Wait, There’s an AI Beauty Pageant?

Wait, There’s an AI Beauty Pageant? featured image
Tatiana Maksimova / Getty Images

Plenty of people aren’t fans of beauty pageants. You can find a thousand and one think pieces about the feminism of beauty contests and the ethics of putting toddlers in tiaras for judges. But what if you replaced the contestants—got rid of the human element entirely—and set a bunch of computer programs to do it instead? That’s the reality of the AI beauty pageant.

“What would be your one dream to make the world a better place?”

Beauty pageant contestants have answered a version of this question for decades, trying to maintain the perfect balance of graceful humanity and sunny optimism. Nearly everyone remembers Sandra Bullock‘s high-stakes Miss America pageant comedy Miss Congeniality, where a rough-edged federal agent becomes an undercover beauty queen. Bullock’s character fumbles her way to runner up with her charisma driving the train to her almost-victory at the pageant and is voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants. But now an Artificial Intelligence will answer that question.

Somehow we doubt we’ll get the charm of the film’s “harsher punishments for parole violators. I mean, world peace.”

An AI Beauty Pageant?

The Fanvue Miss AI pageant, a part of the World AI Creator Awards, seeks to showcase a final 10 of AI models in a beauty pageant–style contest. The winner will go home with $5,000 cash and an “imagine creator mentorship programme” worth $3,000.

Cofounder Will Monanage has big plans for the event, hoping it becomes the “the Oscars of the AI creator economy.”

While the beauty and realness of these AI beauty contestants is up for judgement, they also plan to score them based on their responses to questions. But critically, when a woman enters a beauty contest, she’s the one who wins or loses. Here, it’s the creator that will take home the prize.

“The creator economy is an extremely exciting place to be in right now, and with the help of our platform, there’s been exponential growth in AI creators entering the space, growing their fanbases, and monetizing content,” added Monanage.

Creating AI Models

Arguably, these are not creators at all. Because of the way AI works, by scraping the internet to learn and evolve, big tech Open AI has argued that it is “impossible” to train an AI without copyrighted materials. That means the only thing a creator did was insert a prompt and let the AI cull from other people’s hard work.

Several artists filed a class-action lawsuit against the companies that created the image generators Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DreamUp. The case alleges that the AI tools violate copyrights by scraping images from the internet to train the AI models. How this will shake out in court is yet to be seen.

AI Beauty Creators

And then there are the models themselves, which have, in several cases, amassed an online following that doesn’t even know they’re AI. These are AI Influencers, and two of them are on the judging panel.

The first is Aitana Lopez, a pink-haired fake Spanish model who earns up to €10,000 a month for her male creator. Also joining the panel is Emily Pelligrini, an international AI model with over 100,000 followers on Instagram.

According to the people running the accounts, a huge chunk of those fans think these women are real. “They think she is real. They invite her to Dubai to meet and eat at a great restaurants,” Pelligrini’s creator told The Daily Mail.

Something Doesn’t Feel Right

None of these women are real, and its the (let’s face it) men who prompted these digital divas who are going to take home cash. They were also formed intentionally. Their skin is light, their boobs are big, their waists are small.

After decades of social urgency around being size inclusive, diverse and representative of real women, this is a kind of beauty dedicated to the male gaze in the most literal sense of the word. Men made these women…or at least asked the AI generator to remember to make her hair long and her chest big.

An AI beauty pageant doesn’t feel like a step in the right direction. And I don’t think Miss Congeniality would approve, either.

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