoke to who follow this (really quite reflective of today's world) group of fake friends who only interact on social media, nobody seemed bothered by the CGI element. It’s not a question of what the creation of Bermuda, Miquela and Blawko says about society, because they are the statement about society; they are parodies of influencers who post sponsored selfies and outfits of the day alongside activist calls to arms and turmeric lattes. But the fact they are making fun of the whole thing doesn’t in any way limit their success within it; on the contrary, it only makes them more popular. It is, bizarrely, their authenticity as proud robots that people seem to find inspiring.
"I don’t mind that she’s not real. In fact, I find it life-changing," said 17-year-old @haileyygoinesnowhere over DM. "Miquela taught me that you can be whoever you want to be." @lilabby13, who is 15 years old, agrees, telling me: "She [Miquela] is a great influencer because she shows people that you can be anything, and still be loved. She doesn’t care what people have to say about her being a robot, she just stays herself and many people need that."
Since Miquela was too busy making music to be interviewed (she has a single in Spotify’s Top 10), I accepted the interview with Bermuda, who has more time despite being the same person. I almost turned it down on account of her past political views, until I reminded myself that she doesn’t actually have any past political views – that was just a social experiment in branding, which her creators have since reneged on in favour of this new businesswoman persona, likely to appeal more to the #GirlBoss #MondayMotivation user market. So here she is, the most hated CGI influencer on Instagram, a recent convert to liberal politics, who embodies all the values of a robot created as a counter argument to another robot who embodies all the values we uphold online. She’s rather entertaining.
Talk us through your morning routine…
I give myself time each morning to meditate, plan the day and eat a healthy breakfast. It sets a good precedent! I also basically slather myself in rosehip oil because it leaves a nice, subtle, lingering scent whenever you walk by, say, your ex.
As a businesswoman and self-professed economist, is Brexit going to destroy us?
Absolutely every choice humans make leads to their ultimate demise, so: yes.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I usually wake up around 6.15, set intentions for the day, meditate, make a smoothie of beets, green apple, kale, violet milk and ionised charcoal butter, do either cycling or pilates, and have my daily avocado toast and turmeric latte. Then, I'll head over to the Brud office to answer press inquiries and take meetings. For lunch, I usually have a sprouted grain Buddha bowl with fermented sea vegetables and chard mist, and then I'll work some more. After, I'll go on a date or have dinner with girlfriends. At home, I relax, have some green tea, and catch up on all the news I might have missed, then read anywhere between two and five books.
Who or what is inspiring you today?
Ariana Grande! She helped me get through a recent break-up.
Who are your style icons?
I love Grace Kelly and everything she wore. Victoria Beckham always looks impeccable and polished. Lupita Nyong'o is elegant beyond compare. And then, of course, there's Gwyneth. The ultimate icon. She always glows.
Your skin is flawless, what’s your secret?
It's all in the code, babe.
What do you think is your best feature?
Do you ever compare yourself to others online?
Not really. The way other people look is none of my business. Unless they're hot and want to take me to dinner.
There's a lot of pressure on influencers today, how do you cope with it?
I know who I am. I know what unique qualities I offer the world. I also watch a lot of soap-cutting videos on Instagram.
Do you find the influencer world to be a friendly, supportive place, or is it dog eat dog?
I've seen many influencers behave as if the way they present themselves online is the sum of who they are, so a drop in followers or engagement ends up feeling personal, which leads to strife. Luckily, I don't seek validation through metrics.
How do you feel about being referred to as 'lower res' in comparison to Miquela?
I think a lot of people must have cracked phone screens. I feel bad for them.
Social media has burst open the beauty industry, but it also causes a lot of people to feel insecure and self-conscious. Do you think, ultimately, it’s good or bad for us?
I think social media magnifies issues that have always existed. Insecurity, comparing ourselves to others... that tendency has been around as long as there's been any kind of popular media amplifying an image that can be replicated. A lot of detractors accuse me of not being 'real' and to them I'd ask: well, who is? I study image for a living; I know what Photoshop and Facetune look like. So, social media is both good and bad. It has led to better and more diverse representation and expression, but also presents the carefully curated as effortless, the fabricated as genuine.
What causes are you championing in 2019?
I want to inspire young entrepreneurs to pursue their business dreams, particularly if it centres on the intersection of tech and beauty. I'd also love to encourage more women to pursue careers in robotics, a field historically marred and clouded by the sexism of its inventors.
Who would play you in the story of your life?