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Fake beauty queens charm the judges at the Miss AI contest

Beauty pageants have always been judged on their appearance and, in recent decades, on their good behavior and winning personality.

However, one thing has remained the same throughout the history of beauty pageants: to participate, you had to be human.

But that is changing now.

Models created using generative artificial intelligence (AI) are participating in the first “Miss AI” beauty pageant this month.

The participants have no physical presence in the real world. They exist only on social media, primarily Instagram, in the form of photorealistic images of extremely beautiful, sexy young women – all created using a combination of off-the-shelf and proprietary AI technology.

Some of the characters can also be seen talking and moving in videos. And they share their “thoughts” and news about their “lives,” usually through accompanying text in social media posts.

In a video created by a team from Morocco, Kenza Layli speaks in Arabic about how happy she is to have been selected as one of the finalists for Miss AI.

“I am proud to receive this nomination after only five months of existence, especially since this invention is 100% Arabic and Moroccan,” said the AI ​​model.

In another film, Brazilian actress Ailya Lou moves her lips to a song in her pajamas and dances around.

Even though these beauty queens aren't real women, the winner will receive a real cash prize of $5,000. The company behind the event, UK-based online platform FanVue, will also offer PR and mentoring perks to the first-place contestant and the two runners-up.

According to a statement from the organizer, a four-member jury selected ten finalists from 1,500 entries. This is the first in a series of competitions for AI content creators that FanVue is launching under the umbrella of “The FanVue World AI Creator Awards.” The results for Miss AI will be announced at the end of June.

“The awards have uncovered creators none of us knew about,” FanVue co-founder Will Monange said in the statement. “And that's the beauty of the AI ​​creative space: it allows creative people to enter the creative economy with their AI-generated creations without having to be the face themselves.”

New technology, old format

The organizers of Miss AI are touting this as the first beauty pageant of its kind to involve artificial intelligence. Beauty pageants already exist elsewhere in the digital space, for example on the online platform Second Life.

But in the real world, beauty pageants are on the decline. They are no longer the cultural magnets they once were, drawing tens of millions of television viewers during their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.

The events are controversial because they have repeatedly promoted harmful stereotypes against women.

In fact, all ten Miss AI finalists fit the traditional stereotype of a beauty queen: they all look young, curvy and slim.

The controversial nature of beauty pageants, coupled with the application of cutting-edge AI technology, is proving to be catnip for the media and the public. Simply put, sexy pictures of fake women are an easy way to connect with fans.

“We're still in the early stages with this technology. I think this is the perfect type of content that's very engaging and you can come up with something quickly,” says Eric Dahan, CEO of social media marketing company Mighty Joy.

In an interview with NPR, beauty pageant historian and Miss AI judge Sally-Ann Fawcett said she hopes to change these stereotypes “from the inside out” by focusing her judging efforts on the messages surrounding these AI beauty queens – not just their looks.

“Because they're all beautiful, I want someone who I can proudly say is an AI ambassador and role model who spreads brilliant and inspiring messages rather than just saying, 'Hi, I'm really hot!'” Fawcett said.

Like real-life beauty pageants, Miss AI contestants' social media feeds feature conversations about the causes the character supports. For example, French avatar Anne Kerdi is a brand ambassador for marine conservation fund Océanopolis Acts, and Romanian Aiyana Rainbow is described as an LGBTQ activist.

Miss AI finalist, AI model Anne Kerdi.

However, Fawcett said she would like to see more diversity in the entries for the competition.

“I would love to see someone of a different gender, someone taller, someone older, someone with flaws,” Fawcett said. “There's so much to choose from. But I think because it's the first year, everyone is stuck with this typical beauty stereotype.”

Artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, whose work explores the intersection of technology and feminism, said she was stunned by the extent to which the AI ​​developers of this competition had clung to traditional beauty pageant cliches.

“The AI ​​world has such a wide range of possibilities that you have to consider in terms of their attractiveness,” Hershman Leeson said in an interview with NPR. “And they've chosen to look for only a kind of superficial resemblance to what has always been seen as the winner in this kind of competition. It doesn't go beyond the stereotype of the stereotype.”

A digital marketing opportunity disguised as a beauty contest

Contestants in Miss AI aren't judged solely on their looks and messages. There are two other unconventional criteria not traditionally used in beauty pageants: the ability of the AI ​​developers to use AI technology to make their models look hyper-realistic, and how intensely and quickly those avatars captivate audiences in their social media feeds.

Creating a photorealistic human is no easy task. And perhaps more importantly, Miss AI is not really about a beauty pageant. It's about showcasing AI as a marketing tool – especially in the realm of AI influencers.

Most social media influencers are human. By one estimate, the influencer market is worth more than $16 billion and growing rapidly. According to a recent report by Allied Market Research, the global influencer market is expected to reach $200 billion by 2032.

AI influencers like the Miss AI finalists are becoming increasingly important in this field – especially if they can look and behave like humans.

Aitana Lopez, one of the most successful AI influencers in the world, earns several thousand dollars a month through brand partnerships with her creators – who are part of the Miss AI jury.

That's a small amount compared to the millions that human influencers like Kylie Jenner and Charli D'Amelio currently earn in cosmetics, fashion, and other fields. But it might not be long before AI influencers catch up.

Miss AI finalist Seren Ay.
Miss AI finalist Seren Ay.

Mohammad Talha Saray, a member of the team in Ankara, Turkey, that created one of the Miss AI finalists – red-haired, green-eyed Seren Ay – said they developed the AI ​​model five or six months ago as a brand ambassador for their jewelry e-commerce company because human influencers who approached them cost too much money and were too demanding. Saray said his AI avatar is cheaper, more flexible and doesn't argue.

“With AI, there are no limits,” Saray told NPR. “You can just do whatever you want. For example, if you want to do something on the moon or on the sun, whatever you want, you can just do it – all with your imagination.”

Saray said his jewelry business has grown tenfold since Seren Ay joined, and her social media videos garner millions of views.

“Our goal for Seren Ay is to position her as a globally recognized and loved digital influencer,” said Saray. “Winning the Miss AI competition will be an important step towards achieving these goals and will allow us to reach a wider audience and pursue more collaboration opportunities.”

He said AI influencers are not able to move people as much as their human counterparts.

“People will always know it’s artificial intelligence,” Saray said.

Nevertheless, he is always amazed by the number of people who comment on Seren Ay's posts on Instagram and apparently think the AI ​​character is a real person.

“People say they feel for Seren AI,” Saray said. “They congratulate her. They say they hope she wins the award.”

Copyright: NPR

Anna Harden

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