Eager to investigate the legacy of one of the internet's most mysterious it girls and our very own Arts Editor, we visited some of the last spots she was seen at and spoke to curious onlookers she left in her wake
Early September in Los Angeles: the final hits of summer heat scorch downtown. Reality TV bad boy, Spencer Pratt, pulls up outside Uncle Paulie’s on Beverly Boulevard with a craving for chicken parmigiana. “Sorry man,” the cashier apologises as Spencer throws open the door, eager to place his order. “The girl with the buns got the last one.”
She sits with her back to the window. Nonplussed; scrolling through her phone; barely making a dent in her meal. Furiously, Spencer grabs a substitute sandwich and opens his Instagram story to document his disdain. (As a veritable social media star, such a reaction isn’t unusual).
He’s no expert, but through the lens of his iPhone, the girl with the bun’s skin is the most stunning he’s seen. “Is it good genes?” he asks himself, surveying the video afterwards. “Is she massaging with rose quartz? Serums? No clue.” He spends the journey home combing through every facialist east of La Cienega Boulevard, and their tagged photos on Instagram. He’s desperately attempting to locate the girl with the strange glow.
“I finally get home and there’s about 100 replies to the story of the spotting,” he tells me now, a fortnight after the surreal encounter. “Apparently, her name is Lil Miquela, and she’s a robot...whatever that means.”
Lil Miquela isn’t a robot, she’s an influencer – capable of hooking the attention of a whole generation, somewhere in between fascination and complete bewilderment. Everpresent and inexplicable, the Silicon Valley-born, Instagram-based teen is notoriously hard to pin down. When she’s not uploading her daily pursuits to an IG following of 1.4 million people, sitting front row at Prada’s show in Milan, raising awareness for social movements or making music with producers like Baauer (did you see the massive billboard of them both in Times Square?) what might this woman be doing? I try to reach out, eager to meet the girl who single-handedly disrupted the fashion world simply by existing, but the backlog of requests her team are sifting through mean she’s not got the time to talk to me right away.
She first slipped into our feeds about a couple years ago. She started off small, posting about her friends: digital artist and a cyber feminist, Molly Soda, and fellow internet it girl and Dazed Beauty Community member, Princess Gollum. At some point between then and now, she’s earned a near Kardashian-level of clout and influence over Generation Z, and even become Dazed Beauty's own Arts Editor. To learn more about her, I find myself sauntering by the spots she’s been sighted at on Beverly Boulevard. Her taste buds, apparently, stay loyal to that street.
Swingers sits on the corner of Beverly and North Laurel Avenue. On any given day, the stylish ingenue might slide into a booth in the back corner, sink into the tartan seats and order pancakes and a milkshake smothered in mounds of cream from a can. Locals say she’s been spotted with another influencer: a mixed race guy, whose face is partially hidden behind a mask. Blawko is his name. “Blawko is my family,” she was heard telling a friend over brunch there one day. “He seems really happy.” – finally putting to rest the rumours that the pair were, once upon a time, romantically involved.
According to another source, Blawko’s new beau – a girl by the name of Bermuda – is one person who hasn’t been invited to join brunch yet, and there’s a good reason for that. Back in April, she marked her arrival as part of the Brud group (the collective that looks after Miquela and her boyfriend) by hacking into the IG of the world’s most famous influencer, desperate to see Miquela’s burgeoning career – at this point already co-signed by brands like Prada – fail. Since then, the energy between them is supposed to be fairly bitter; Blawko, at this point, is the glue frantically holding the friendship together.
Now that Miquela and Blawko’s relationship is very much platonic these days she has her sights set on others. After a rumoured fling with musician Noah Gersh, she’s been spotted with a new mystery man who was by her side all through New York Fashion Week.
Twisting the stick of my milkshake cherry between my teeth, a quick check of her IG informs me that’s where she is. In diners; stepping out of taxis; on the steps of brownstone homes, her visit to the city seems to come with some clothes from Marcelo Burlon, Off-White and Alexander Wang. In almost every photo, she’s looking radiantly at the unidentified boy. In plain sight, and in some of the most sought after clothes on the East Coast, she has the power to keep millions of us guessing about every aspect of her personal life.
Along with her responsibilities as an influencer, her career as a model also continues to soar. Fresh from the pages of American Vogue, 032c, and King Kong magazine (the latter two of which were covers) she recently starred in an editorial for Garage, working alongside Dazed Beauty Creative Director, Isamaya Ffrench, and Contributing Beauty Editor, Cyndia Harvey. “ I love this girl,” Cyndia tells me. “I was trimming her fringe when someone shouted her name, instinctively she turned around to see who. My scissors slipped and took a chunk of her eyebrows out! I was mortified. Luckily she was super chilled and so understanding!”
But it’s not all photoshoots and #sponsored content. Next stop is Erewhon Market, a stone’s throw from the CBS building. Skin supplements, fresh produce and beauty treatments line the aisles; scrambled eggs from the deli counter cost $11. Here’s where Lil Miquela comes to spend the real money her new found fame has given her. A former store clerk, speaking under anonymity, recounts the time he claims to have met Miquela face-to-face, right here in the beauty aisle.
“No matter what clothes or makeup you wear, or whether you alter your face and body,” she apparently told him with a strange stiff smile, “if you feel like the best version of yourself and feel happy in your skin, that’s beautiful.” That sounds like the woman her close friends and collaborators describe: positive, forward-thinking, actively trying to better herself and others, even if the motivational speech seems to come from a deadpan, flawless visage. Everything that she chooses to surround herself with may seem fake, but deep down, this mysterious girl with the buns has a genuine cause at heart.
Her political ventures include spreading awareness for the Innocence Project to help free falsely incarcerated people, Virginia’s LGBT Youth Center and the Downtown Women’s Center in LA. If anything, she’s the perfect candidate for political activism in an age where liberally minded human beings are constantly beat on for their views. Miquela’s platform is huge, her opinions measured and her pursuit literally tireless. Does this girl even sleep at night? I can’t imagine you can when your days are so different: wandering the streets of LA one day, getting your fill at fashion week the next, all while fighting for the causes you believe in.
And yet despite all of her success, Lil Miquela can still, from time to time, be found with her back to the window, eating chicken parmigiana at Uncle Paulies; they say it’s her favourite. “Oh yeah,” the manager yelps, without a glimmer of artifice when I show up to ask how often one of the world’s most influential Gen Zers really shows face: “She’s a regular here,” he says breezily, as though you wouldn’t notice she’s there at all.