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Virtual Celebrity

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Three thousand people saw her "live".

So there's this new performer taking the entertainment world by storm. She's gorgeous, she's talented, she's got tons of fans... and she's not real. Well, not a flesh-and-blood human, anyway. (Whether that makes her not real is sometimes debatable.) She's some sort of program or AI, created specifically to be an actor, Idol Singer, or what have you. Most often her artificial nature will be concealed from the world, though there's the occasional Cyber Punk or Post Cyber Punk setting where celebrities (sometimes, all celebrities, or at least the majority) are known to be virtual and nobody cares.

Any metaphors occurring to you about how celebrities are manufactured and marketed as products? Don't be such a cynic.

These do exist in reality; they usually either have a Kayfabe while clearly being fictional, or are openly marketed as virtual celebrities for the sake of a gimmick, but at least one, Aimi Eguchi, had been successfully passed off as a real person.


Not to be confused with Synthetic Voice Actor. Compare Reused Character Design.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sharon Apple in Macross Plus, who is known to be computer-generated, though she still has a secret: much of her personality and emotions are drawn from programmer Myung. An attempt to increase her ability to emulate emotions using an experimental military AI chip goes badly.
  • In MegaMan NT Warrior, there's a virtual Idol Singer, Aki-chan. And every nearby male Navi crushes on her, from Gutsman to MegaMan himself. Roll isn't pleased.
  • Eve Tokimatsuri of Megazone 23, though it's well-hidden until well into Part 1. She's a subroutine of the Bahamut supercomputer that controls the Generation Ship the cast lives on. She chose 1980s Japan as "the best time to live in" and is also responsible for evaluating humanity's readiness to return to Earth at the end of Part 2.
  • Mnemosyne has an example of this in episode four. The basis of the virtual celebrity is her memories and thoughts, sucked from the Mad Scientist's daughter, killing her.
  • American manga (that's not a contradiction in this case) Reality Check! ends up with three of these. Two of them don't know about the world outside the computer, but are self-aware enough to think of themselves as actors before an audience. The other one does know there's a world out there.
  • Android Announcer Maico 2010: An android radio announcer.
  • Nekomimi A and Nekomimi B, twin catgirl robots, are apparently the idols of the Transformers Energon world, making cafeteria apperances, hosting virtual gladiator matches, and even starring in their own in-series manga.
  • Internet psychic Talisman and virtual anarchist Spooky Boogie from ''PsychoPass'

    Comic Book 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Phony actress Simone in the movie S1m0ne is a particularly strong example in that there isn't even an AI involved - 'her' controller speaks for 'her' and programmes 'her' movements directly, making Simone spiritually more akin to a ventriloquists dummy.
  • The Disney Channel original movie Pixel Perfect revolves around this, with main character Roscoe using holographic technology to create Loretta Modern, intended to be a multi-talented and seemingly "perfect" vocalist for his best friend's band, the Zettabytes.

  • Possibly the Ur-Example is Adam Selene in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. La Résistance is secretly being organised by Mike, a Master Computer who has gained Artificial Intelligence. He creates their ostensible leader 'Adam Selene' who has first a voice (including background noise) to communicate with the Resistance cells by phone, then after the revolution occurs a video image that works in real time. However this bluff won't last forever as those in the know are running out of excuses why no-one can meet Adam face-to-face, so when Earth finally launches an attack they use a body damaged beyond recognition to fake his 'death'.
  • Rei Toei and the other idorus in William Gibson's Idoru
  • There's a book by Norman Spinrad, Little Heroes, based upon several of those.
  • James Tiptree, Jr's short story The Girl Who Was Plugged In posits a dystopian future where corporations control everything; advertising is forbidden, so corporations have to use celebrity product placements. Delphi is created to be the perfect celebrity spokesmodel, but needs a person to run her.
  • In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the religion of Earth worships Wilbur Mercer, who is later revealed to be a mental simulacrum of a character actor recorded decades ago.

  • The steampunk band Steam Powered Giraffe perform as "singing musical automatons".
  • The band Gorillaz is presented as four distinct cartoon musicians in performances and music videos, despite really just being Damon Albarn and guest players.
  • Prozzak are this on their albums and in their videos. However, live shows would simply have the show musicians who played them performing the songs in-character without any animation.
  • Possibly hinted at in Peter Schilling's "(Let's Play) U.S.A."
    "Soon the robots we create will be starring on the Great White Way."
  • The Plastic E Gulls are also a cartoon four-piece band performed by one guy, albeit still looking for that big break...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Max Headroom, who went on to become this in real life (except that it was a character played by Matt Frewer in a foam suit in real life), with his own talk show (for which the character was actually created: the pilot didn't turn into its own fiction series for a few years until after a jump across the pond).
  • The Muppets are basically treated like real life celebrities everywhere they appear.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Virtuoso", the Emergency Medical Hologram finds himself a celebrity among the Qomar: smug, isolationist aliens who've never heard music before. This newfound fame goes to his head and he seriously considers leaving Voyager, only to find his Qomar girlfriend has created a 'better' version of himself.
  • In Red Dwarf, "Groovy" Channel 27 has a holographic newsreader.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Probably the ultimate example: the Vocaloid programs. They seem to be the only example, real or fictional, of interactive virtual celebrities. Almost all of the songs, outfits, dance routines, etc. are fan-made; the songs in the official concerts were bought from the fans who wrote them. Some fans have even put on their own concerts, or created UTAU characters like Teto Kasane (who herself started out as an unofficial April Fools prank).
    • Especially Hatsune Miku (pictured above), who even has her own Facebook page). Virtual celebrity to the max! Miku took the next step, aka Character Celebrity Endorsement, in a Toyota Corolla Commercial thanks to Toyota sponsoring her upcoming USA concert. She was recruited by Domino's Pizza to do the same for them, along with being featured in a pizza ordering app for iOS gadgets. She's even helped with Sapporo tourism with the annual "Snow Miku" festival, and serves as the mascot of Goodsmile Racing's stock team as "Racing Miku".
    • A copy of Vocaloid has been installed on the Real Life Gynoid "Aiko". There have been several "live" on stage concert series featuring her: MikuPa, Magical Mirai, and the international Hatsune Miku Expo, thanks to the same rear-projecting technology that brought Gorillaz to a live performance.
    • Gumi also joined in the live performance fun, as demonstrated at the Digital Content Expo using Augmented Reality. She would later make regular appearances with fellow Internet Co. rep Gakupo as well as the Crypton squad in Nico Nico Cho Party concerts.
    • IA held an "ARIA on the Planetes" concert with her CeVIO sister ONE.
    • The Crypton Vocaloids once had a collaboration with Family Mart, advertising for the chain store. Hell, Kaito even has his own brand of ice cream.
    • For the first example of a literal virtual idol, we have MoeJapan's own Nemu Yumemi (based off the Dempagumi.Inc member).
    • Not to be outdone by their Japanese counterparts, China launched their own virtual celebrity group in 2012: the VSingers (formerly known as Vocaloid China and Vocanese). Luo Tianyi and Yuezheng Ling had their own holographic concerts with the rest of the gang playing backup band, but that changed in 2016 when the voice banks for Longya, Moke, and Quingxian were finally finished enough for the characters to provide a few songs of their own.
    • Notably, even before Miku and friends hit this in real life, this was a common portrayal of them in fictional settings and fan-created headcanons for how they would have careers as singers. The entire phenomenon came about essentially by accident—originally the characters were just box art mascots for particular tunings of the Vocaloid voice-synthesizer software, only intended to help promote the products to musicians. But, eventually, the mascots became far more popular than the software itself, and Miku in particular grew into one of the most over-the-top Breakout Characters in existence.
  • Kyoko Date, who enjoyed some popularity in the late '90s but was something of a one-hit wonder, releasing only one single. HoriPro would later try again with her daughter Ayako, this time working with the Virtual Youtuber craze.
  • Gorillaz is arguably the most successful to date. They even performed "live" as holograms (using a technology called Pepper's Ghost) at the Grammy Awards back in 2006.
  • Aki Ross from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, whom Square and Sony were marketing as a virtual celebrity of sorts, even planning to reuse her as a "virtual actress" in unrelated roles for future films. Of course, the film flopped (taking Square with it) and consigned Aki to the dustbin of history.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • The Archies tried to be one. They had a hit single. That's about it.
  • Konami tried to market Tokimeki Memorial's heroine Shiori Fujisaki as one, complete with several music albums, two music videos, and an official fan club. Apparently it didn't go very far thanks to several Ensemble Darkhorses such as Saki Nijino stealing the limelight.
  • Similar case as Simone from the film: Aimi Eguchi, the latest member of Japanese pop group AKB 48, was created as a composite using photoshopping techniques by blending the features of several of the other members of the group, and was passed off as a real artist. Before long fans got suspicious and the management spilled the beans.
  • Cartoon Network took several runs at this with varying degrees of success. Space Ghost Coast to Coast for one, Moxy the Dog (played by a motion captured Bobcat Goldthwait) for another.
    • The VBirds were an animated girl group created by Cartoon Network UK. Their single "Virtuality" was heavily promoted for a while (the group even opening for a real-life boy band), but they faded into obscurity not long afterward.
  • The face of the Genki Rockets is the fictional character Lumi, born in space in the year 2037, and also appearing in the games Lumines II and Child of Eden. She is depicted as a "holographic" projection in live performances, similar to Miku Hatsune. Her appearance is based on Rachel Rhodes, and her voice is apparently a combination of Rhodes, Nami Miyahara, and possibly others.
  • The "Tupac hologram" that was employed at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival showcased another application of this trope. Rather than create an entirely fictional persona, the technology was used to bring "back to life" one who had been dead for fifteen years.
  • Ananova was touted as the world's first virtual newscaster. It didn't last.
  • Savlonic, a fictional band created by Weebl of Weebl & Bob fame.
  • Wiktoria Cukt, a 2000 Polish art project to create a "virtual presidential candidate" who has the perfect political platform—one made up of contributions by the web-surfers themselves.note 
  • Amber G is a very early one, having been around since at least 2003 (the year of her first album), her most recent album (her third) was released in 2008. However, her "career" never really went anywhere. Any "fame" she may have had was likely restricted to the website.
  • Gummibar, who is well-known for "I'm a Gummy Bear (The Gummy Bear Song)"
  • Two early 2000s examples from Italy:
    • Jenny Rom, a bubblegum dance/electronic project, was originally conceived as a virtual computer singer (whose most famous track was named "www.Blonde Girl" to make it clear). Later on they dropped this gimmick though.
    • Mr. Ambo (2001) was supposed to be one of these, a virtual Latin macho man whose only song "Ambo Mambo" was thought to be a sure-fire summer hit. It even had a personal site and all. However, it was an abysmal flop: the song (a rubbish cover of "Mambo Jambo") received next to no airplay, nobody cared despite extensive market researches (or so they claimed) and the character was immediately forgotten.
  • Super Sonico was originally created as the mascot of nitro+'s very own live show NITRO SUPER SONIC, but her popularity resulted in her becoming a virtual singer, along with her band First Astronomical Velocity. Here is their official site.
  • Youtube has an entire community of "Virtual YouTubers", characters motion captured with software like MikuMikuDance or Live2D that host variety channels. Like real-life YouTubers, they Let's Play games, do announcement videos, or even have Character Blogs —they just look stylized when they do it. Kizuna AI helped popularize the concept in 2016, though she's a literal virtual celebrity according to her backstory (she's a sentient AI). Entire units dedicated to the concept, like hololive, Nijisanji and countless others, eventually sprung up in Ai's wake.
  • Combo Panda and V Tubers are children's Adobe Flash form of this. They are fictional animated characters portrayed as gamers, meaning they do not exist, yet run popular Let's Play channels.
  • QT is a musical performance art project by Hayden Dunham of the eponymous international pop singer who's "the living embodiment of the semi-fictitious DrinkQT energy drink." Generally associated with the online PC Music label, she released only one single in 2014 called "Hey QT", produced by Sophie and PC Music founder A.G. Cook, but has continued making live guest appearances with affiliated acts, and was the subject in a half-"documentary", half-Mind Screw short film in 2017 titled Quinn Thomas.
  • Virtual Instagram influencers, taking form on an account supposedly run by a fictional character and consisting of media showing the lifestyle of said character, often rendered as a hyper-realistic human. The Trope Maker for this would have to be Lil Miquela.

Alternative Title(s): Virtual Idol


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