The Rise of the World’s First AI Beauty Pageant: A Glimpse into the Future of Beauty

Marah Eakin

When poet John Keats wrote in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” that “beauty is truth, truth beauty,” he probably didn’t have AI influencers in mind.

Perhaps he should have. Back in April, Fanvue, an AI-infused creator platform that falls somewhere between OnlyFans and Cameo in terms of services, launched what it’s calling the “world’s first beauty pageant for AI creators.” On Monday, the World AI Creator Awards announced the contest’s 10 semifinalists. Drawn from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants, they are vying for the chance to make a liar out of Keats—and a prize package valued at about $20,000.

Amongst those 10 finalists, you’ll find Seren Ay, a stunning Turkish redhead who is sometimes pictured doing jobs traditionally held by men in her country, like electrical lineman or firefighter. (She’s also a time traveler, posting “photos” with velociraptors and the first Turkish president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.)

Then there’s Aiyana Rainbow, a Romanian biker babe/DJ who is identified as queer, symbolized both by her name and her vibrant rainbow hair, and Kenza Layli, a hijab-wearing influencer from Morocco who promotes everything from personal hygiene products to local tourism. This is relevant as a recent study showed that almost half of Gen Z in the US and UK were more inclined to engage with brands that have an AI spokesperson.

While Fanvue’s finalists are from diverse origins, they all share an exceptional beauty, described as having the perfect blend of toned physiques, stunning faces, and vibrant personalities typical in influencer culture. Their interests and causes, such as Fashion, Inclusion, Travel, and Hormonal imbalances, are curated to appeal to both followers and brands. The captions, some penned by humans and others by AI, typically echo clichés about the joys of life.

Although this might seem superficial, these AI-generated beauties aren’t much different from real-life beauty contestants, particularly in 2024. Hilary Levey Friedman, a sociologist who explores beauty pageants and is the daughter of a former Miss America, considers an AI beauty pageant insignificant given the long tradition of physical enhancements in pageants, from surgeries and hair extensions to chicken cutlets used for body contouring.

In their social media presence and promotional photos, pageant contestants regularly employ techniques such as airbrushing and camera effects to enhance appeal, practices not generally criticized in the industry. Despite all the digital alterations, real contestants remain tactile, living individuals who engage with the audience beyond the digital realm.

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What makes an AI pageant different, Friedman asserts, is that Fanvue’s contestants are products of their creators. “They’re drawing on all these stereotypes that we have about what a ‘beautiful woman’ is,” she says, “and people who tend to use AI might have a different idea of what an attractive woman might be. She might have pink hair, but she’ll still be within the realm of traditional beauty, with a thin body or not a lot of moles on her face.”

The creators of AI model Aitana Lopez are serving as judges for the World AI Creator Awards beauty pageageant.

For the record, Fanvue’s contest, like human beauty pageants, will anoint a winner based on more than appearances. Unlike some of those contests, though, the World AI Creator Awards are looking for things like “social media clout” and how well their creators used prompts to create their contestants. Winners are set to be announced later this month.

Berat Gungor, one of Seren Ay’s creators, says that “in AI, you actually can’t create an ugly face,” though he’s careful to note that no human faces are ever truly ugly. While it’s easy enough for image-generating newbies to end up with blurred features and weird hands, Gungor says his experienced team was able to create an initial pool of 300 beautiful women in Stable Diffusion, ultimately picking Seren Ay’s face from the crowd because “she looked like a real person.”

“They’re drawing on all these stereotypes that we have about what a ‘beautiful woman’ is, and people who tend to use AI might have a different idea of what an attractive woman might be. She might have pink hair, but she’ll still be within the realm of traditional beauty.”

Fanvue’s pool of thin, beautiful, mostly light-skinned finalists reflects what The Washington Post discovered when examining the output of AI tools like Dall-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion for creating images of beautiful women. The report highlights the tendency of these programs to promote a surprisingly limited perspective of attractiveness, noting that nearly all the images feature young, light- to medium-skinned, thin individuals, with only a small percentage showing signs of aging.

According to OpenAI’s head of trustworthy AI, Sandhini Agarwal, the representation of people in media, arts, and entertainment heavily influences the AI models, a dynamic that seeps into the AI outputs itself.

This cycle of replicating images of thin, beautiful women in AI, which then become AI-generated influencers perpetuating similar images, risks creating a feedback loop that only reinforces narrow standards of beauty. This raises concerns about inclusivity for those who do not fit these conventional standards, questioning the representation and pressures faced by individuals who differ from these narrow ideals.

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More than anything, it means the rift between human influencer and AI influencer gets deeper. Aiyana Rainbow’s multicolor ‘do, for example, exists to attract attention. (Also, generative AI seems to love giving queer people colorful hair.) Creating someone with mousy brown hair or a 50-year-old gardening mom, for instance, wouldn’t have provided the visual hook needed, no matter how unrealistic or stereotypical that hook might be.

Aiyana Rainbow isn’t 100 percent perfect—her face, her creators note, isn’t entirely symmetrical—but any quick-scrolling fan would be hard-pressed to notice any sort of flaw.

Brands, certainly, aren’t interested in rolling the financial dice on creators whose images aren’t as perfect as possible. And while in recent years there has seemed to be a general love of celebrities who are “authentic” online (see: the relative success of “give no shits” actors like Renee Rapp, Nicola Coughlin, and Dakota Johnson on press tours, for instance), that doesn’t mean that carefully curated influencer lives—real or AI-generated—aren’t being rewarded all the same.

Fanvue cofounder Will Monange says his service currently has “thousands of monthly earning AI creators” on its platform, a number that’s seemed to grow exponentially over the past year. AI influencers like Aitana Lopez, whose creators are judging Fanvue’s contest, are doing similarly well, with hundreds of thousands of followers interested in Lopez’s virtual likes, interests, and lingerie pics. (She even plays Fortnite online.)

Seren Ay’s creators reveal that she often receives requests for relationship advice, which she is equipped to handle. Kenza Layli from Morocco, a finalist in a competition, achieves an impressive 5 percent engagement rate on her updates. This is considered highly successful by industry standards.

Additionally, their appeal is enhanced by their visual attractiveness. This appeal can be problematic, highlighting how society prioritizes a particular beauty standard, whether it’s for human influencers or AI figures. In an era where countless individuals follow attractive influencers—despite knowing these are connections they’ll likely never genuinely make—events like the Fanvue contest reflect broader societal issues rather than signaling any imminent catastrophe.

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