A Virtual Character, a Robot, or a Human Being? A Study of the (Self-) Representations of Lil Miquela

Document Type : Original Article


English Department, Faculty of Arts, Damanhour University


The rise of virtual influencers (VIs) in recent years has engendered a great deal of interest in the phenomenon. The question of identity in particular is central to this new category of social media influencers. This paper examined the construction of the identity of Lil Miquela, one of the most popular virtual influencers taking over Instagram. Drawing on Bucholtz and Hall's (2004, 2005, 2010) framework for the study of identity as produced in linguistic interaction, a sample of posts and user comments from Miquela's account was analyzed with a view to understanding how Miquela presents herself to the online audiences and how these audiences engage with and make sense of her identity against the backdrop of the newly emerging virtual influencer culture. The results showed that Miquela's self-presentation appears to be carefully curated to keep the public interest in her character heightened. On their part, Instagram users variously represent Miquela as a virtual character, a robot, or even as a human being masquerading as a digital character, among other categorizations. The analysis also revealed that a number of linguistic resources and identity relations were drawn upon to enact the various conceptualizations of Miquela's identity that emerge from the data.