Meet The Virtual Supermodel: Shudu

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Time to get over the living supermodels- meet the new age virtual supermodel, Shudu. The face of a luxury brand, Balmain, Shudu was created by Cameron James Wilson. With her porcelain perfect skin and captivating coral black eyes, Shudu is bulldozing her way to popularity records. Here’s a tete-e-tete with the creator of this new internet sensation.

Please discuss your previous life? How did this idea come up?

For the last ten years I had been a fashion photographer and although I was quite successful, I never felt creatively fulfilled. Not only I love taking pictures, I enjoy styling the hair and clothes, doing makeup and coming up with new concepts, photography only covered one aspect of that. After 10 years, I decided to take a step back and look into starting a new career. I had always been inspired by games and CGI in sci-fi movies but I never thought I would be able to learn how to use some of the complex programs Hollywood uses. However, I persevered†and through watching YouTube and finding some software that was easy to use, I started to learn! After 3 months I had gone from making 3D doughnuts to creating 3D garments and dressing 3D virtual models. It was at that point I decided to create an image of a beautiful woman wearing gold necklaces, inspired by the Ndebele people†of South Africa and Dior’s J’adore perfume ads. It went instantly viral!!

Why did you name her ‘Shudu’ and why did you choose a female character?Any special people you would like to give credits to, in the making of Shudu?

In my fashion photography I’ve always worked with women, so it only made sense that I would continue to work with 3D women. Shudu’s name is an Ndebele name, which was given to her by a girl called Mitondo who is currently living in South Africa. She was one of Shudu’s first followers and reached out to me right at the start. I then asked if she could do some research and find me an authentic†name that would suit her. She came back with a list and I picked Shudu, which has become really recognisable. Growing up, I was majorly influenced by supermodels Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek and Iman and without them I may have never created Shudu.

Was Balmain’s campaign Shudu’s commercial debut?

Balmain was my first commercial venture as a 3D artist. I was tasked with creating two new models, which is extremely time consuming, and that point was a real test of my skills, having only been working in 3D for a year. It felt incredible receiving†the deal of approval from such a high-end brand I had admired for a long time, due to their inclusivity and forward thinking approach to fashion.

How did the collaboration come about?

I was approached by The Sunshine Company. At first, they didn’t say who their client was and requested to meet me in London. I live 4 hours away from their office, but I didn’t hesitate to go, I knew it was for something amazing. When we discussed the idea behind the campaign, I thought it was incredible. After 10 years of being dissatisfied†with photography, it was a sign that I had made the right decision to find a new profession.

Which all brands have you endorsed with?

The Diigitals, my company I founded in 2018, has worked with brands including Balmain, Ellesse, BAFTA, EE, Smart and KFC, and produced editorials for Vogue, Cosmopolitan, WWD and PHOTO.

How do you plan all the content that you post?

I don’t plan it! Unless it’s a promoted post, I just create and post when I feel like it. It will definitely have to change soon, but I see myself very much as an artist, and I need to be†inspired†to create new content. I often post things I’m working on for my followers to see and even ask them for advice or their input. We recently created a model together, which is an on-going project and collaboration with Shudu’s following.

Shudu is incredibly fashionable, who decides her dresses?

I generally make the decision of everything that appears on her page, however, she has done editorials for magazines like Vogue and WWD who had stylists that chose what she would wear. When I worked for Ellesse, we had model Misty Bailey step in and pose as Shudu, she also had her input on what Shudu would wear, and I let her really influence, Shudu’s style. It was exciting for me to see her through someone else’s eyes.

How many days did it take to design Shudu at first? How much time does it take now?

I can’t remember because the first time I created Shudu my computer crashed and I lost a few days of work! I even contemplated whether or not I would recreate her. However, I stuck at it and created her for a second time and even made improvements. Altogether it probably took me a week or more to create the first image. Shudu is still in development though, she’s currently on version 7, which has more realistic body proportions.

Describe her looks, who was your inspiration?

Shudu was inspired by South African Princess Barbie, one of my favourite dolls. However, Iman influenced her eyes, and elegant neck, Naomi Campbell†her body and supermodel presence†and Alek Wek, her beautiful deep skin tone and features. For me, they are some of the most beautiful women†in the world, but I feel like Shudu is unique and beautiful†in her own way.

Do you feel pressurised by all the expectations & responsibility Shudu bears for so many people?

I think every artist feels pressured to create their best work. I do feel like I have extra responsibility because she is a 3D model. It’s a very new industry and I don’t want people to have a negative reaction, I want them to see all the amazing possibilities. As a pioneer†in this area, I have to represent†a lot of other artists.

What are the future plans for Shudu?

I never know what can happen with Shudu! Every day, a new email can completely change what will happen next. Shudu is a character that writes her own story, which I find extremely exciting. Unfolding in real time, her life happens just like a real person.

Any plans to design more such characters?

Of course, I love to design new characters. In fact, I actually have to hold back on making new models, and just focus on the ones I have. However, I love to create new and beautiful people. I think the next step is to create more characters based on real people, it’s just finding the right person to work alongside.

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