Every day, thousands of models post their pictures on Instagram, in hopes of getting followers. One model recently took dominance of the platform. Her popularity skyrocketed when one of her photos was reposted by a huge makeup brand. But only a few days ago, the model shared a secret that shocked everyone.
A model by the name of Shudu posts her professional photos on the Instagram account @shudu.gram. The account was made in April of 2017. Even though nobody knew anything about her, they could agree on one thing: she is breathtaking. Her facial features are mesmerizing, and her beautiful dark skin simply glows when it is touched by the light. But Shudu isn’t just another model on Instagram.
Shudu wasn’t very active on her Instagram account. Once a month, she posted pictures that were taken by photographer Cameron James-Wilson. Even though every picture received thousands of likes, she wasn’t mainstream popular. Regardless, brands were beginning to contact her to model their products.
Shudu posted some pictures of herself modeling a SOULSKY t-shirt in August. Along with the photos, she posted a picture of a letter the brand’s owner, Semhal, sent her. “I think the t-shirt will look great on you and I hope you like it! Can’t wait to see the pic(s),” it said. But something even bigger was heading Shudu’s way.
Shudu posted an impressive photo of herself with striking red lips on February 5th. Shudu was wearing the shade Saw-C from Rihanna’s makeup line, called Fenty Beauty. It wasn’t long before Fenty’s Instagram was sharing the image. No one could have expected the reaction it received.
Out of nowhere, people were talking about Shudu all over the world. They weren’t sure who she was. Her Instagram had no information about her, just the bio which read: “who is she?” It was apparent that the mystery about Shudu was intentional, but people still tried to contact her.
Shudu’s Instagram photo reached over 200,000 likes in only a few days. It received significantly more attention than any other post on that account. It was obvious that people were captivated by Shudu’s appearance. Numerous photographers sent Shudu messages trying to set up a photoshoot with her. She was highly sought after. Eventually, she had no choice but to reveal who she was.
Photographer Cameron James-Wilson told Harper’s Bazaar, “Basically Shudu is my creation, she’s my art piece that I am working on at the moment. “She is not a real model, unfortunately, but she represents a lot of the real models of today. There’s a big kind of movement with dark skin models, so she represents them and is inspired by them.” So, she’s fake?
You may not believe it, but Shudu is digitally generated. “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,” explained Wilson. It appears that all of this time people have become obsessed with a person that wasn’t even real. They were left in confusion. Wilson was asked by Bazaar what motivated him to create her.
“I am a photographer anyway, so it’s just a way of exploring my creativity when I’m not shooting,” said Wilson. It’s definitely a fascinating hobby, but it’s not something everyone could do. Wilson says that it takes three whole days to finish just one image, and that doesn’t even count the weeks of planning. It certainly sounds like he’s passionate about his projects. But why did he make her look that way?
We should mention that Wilson happens to be a white man, so many people were curious as to why he would create his model to be a dark-skinned black woman. Surprisingly, his inspiration for Shudu came from a South African Princess Barbie Doll. He also used real-life women like Alek Wek, Duckie, and Lupita Nyong’o as inspiration. But critics of Wilson believe his work could dramatically affect real models.
There are people that believe that Wilson’s made-up image of Shudu, a black woman, could take away modeling from real-life women that are trying to get work. Because the fashion industry tends to under-represent black woman, this is especially troubling. But Wilson doesn’t agree with his critics.
In response to his critics, Wilson said, “It’s meant to be beautiful art which empowers people. It’s not trying to take away an opportunity from anyone or replace anyone. She’s trying to complement those people.” Actually, while Wilson created Shudu he accidentally stumbled across another field that lacks ethnic diversity, as well.
“Just the same as in many industries, the 3D world is sorely lacking ethnic diversity and black characters and assets are particularly rare. It’s one thing that Shudu is contributing to in her own way[…] Now I’m very interested in helping to create the resources needed for game developers and 3D designers to make more diverse characters,” said Wilson. But will virtual models take the place of real ones?
Even though Shudu is unbelievably realistic, it takes an extreme amount of work to make her, which is exactly why Wilson doesn’t think that human models are in any danger of being replaced. “I don’t see her or virtual people taking over the real world. The work that’s involved is extremely intense. The only reason I can make Shudu what she is is that I have a knowledge of photography, hair, makeup,” said Wilson.