Shudu: The Instagram Supermodel You’ll Never Meet
Social media has been going rogue when everyone found out that the black, elegant supermodel wasn't real. Once Rihanna’s beauty line reposted the photograph of Shudu, people started speculating whether she was authentic or not. But was the creator hiding the true fact? Did he not want people to know she was fake? What was his thought process behind her? These were questions that speculated through my mind. So after reading the article on Harpers Bazaar, I shared it on my Instagram. Cameron not only reached out to me but he also thanked me for praising his work and bringing up such an important topic. We shared a short conversation together that led up to such an interesting interview.
Meet The Creator
Cameron-James Wilson, is a 28 year-old, self taught, British photographer, who spent the last 10 years working in the fashion industry. Ending his education two years later, because of his lack of interest in school, he began to share why a classroom setting wasn't his preference for seeking knowledge.
“I'm really not suited to that style of learning. I'd much rather just go off on my own and explore and learn things visually rather than being taught and told to do things that were extremely irrelevant to what I wanted to do.”
When asked about his experiences he explained that it’s really hard to sum up himself, because it doesn't tell anything about his history. But he emphasized that the little things that happen in life, stay with you forever. Like Shudus neck rings, which are Ndebele, were inspired by a 1999 Dior advert for J’adore where Carmen Kass walks into a bath of gold.
Now by teaching himself 3D, using online resources and youtube videos, he created Shudu.
“Creating her really helped me to deal with things that I was going through at the time”
“I wouldn't say that she had any real purpose, it was just because I wanted to. I'm driven to create beautiful depictions of women, I don't really know why, but as long as I can remember I would sit and draw women, my school textbooks were more sketchbooks than anything useful to my education. I didn't know at the time but in creating her it really helped me to deal with things that I was going through at the time. Feeling out of touch with my own work, underappreciated and that I had talent but I didn't know what to do with it.
Shortly after the original image of Shudu was taken, I was speaking with a young girl from South Africa called Mitondo Masaninga. I told her all about my project and she loved it, I really valued her opinion even though she may have still been in school. At the time Shudu didn't have a name, and as she's inspired by a South African tribe I asked Mitondo to do a bit of research and find a suitable name... She asked her friends and I think one of them suggested Shudu and it just stuck.”
“Shudu is just everything I love brought together. She embodies the best parts of the things that inspire me.”
Through all the media speculations, there have been people that were insulted, confused, and accepting of her, while some found it pretty cool. But when I asked Cameron how would he combat the negative comments, he answered ...
“Doing interviews like this I guess can help educate people and hopefully give them more perspective. The point is really that I'm doing something I love. I love technology, Sci-fi films, gaming, CGI movies like Final Fantasy, Shudu is just everything I’m passionate about brought together. She embodies the best parts of the things that inspire me.
I think that though her purpose has changed since I created her, what started out as just me creating the most beautiful woman I could imagine has become something empowering for lots of people. To see someone like them depicted in a way that's glamorous, regal and a little sexy too has really meant something to a lot of her followers. I'm so proud to be adding to a movement where people of all shades can feel beautiful.”
“She's a fantasy trying to break through into reality”
“She's a fantasy trying to break through into reality”
Society seems to be coming up with new ways to redefine beauty. A lot of what wasn't accepted in the past are now seemed to be deemed as beautiful. So as we go through the norms of what social media depicts beauty to be, Cameron questions what beauty really is.
“I'm always questioning how this society that I'm a part of defines beauty, mostly with 'why!?'. Shudu represents what I've always seen as beautiful, but something I don't see often enough. Although there's a slight change happening now, more people need to question, what really is beautiful. I get many comments saying that her beauty is 'rare' but she represents and is inspired by a whole continent of beautiful women. To me she's special, yes, but as are millions of real-life African men and women.
A lot of what we see in media is trying to be less real, with filters and makeup. Shudu is coming from the other direction, she's a fantasy trying to break through into reality and I have plans to help her do so. She's already posed with real-life model Nfon Obong and I'd love to see her interact more with people.”
“Just because a character is created, doesn't make it any less captivating.”
So as we discuss how Shudu bridges the gap between real life and digital, he also explains how he would love to travel the journey with Shudu and allow her to take him where she goes creatively.
“I think there are many applications for 3D, but I don't think 5 years is long enough to see real change, but there will be big developments. We want to follow a story and I feel that just because a character is created, doesn't make it any less captivating. I'd love to imagine where Shudu will be in 5 years, but in a way I follow where she takes me. With every image I post I never know how the reaction may be, but I'd love to see her embraced as art in many different forms.”