爱穿白T恤的“阿喜”长得就像一个可爱的邻家女孩，她牙齿有点歪，脸上有痘印，甚至会毫不顾忌地在镜头前打哈欠，然而，正是这样不完美的虚拟偶像却受到了国内广大网友的喜爱，人气直逼真人明星。Credit: Jesse Zhang
"Your skin's a bit dry," one user commented on a video posted by Angie, a popular influencer who first appeared on Chinese social media last fall. "You should apply a face mask."
In the video, uploaded to Douyin, Angie's skin looks bumpy and uneven. A gaping yawn reveals slightly crooked teeth.
She doesn't have "the face of a celebrity," another user remarked.
Typical influencers might clap back with a comment, but Angie is not a typical influencer -- she's not even a real person.
Angie is an imperfect virtual personality. She may still be conventionally pretty, but unlike China's other virtual influencers, Angie doesn't pose in designer clothes, walk the runway or promote new songs. Instead, she sports simple white tees, sips Coca-Cola and yawns on screen.
Sometimes she can be seen with a flushed face, and even zit or two. And her down-to-earth persona is clearly resonating on Douyin, where she has amassed over 280,000 followers to date.
Virtual influencers are nothing new in China. The country's first digital KOL (key opinion leader) to go viral, Ling, was created in May 2020. With her sharp jawline, slender face and rosy lips, Ling reflects a traditional Chinese beauty ideal. This February she graced the cover of Vogue Me, a fashion magazine targeting China's "post-'90s" generation," alongside real-life celebrities G.E.M., Liu Haocun and Liu Yuxin.
But Angie offers a refreshing alternative, her fans say, in a country where demand for plastic surgery is surging and beauty apps compete to create filters that show users more beautiful versions of themselves.
但是阿喜的粉丝表示，在整容手术需求暴增、美妆APP争相研发美颜滤镜的环境，阿喜的出现让人耳目一新。Angie is the creation of Jesse Zhang, director of a Shenzhen-based CGI animation company. Credit: Jesse Zhang
Angie is the creation of Jesse Zhang, the director of a Shenzhen-based CGI animation company.
Zhang thought it would be fun to create a virtual character with imperfect features -- someone who could help people relax and feel more positive about themselves. Angie started taking shape in July 2020, and within three months Zhang had posted his character's first video to Douyin. By December, she had already gained around 100,000 fans.
"I didn't think she would take off so quickly," he said, attributing her popularity to her calming, casual videos.
"Her characteristics and details all have a bit of this 'real-life' feeling," Zhang said. "But she also has some things a real person wouldn't have. Her ears are a bit like a fairy's, and her eyes are round, big and cute."
Despite knowing she's not real, many of Angie's followers eagerly tell her about their day in two group chats on Douyin.