The hottest model-of-the-moment Shudu has caused a fair amount of controversy, most of it around the fact that she’s not actually real, but a project from photographer Cameron James-Wilson.
2018 is the year that has seen fashion, tech, and augmented realities fuse together at a rapid rate. At Milan Fashion Week, Dolce & Gabbana sent drones down the runway to model handbags and virtual influencer Lil’ Miquela chatted live from Prada in Milan. So the emergence of an entirely digital model such as Shudu seems like a, well, natural evolution.
So where did she come from? And what do people think of her? Wilson creates every image of Shudi with a painstaking level of detail from his computer, estimating that a single image takes about three full days work — and that’s not including the weeks of planning.
“I’ve been inspired by quite a few people, but her main inspiration is a South African Princess Barbie. Obviously, her real-life inspirations are pulled from so many different women — Lupita, Duckie Thot and Nykhor — even throwing it back to Alek Wek, who was a massive influence on how I saw beauty growing up.”
The attention for Shudu started to snowball when Rihanna’s beauty brand Fenty reposted an image of her wearing the brand’s lipstick shade Saw-C. The image (created without Fenty’s involvement and at the suggestion of Cameron’s younger sister), exceeded the average amount of Instagram likes and engagement almost four-fold with some 222,000 likes compared to an average of around 50,000.
At the time, it hadn’t been disclosed whether or not Shudu was a real person; her Instagram bio simply repeated the comment left under her photos: “who is she?”
“I use a 3D modeling program. It’s like virtual photography, so once I create her, I can kind of pose her in certain ways,” Wilson explained. “I am a photographer anyway, so it’s just a way of exploring my creativity when I’m not shooting.”
In an era where Facetuning and digitally-altered photos are the norm across social platforms, Wilson said he’s simply bringing fantasy to reality.
“We live in such a filtered world now, where real is becoming fake. I wanted to create something that is fantasy toward becoming more real, and bringing it completely the other way.”