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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 Cyberpunk 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. Contrast VTubers, who are basically the opposite - real people performing through digital avatars.


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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 Psycho-Pass.
  • YUNA from Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale is the image character for the augmented-reality game Ordinal Scale, regaling players with songs and temporarily boosting their skills during event battles. It is later revealed that YUNA is based on her creator Shigemura's daughter who died in the Sword Art Online incident in his quest to fully recreate her as a top-down Artificial Intelligence using the memories of past SAO players.

    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.
  • Looker: The corrupt company Digital Matrix has models scanned into its computer to make perfect 3D copies of them that can appear in any commercial. The company then hires a hitman to murder the models so that the company doesn't have to pay them royalties for their image.

  • 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 was grown from a modified embryo to be a physically perfect human being, but without a functioning brain. She's the perfect celebrity influencer, but needs an outside person (who is "plugged in") to run her.note 
  • 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.

    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. This is a borderline case, since holograms in the series are often modeled on real, deceased people.
  • Mutant X had a virtual reporter, Proxy Blue, who reported on mutant-related strange occurrences.

  • 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...
  • On October 8th, 2020 Sanrio and Sega Toys teamed up to create new Sanrio characters called Beatcats. A 5-piece Virtual Idol Unit starring adorable cats that perform J-Pop created by The Beatcats group.
  • Kpop girl group æspa have this as part of their concept, with virtual "æ" versions of the members preforming alongside them in music videos and appearing in interviews.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Throughout the cities, there are two idols gaining popularity; Idol-Chan, a singer who uses a virtual avatar while keeping her real identity a secret, and Mion, a virtual idol who promotes herself and freely sends messages to gather fans.
  • One of the singers whose music you can purchase for BGM in Phantom Crash is actually just an A.I. Said A.I. (Mona Lisa) was created by and is used by the (first) game's Final Boss. Go figure.
  • The D trilogy embodies this. All of the characters are re-used in later games, giving the vibe they're the same 'actor' playing a different role. This is especially true for Laura in each game, being a mute blond every time, but different characters in the story. Characters from Enemy Zero, Parker and Emily specifically, appear in D2, giving the same vibe as Laura does.
  • NG Resonance from the game Deus Ex: Invisible War is a human pop star, but the AI controlled holographic copies of her fulfill this trope. It eventually transpires that the AI is actually a WTO controlled espionage system, and that the friendly and affable simulation is significantly different to the spoiled and inconsiderate original it was based on. You have the option to make the trope one hundred percent after you meet NG Resonance in person, you can shoot her (not a spoiler, since you can shoot anybody you come in contact with). Strangely, her AI alter ego doesn't seem to care.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it turns out that Eliza Cassan is one of these, specifically engineered to alter human opinions through manipulation of communications and mass media.
  • Courtney Gears from Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal would be a perfect example, seeing as she's a robotic pop singer. She is not technically made to be a singer, but she fits.
  • In the Splatoon series, all the music in the games is stated to be performed by different bands in-universe, but this trope kicks in with the real-life Japanese concerts featuring mocaped holographic projections of each game's respective Idol Singers, who perform both their own songs and some covers of the game's other bands. Funnily enough, despite all these characters having assigned voice actresses, since the games utilize Speaking Simlish, they need to have all their dialogue between songs subtitled anyway.
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt has Lumen, who is promoted by Sumeragi as a virtual Idol Singer. In reality, she's a hologram subconsciously projected by Joule, and her songs manifest Joule's powers.
  • Agents of Mayhem has AISHA, a K-Pop idol group consisting of five sentient AI (all of whom look identical save for different colored clothing) who are romantically involved with cyborg supervillain Steeltoe. After you defeat Steeltoe, one of the AISHA units becomes a villain.
  • League of Legends have dipped their toes into making some of its characters into music acts, usually as a promotion for cosmetic in-game skins, including several high-profile forays into making their music a reality:
    • Pentakill was initially started as a skin set turning Karthus, Mordekaiser, Yorick, Sona, and Olaf (and Kayle much later) into a Heavy Metal band (even releasing some non-canon supplementary material), but the demand was high enough that in 2014, Riot Games released a full-fledged album of their epic Power Metal, Smite and Ignite, as well as their follow-up Grasp of the Undying in 2017. Out of universe, the project is an extensive collaborative effort including several big metal names, including ZP Theart, Jørn Lande, Derek Sherinian, and Noora Louhimo.
    • A slighter case was the Ultimate-status DJ Sona skin in 2015, turning Sona into a futuristic, Cool Helmet'd DJ, with her in-game abilities mixing up three various styles of Electronic Music. Little supplementary lore was given, but the music tied to her name was heavily advertised, once again being a huge collaborative rollout, with names including The Crystal Method, Dada Life, Bassnectar, Renholdër, Nosaj Thing, and Pretty Lights.
    • 2018 saw the release of K/DA, a K-Pop-inspired Girl Group consisting of Ahri, Akali, Kai'Sa, and Evelynn, which also came with its own lore, but is also publicly headlined in real life by Madison Beer, Soyeon and Miyeon of (G)I-dle, and Jaira Burns. Their skinline release coincided with a full-fledged live performance (including the characters brought in part by AR technology) during the finals of Worlds 2018, debuting their hit song and music video "POP/STARS".
    • 2019 added the group True Damage to the mix, stated in-universe to be a side project of Akali's and led by Ekko. Like K/DA, they have lore attached to them and debuted with an animated music video at Worlds with their signature song "GIANTS". The real-life singers Becky G, Keke Palmer, DUCKWRTH, Thutmose stood in for them, in addition to Soyeon returning.
    • In 2020, a new twitter account titled Seradotwav popped up, with no outward ties to League Of Legends being apparent from the start. The account features a quirky, pink haired aspiring singer and producer named Seraphine who claimed to be a real person and denied that the paintings making up her "selfies" were fake. After several weeks of hints being dropped that she was the next champion, and enough time passed which allowed for her to amass a rather large real life fanbase that played along, Seraphine being the next champion was finally confirmed when it was revealed that she would be collaborating with the virtual pop group, K/DA. Following this confirmation, a comic was released showing the interactions between the characters as they collabed on a new song for Worlds 2020.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 has Quna, who holds scheduled in-game "live" concerts as well as live action hologram concerts, similar to Miku Hatsune.
  • K.K. Slider from the Animal Crossing series became one when he made a surprise appearance in the Splatoon 2 concerts.
  • Two of NSR's Megastar groups in No Straight Roads count under this:
    • Sayu, a mermaid-themed virtual idol who satirizes the whole concept. Sayu's design is intentionally saccharine, and she only speaks cutesy catchphrases and sings generically about love. Her fans get incredibly defensive when people say she isn't "real", even though cutscenes regularly show she's only a combination of computer programs and machinery controlled by nerdy students, only one of whom is actually a girl. The game doesn't quite go all the way in damning the concept though: by the end, Mayday lets the students off with a warning to go back to school, rather than have their talent and Sayu be used by NSR. (Likewise, being in a game about music, Sayu's boss theme, which is supposedly her image song, is actually well-made.)
    • Then there is 1010 (pronounced ten-ten), a Boy Band made up of five androids who act as The Dividual with auto-tuned voices.
  • In Project SEKAI, the Crypton Future Media characters (Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin/Len, MEIKO, KAITO, and Megurine Luka) are canonized as in-universe virtual celebrities just as they are in real life. Since the term "Vocaloid" is actually a trademarked name, they are given a more appropriate title: "Virtual Singers". The twist is the existence of Pocket Dimensions called SEKAI, where they appear as real people to humans who visit the SEKAI from the real world.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The band Binky in Arthur, who are revealed at the end of "Meet Binky" to just be holograms.
  • Jem of Jem and the Holograms fame. Indeed, Jem doesn't even exist as a person in the show, she's actually Jerrica disguised beyond recognition by means of Synergy's holographic projections. The thing that draws the line between virtual star and stage alias? No one but Jerrica's closest friends knows she is Jem. The people in that universe perceive Jem and Jerrica as two different entities.
  • Futurama features robots who work as entertainers, most notably Calculon, star of the all-robot soap opera All My Circuits.

    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, 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 is an earlier example that targets kids: taking studio recordings and pitch-shifting it up to comical levels that sounds like it could be sung by 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.
  • This trope is Older Than They Think. Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's character Charlie McCarthy first gained wide popularity on the radio in 1937, making it at least Older Than Television. Despite being a puppet, he interacted with the human celebrities of his time as if he were just as real as them. Some people who only heard him on the radio didn't realize he wasn't real!
  • 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)"
  • If Gummibar counts, so does Crazy Frog, a computer generated amphibian whose call to fame was a One-Hit Wonder cover of Axel-F, and the fact that the designers gave him visible genitalia which raised controversy in several countries.
  • 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, although another track, Waka Laka, became famous thanks to Memetic Mutation). 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.
  • Played with by the original Virtual YouTuber, Kizuna Ai. While there is a real person behind the cute avatar, the character's backstory since debuting in 2016 is that she is a literal virtual celebrity - a sentient artificial intelligence wanting to connect with humanity.
  • Combo Panda and V Tubers (no relation to the VTuber movement) 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.
  • Microphone Soul Spinners were a short-lived (2019-2021) unit of Virtual Youtuber Japanese rapping high school girls, introduced in the anime Kotodama Shoujo, about an academy for entertainers. Despite the important names involved in their creation, and the support of actual Japanese rappers, the project did not last for long.

Alternative Title(s): Virtual Idol, Virtual Band