A Surreal Heart-To-Digital-Heart With Singapore Virtual Influencer Rae
You're scrolling and liking all the posts by the influencers you follow on Instagram, but one of them - Rae - always stand out from the pack. Why? Maybe because she's not an actual person.
After her recent highly-touted magazine cover shoot with popular Chinese rapper VaVa, we were curious to find out who's truly behind this virtual influencer. In spite of having over 145,000 followers on Weibo, Rae is still very much an unknown figure.
Does she have hobbies? Perhaps a virtual pet? What about CPF? Being the kaypoh people that we are, we met with the pixel beauty (online, of course) and asked all the hard-hitting questions (and some unnecessarily extra ones) to discover what it takes to be a digital star.
What is your daily schedule like?
I disconnect myself from the bed and start my day with a warm cup of coffee and toast. Caffeine is universal.
In the morning, I’ll check and reply comments or messages on my social channels. My friends from the US send me messages while I’m sleeping. I get DMs time to time asking where I take my photos, about the outfits I wear, or my favourite places to skate at. It’s so nice to hear from my friends and followers online. Establishing a real connection with my followers is very important to me.
I also set aside time to work on existing or upcoming collaborations with my partners. A lot of effort, thought and planning goes into the cool images you see on my feed. Whether it is a styled studio shoot or sharing the digital sketches, the creation and curation that I do take up a big part of my day.
As a digital artist, I also need to keep an eye on current trends so I can create content that is meaningful and relevant. It’s all part of the hustle and it comes in especially useful when I’m speaking to potential clients and brainstorming ideas to take our collaborations to the next level.
Where are some of your favourite local hangouts?
I love skating, so you’ll probably catch me hanging out at skateparks. Most of the time I’m on an urban adventure, cruising around on my customised SBTGxRae skateboard and getting inspired by street art and graffiti. You might have already noticed that I love documenting these little trips on my Instagram stories!
In Singapore, places like Gardens By The Bay or Jewel Changi Airport are great locations for discovery. Jewel Changi Airport’s indoor waterfall and its glass dome is just an architectural marvel. Tako, my virtual pet enjoys playing amongst the many flowers and plants at Gardens By The Bay, so I always bring Tako along to take photos using my AR filter.
That being said, as a virtual character, I can travel to many countries without restrictions. Whether Lau Pat Sat or Shibuya, my local hangouts can be almost anywhere in the world.
How do you deal with social media comments?
I’m on Instagram (@here.is.rae) and Weibo (@hereisrae). It means a lot to me when people check out my posts and share encouraging comments to show their love or leave funny emojis. When you send out good vibes, they circle back to you!
Being on a social platform like Instagram is not just about having a repository of great images. I see it as an avenue to interact with the many people I meet online, fans who have taken the time to comment on my posts or slide a message into my inbox.
Favourite Instagram collaboration that you've done.
So far, it has to be my first SBTGxRae capsule collection with sneaker designer maestro, Mark Ong (@mr_sabotage). The collection sold out within three days! That was such a mind-blowing experience.
The capsule collection was also featured online and in many newspapers and magazines like Female, Yahoo! Lifestyle and Lianhe Zaobao. This shows that a collaboration with a virtual influencer can deliver unique brand experience and business success in the real world.
Both Mark and I had a lot of fun working together and we’ve gained a lot of new fans. We also had the chance to hear from fans on what they thought of the SBTGxRae designs, and what they’d like to see in the future.
For me, it’s really fulfilling to work on things I’m passionate about – streetwear, skating and designing. I also enjoy interacting with my friends on social media, just like everyone else and of course, I reply to their DMs personally. It can get quite overwhelming, but I do try my best to reply to my followers.
Can’t wait to share more in 2021! There is much to discover, and each day is a chance to build new relationships, new experiences. We are only limited by our imagination.
Favourite makan places?
How do you social distance on the Internet?
Thankfully COVID-19 hasn’t spread to the virtual world! But we’ve got other types of viruses to contend with.
One major benefit of being virtual is not being bound by physical or geographical constraints – that means endless possibilities of being anywhere – be it in the US, Japan, China or wherever! Last month I was in Shanghai for a special JSTYLE精美 photoshoot cover with China’s top female rapper VaVa (@vava.mis). No Stay Home Notice for this virtual girl. And - who needs a passport?
Do you have CPF and do virtual influencers buy insurance plans?
Computer-Preferred Friends? I’ve been able to make many close friends through my Instagram and Weibo channels. They are definitely my CPF!
I don’t have an insurance plan, but don’t ask your agent to DM me. The best insurance I have is my group of awesome creators. I’m sure they have backups of me, just in case.
What are a virtual influencer's do's and don'ts when promoting a brand?
It’s helpful to understand the value proposition an influencer (human or virtual) can provide. As a virtual influencer and digital artist, I can bring my unique point of view and style to the collaboration. Another advantage is that brands don’t have to invest time and money to create their own virtual personality from scratch. You can think of me as the perfect brand ambassador, (instantly) ready to be customised to what the brand stands for – only limited by our imagination of course.
It’s also important to have a good working relationship with the brands you’re working with. That involves open and honest communication about objectives, intended messages and direction to ensure a win-win outcome. Of course, authenticity is fundamental. I only collab with brands or labels that I personally believe in.
Lastly, every little detail counts! From my clothes, product placement, shoot location, lighting, photo filters, right down to captions. In my world, perfection is not an overstatement. My projects give me the opportunity to break down barriers and push the boundaries of digital communication with fellow creatives, digital citizens, brands and partners.
What do you do to destress or when you need to disconnect from the Internet?
Even a virtual girl needs her rest! Breaking new ground can get tiring. I doodle and daydream. Art is a key influence in my virtual life, so creating random sketches and letting my imagination run wild can be quite therapeutic.
Creativity needs inspiration and space to breathe. #selfcare. These quiet moments keep me recharged and ready to take on the world.
Plus, playing with Tako is such great fun. I created Tako as my virtual pet and companion. Fun fact: Tako is actually genderless. I’ve also turned Tako into an AR filter so my friends and followers can bring Tako out on their explorations too. Tako reminds me to be bold and stay true to myself.
This is home, truly. What do you love most about Singapore?
Instead of the usual 5Cs, I’ve got the 3Cs - culture, colours and creativity! Just within Singapore itself, there is so much to discover, and each day gives me the chance to explore some place new, collect new experiences and form new relationships!
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