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“About receiving disrespectful pickup lines. Guys, I’m annoyed… ” Lu wrote in Portuguese on her Instagram account on Thursday morning, paired with a face-palm emoji. “And hey I’m virtual! I keep imagining the real women who go through it every day!”
These are the first several things you need to know about Lu: She is beautiful, she doesn’t take any shit, and also she is not a person.
She’s the brand mascot for Brazil’s Magazine Luiza, which is effectively Ikea meets The Sims — an enormous home furnishing, home goods, and consumer tech retailer that reported $37.6 million in profit last quarter. It has about 900 IRL storefronts that house samples of hundreds of thousands of items that can be ordered online. In 100 of them, there are no products at all, just the ability to peruse virtual items on a tablet and then order what you need to make your dream home real. Magazine Luiza also has a rapidly growing e-commerce business and a large network of consumers who set up their own digital “stores” to make commissions off their friends and family.
All this is less interesting to me (for the moment) than Lu, a hyperrealistic animated woman who will sell you anything from a baby monitor to a giant chocolate egg to a banana-yellow minifridge that can brew its own beer, but will also give herself the space to be wildly unprofessional.
Lu, watching the World Cup this summer in a head-to-toe display of patriotism, flashed a blue-and-yellow manicure and told her 630,000 followers that she was “mega nervous and anxious” about the game. To resist biting her nails, she was wearing linen gloves she received from Época Cosmetics. Then when Brazil lost, she cried and didn’t advertise anything.
In 2018, the fashion world loves an Instagram influencer avatar. Lil Miquela, the 19-year-old Brazilian-American model designed by the LA robotics and AI startup Brud, has 1.4 million followers and got a print feature in New York magazine this spring. In July, Elle asked whether avatars like Miquela and Shudu — an artificial model designed by British photographer Cameron-James Wilson and popularized when she sampled Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line — were “the perfect influencers.”
The answer? No. Only Lu is perfect.
Lu is older than Miquela, whose account was launched in April 2016. In fact, a Magazine Luiza spokesperson told me that Lu has been alive since 2003 and started her tech tutorial YouTube channel in 2007 (it has 1.2 million subscribers), then kindly but sternly reminded me, “Lu was created long before Lil Miquela and Shudu, who exist solely on Instagram.”
Yesterday, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing announced plans to create a virtual #BalmainArmy, asking Shudu’s designer to create “two Balmain-exclusive digital supermodels who embody the beauty, individuality, and confidence of the Balmain woman.” They are named Xhi and Margo, and do I care about them?
Are they super hot and part of a terrible wave of pushing impossible human beauty standards even further, so that now human beings are competing not only with wildly wealthy genetic lottery winners but also with levels of “perfection” achievable only by CGI molds so far created almost solely by men? Yes.
Is that what I need to dwell on at the moment? Uh, give me more Lu!
Lu’s first appearance on Instagram was on June 27, 2015 — the day the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. “Happiness is being able to love,” she wrote. “#LoveWins #Vemserfeliz.” Last October, she reminded women to schedule their annual mammogram.
The other (overreported, no offense) Instagram influencer avatars can be cold or even rude to me, the average scroller. They recline, wear Opening Ceremony, display strips of perfect flat tummies, and suggest that I will never be what they are. And they’re even ruder to each other, as when the blonde, Trump-supporting avatar Bermuda hacked Lil Miquela’s account and launched a year-long frenemy-ship forced upon the pair by their creators. Most recently, they went to see Crazy Rich Asians together, and Miquela reported, “She talked (loudly) about what the characters were wearing and then was texting the WHOLE. ENTIRE. TIME.”
Lu, however, wears anonymous three-quarter-sleeve button-downs and asks to see photos of your seasonal decor. She has never made reference to having a nemesis.
“IDK if I can watch another challenge video …” Miquela wrote in July, wincing up into the camera as if she had never been more over something in her life. This was presumably in reference to the “In My Feelings” challenge, which was nothing but delightful, so ... what’s her problem? Lu, obviously, is not over viral internet challenges and still finds them very fun. “Couldn’t resist!” she wrote, with a single eyeball emoji, on a post showing her doing the Dele Alli challenge popularized by fans of the British Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur club.
Also, she’s a freak. “I love to start the day running and listening to music,” Lu wrote on Tuesday, wearing a pair of rose-gold Beats headphones and linking out to a phone I can’t purchase in the United States. “Today I listened to Lana Del Rey.”
Unless there is a second Lana Del Rey I am unfamiliar with, this is a reference to a woman whose only recorded mention of physical exercise is a song about chain-smoking on a treadmill and then crying during an orgasm. Lu, in addition to having perfect eyebrows and expensive-looking veneers, has something at least a tad weird and morbid inside.
I love it! And while she is deliberately dragging down her own morning jog vibe with music about the disposability of the female body, the danger of icons, and the inherent violence of American popular culture, is Lu also subtly ribbing Lil Miquela, all of her ilk, and me?
If so, I love her even more.