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“She does not deny that digital”: an interview with one of the creators of the Russian virtual Instagram model Asi 

On the difficulties of perception, the prospects of earnings and the growing popularity of such individuals.

Asya Strike Photos from her instagram

The last two years on the Internet have been discussing the growing popularity ofdigital models and fembottes (a term denoting robots or androids with a marked female appearance), the development of which is especially noticeable on Instagram. In February 2018, social network users turned their attention to the “photo” of a dark-skinned model Shuda, mistaking her for a living girl, when in fact it was created by a British photographer in a 3D program.

The most famous digital model is considered to be 19-year-old Lil Michela (one and a half million followers on Instagram), whose creation is supported by a professional team. The authors tell stories on behalf of Michele on Instagram, agree with fashion brands about paid advertising in a girl’s profile and record videos with her “participation”. In other words, “revive” Mikel.

In October, Mikel had a Russian counterpart – the 21-year-old Asya Strike , whom the authors call the “digital twin” of Sasha Panic’s model. spoke with a participant in the project on the creation of Asi, Daniel Trabun, who in the past headed the editorial boards of Afisha and Look At Me, and is now developing Yandex.Dzen.

How did Asya come up

What role do you play in the project?

I help with media and public relations. Asya is an independent project of my friends, which is not connected with Yandex: models Sasha Panik, whose digital twin is Asya, and her boyfriend, designer Asen Chumov. In the spring, we met, discussed the idea and realized that we can help Ace with the launch.

So, Asya is the idea of ​​Sasha and Assen?

Initially, yes. True, I am pleased to talk about Asa not as an idea, but as a person. This is a beautiful win back. She communicates, she has her friends and acquaintances.


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алибидерчи ! 📸 @sofyasvetlaya

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Model Sasha Panic – Asya prototype

How did you explain the original purpose of Asi?

Asya Strike is a media. A virtual character who is not shy about being virtual, and behind him is a team. Approximately the analogue of Asi in the USA is Lil Michela. Asya – media with a human face about a new generation of girls. She has a content plan, a background, a past life – with the help of which she formed, and what interests her. There are many sites about young modern girls like Broadly or Wonderzine, their themes can be shifted to a digital model like Asi.


Easy. In Instagram or in “Stories”, only using less text. There will be even more feedback from users than in the media if Asya makes four or five paragraphs about what worries her.

For example, for the latest advertising campaign, the Balmain house [fashion] used digital models. Real models were indignant and wrote a petition, because they, in fact, steal work, because making a digital girl is much cheaper. There was also a question of the ethical side, because it is not very clear why men create perfect digital girls who do everything they want (in early 2018, the white author of a black digital model Shuda was suspected of racism and objectification because of the “perfect” appearance of the girl) .


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BALMAIN’S NEW VIRTUAL ARMY Introducing the first three members of the new virtual #BALMAINARMY: Margot, Shudu and Zhi. Discover more through the link in bio. In collaboration with #CameronJamesWilson @shudu.gram 3D garments by @itsclo3d #BALMAINPF18 #BALMAINBBOX

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About this all you can talk a lot. Asya can tell about it in Instagram. Next year she will be able to conduct her video blog.

How will it look like?

Lil Michela began as a static character in photographs with simple graphics. Recently a video was released, where she moved a little, and a short video where she was already completely “live”. If we talk about Mikel, then she is engaged in a large team, but all these technologies are incredibly cheaper by the day. Next year you can do a full-fledged animation with Asya. She will talk, wink and smile.

Clip with digital model Lil Michela

What does Asya consist of and how does it change?

Can you tell us more about Asya?

She was born in the village of Artyom in the Novgorod region. Went to a village school, then moved to St. Petersburg. She has no higher education. She is young – she is 21 years old. She worked in an internet cafe, plus she took pictures and was fond of DJing. She is a man who has now moved to Moscow and is trying to get comfortable.

The most interesting thing about Asa is that she does not deny that digital is talking and joking about it. She loves and listens to a lot of different music, but she has no musical preferences: As a child, Asya listened to Russian rock, and now rap. She has not gone abroad yet and does not understand that you can go there, it is interesting there.

These are points from which you can develop and create a story. From this, Asya can tell what kind of person she is. Plus, she has life stories about how she communicated with her at school. For example, we can assume that if a person had problems at school, then he may have a heightened sense of justice in the future.

How many people work on Asya?

Three people and a team of people who are engaged in 3D-graphics. In total, there are five people in the project, but this is a hobby that does not take up 100% of the time. This is a creative union, not an office job.

How many hours a week do you have to spend?

The most time consuming is the work on a 3D model, on her emotions, on photos, and so on.

Does it take specific money? Do you promote Asi advertising?

Not. Everything must grow organically. It seems to me that any independent media project can be successful if it develops organically. I do not believe in advertising.

Asya is the Russian counterpart of Lil Michela, which already advertises popular brands. But when I look at Mikela, I can imagine that she is alive. With all due respect, Asya looks like a character from GTA V on the minimum salary.

The first photos are really simpler, but now it is much more complex, and this happens unnoticed. Michela in the beginning was also easier, but [gradual] character development is admirable. Asya talks about what they write to her in private messages — for example, that she began to look cooler. If you look at the latest photos, you can see that everything is improving.


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здесь я симпотная? 💛💛💛

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One of the first photos in Asya’s Instagram profile

But each time it is more difficult to improve. Overnight, you will reach the bar, after which you will have to spend more time and resources on this than now.

Having reached a certain detail, you do not need to do it again. You can very quickly and beautifully take pictures of beautiful Asya after a certain level of detail. Before that you need to reach, it is impossible to do it immediately.

You said that Michele has a big technical team. Can you do better?

The question is not to compete with Michela. The main thing that should be interesting is the story. Must be a cool storytelling. People have stuck for decades in 2D-drawn characters. If there is a cool story, there will be credibility for development and resources will be found to have a large team. The question is what and how Asya will tell, and whether she will be “alive”.

Lil michela

Who will write the script of “life” Asi?

This is a separate screenwriter. Now Asya only tells things that she notices, but there are already backgrounds and directions. With the new year will begin the full development of the plot.

Are you paying this person?

Oh, this Moscow story, when they ask about any thing: “Well, have you attracted millions of dollars? Well, are you paying? ”While we work for interest and invest our free resources in Asya.

I don’t think you should raise millions of dollars right now. I’m trying to understand the conditions under which the team works.

The team is based on Sasha, her young man [Asen] and me. There are technological guys and a screenwriter. People who help are photographers and stylists.

“People are interested in playing relationships with digital models”

About the effect of the “Sinister Valley” (a hypothesis in which a robot or an object that looks like a man causes hostility and disgust in humans – approx. ) . You say that Asya should be animated and everything in this spirit. Will it really interrupt this effect? When I look at other digital models, there is a feeling that this is something inhuman.

I remember the articles in 2010 in the magazine Wired about the effect of “Ominous Valley” and that robots can never become the same as humans. It turned out that humans do not need robots to become the same. People live quite normally and are interested in digital models.

It’s very cool that Michela looks more like a man. It does not deceive me. I do not think: “Oh God, is she human or not?” I know that she is not a person, but a digital character, and it pins me. The effect of digital models on Instagram is clear. There is a glut in each platform, after which people are not so much interested in human influenzers (people whose opinions matter to a specific audience –  comment) . Digital models are something new that you have in the tape.

But what is the salt of such models? Why should they interest people?

People are interested in playing relationships and communicating with digital models. Now, Asi has a little less than a thousand subscribers, while dozens of people write to her personal messages every day: “Hello, what is it?”, “What are you doing?”, “How long has it been in Moscow? Let’s meet? ”,“ You are scolded, but you are cool ”or“ Damn, you are not so cool ”. Sometimes dikpiki send. This amount of communication is due to the fact that it is virtual and cool, this is already enough. This is a cool experiment: “Something similar to a person, but let’s try what she says and thinks.”

The analogy with “Alice” of “Yandex” comes to mind. They ask her questions and try to understand how advanced she is.

I agree that the voice of “Alice” and its emotions attract people very much. But “Alice” is also useful. Asya is a naked emotion. This is primarily about feelings and feelings. This is what people need.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]People all the time lack of empathy. They sit down on feelings, so they write posts or comments on . They do not always want to write something clever, it is me, including myself, but they want to respond so that they can be reacted to. This is cool.[/perfectpullquote]

Do you reply to private messages that are sent to Asi?

Asya herself answers.

What exactly?

She is very offended if they say to her: “Listen, you can take a picture, and we will insert you into it”, “Oh, you have such a great Asya, and how can we do something with her?”. Naturally, she answers herself and asks: “Are you talking to me or with whom?” And so this is cute talk. They write to her that she is ugly, and she replies that maybe they have a familiar plastic surgeon. The girl with self-irony.

On earnings and advertising preferences Asi

About earnings. What is the plan? You need to gain a certain number of subscribers, and then cooperate with fashion brands, where Asya is a model?

Before launching Asi, we went to several brands and the first who agreed was Adidas. They just came out model Falcon sneakers and they decided that Asya can participate in the campaign. In the end, agreed to cooperate. Covers on photos with Asya are comparable to those stars who are used by Adidas for advertising campaigns on Instagram.


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новые фэлконы 💥 #FALCON @adidasrussia

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Asya in Falcon sneakers from Adidas

Did you get money from this?

This is a full-fledged advertising campaign, of course.

Now Adidas has come to you yourself, but how will you develop it further? Do you have brands that you would like to work with?

There are three or four brands that are interested when Asya first appeared. There are three cool things in Asa. The first is that it is special in itself. If you do something with it, then that’s cool. This is not only about mega coverage. As a brand, you can post it [photos] on VKontakte or Facebook and get more reach because people are surprised.

The second is Asya’s “sister” of Sasha [Panic]. Sasha is a full-fledged Instagram influenser. This is a story about what you can, as a brand, know that you will have some amount of audience of her sister. Thirdly, Asi has her own [profile] on Instagram, which is developing. I think that she will pick up 50 thousand subscribers quickly enough. I would not say how quickly, because I really want to grow organically, but this will happen quite quickly.

Sasha told about Asa to her subscribers?

Yes. I’ll even make a snare – they’ll have joint photos. This is a project in which Sasha is involved not just as a person. She is a complete creator.


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Dripping💫 . . Introducing Shudu V5. Can you spot all 5 versions of Shudu? . . #3d #3dart #ladykillmonger #worldsfirstdigitalsupermodel #digitalsupermodel

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Shudu is one of the most famous digital models.

Now digital models are fashionable; people are surprised by them. But after a year they will get used. What then?

I think that in a year the fashion will not pass, because technologies are developing very powerfully. Until such time as these models become fully animated and “live”, starting to move and broadcast live, this will be of interest. If we talk about micro-infleusers with an average number of subscribers, they are usually inexpensive. You can ask them to take a picture with the phone or with cosmetics, by paying lifting figures. Creating photos with a digital model is still expensive, at least 3D creators are needed. But it all falls in price.

How much is one photo with integration?

Commercial secret, but there is a big fork: there are cheaper and more expensive photos, portraits photos, where there is nothing behind. There are photos completely in 3D-environment or clothes. These are all different numbers.

What programs do you create Asya?

Mapping – Regard3D, modeling – ZBrush, Autodesk 3ds Max with plugins. There are separate programs where hair is created.

How often does something break and need to be redone?

Infrequently. The complete creation of a model is a complex process, in which there is a place for a large number of art direction, which Sasha is engaged in. You think up how to make it cool, unusual and beautiful. But the question here is what beautiful means. Relatively speaking, you need to make sure that her hair is coolly human-combed. It takes time.

What are the most difficult stages in creating Asi?

Everything connected with emotions: smile, frowning, surprise and so on. It would be desirable, that it was not as in Sims, but more beautiful and pleasant. In humans, the head is arranged in such a way that it is very easy for the person to set up the set-up, especially where he most often needs to see sincerity. When this is just a model without any emotions, a person can still be deceived, but when it is laughter, it can look very frightening, or, on the contrary, cool.

How to wear Asya?

Multiple technology. In this part, I would not reveal all the secrets, because there are many options. There is a whole agency for creating virtual clothes in the world.

Do you cooperate with them or plan in the future?

I will not spoil.

What promotional offers will you refuse?

Those that do not correspond to the character and interests of Asi.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ace seems that sports betting sucks. She is not interested in them. If the brand that offers it comes to it, it will refuse.[/perfectpullquote]

I do not know Asi’s political preferences, but that if a politician comes to her and offers for money to put on a T-shirt with the inscription: “I support this.”

I asked Asya – she is not interested.

And if interested in a year?

In a year, will she become a staunch anarchist? Let’s solve problems as they appear. I have the feeling that bloggers, after various election-related stories , are rather cautious about this topic. It is difficult to advertise that does not meet your beliefs.

“The coolest thing about Ace is not perfect.”

Behind Internet models – the future?

As with all things from the future, they come very unnoticed. We live in a world in which there are already drones. For us, this is a normal thing, although recently it was absolute fiction. There are about hundreds of digital models on Instagram. They have a large number of subscribers. This is the future. There are Russian digital models, including Cyrus (appeared in October 2018 – approx. ) and Asya. In my opinion, we are already in the future.

When will it become more or less settled?

In two years.


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chillin’ with @fraukrauze

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Russian digital model Kira and former member of the “We” group Eva Krause

Real models complained that their digital colleagues objectify women. Not afraid that this rhetoric will touch you?

It seems to me that these are new ethical problems, around which there will be a lot of talk over the next one or two years. I have no answer yet.

How will you act if tomorrow, for example, Nick Vodwood comes to you, who does not like something in Asa?

Nick is an activist. She can probably pay attention to it. The coolest thing Asya could do is come out with her for a dialogue, where Nicka would express her opinion, and Asya – her own.

But if she appealed to you as authors?

No one would have tried to step back, just a variant with the dialogue between Asi and Niki would be more interesting. It would go wider.

How should real real models coexist with online models?

The coolest thing about Asa is that it is not perfect. She has no perfect figure and symmetrical face. If you create a digital model today, you should understand what will be interesting in it. If it is perfect, you get a very inanimate picture.

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