The latest tech stories from around the world...

AI-Generated Spoofs Of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Are Flooding Instagram And TikTok

The blending of the real and unreal could explain why some followers of faux Drag Race get so passionate about what they’re seeing on their feeds. Michael says he “lives for the overreactions of fans” who believe his creations are real people. He says people often ask him for a queen’s actual Instagram handle.

“I also get the occasional hate comment from someone saying I’m taking away jobs from real drag queens,” he says. As an illustrator himself, Michael says he’s aware “that AI is coming for my job,” but doesn’t believe his Instagram passion project is taking money away from humans. “If someone isn’t going to the club and tipping a real drag queen because they saw AI Drag Race, that’s a problem with the person and not my Drag Race,” he says.

Fantasy Drag Race’s Más says she has gotten into scrapes with other creators in group chats, too, after questioning how seriously they were taking the whole process. “I’m a queer, nonbinary Mexican in upstate New York,” she explains. “Someone saying that my drag competition isn’t their cup of tea or that some look I made is ugly isn’t going to affect me at all.” Still, she says, it’s understandable that people get emotionally attached to her work.

Unfortunately, that kind of attachment also comes with a sense of looming dread, since the whole idea of AI-generated Drag Race is a play on a big franchise. While some creators argue that what they’re doing is parody, posting what Grimmelmann says are “almost completely useless” (or perhaps pointless) copyright disclaimers absolving themselves on their main Instagram page, others acknowledge that they’re likely building their followings on shaky ground.

A number of accounts, including one that featured exclusively Disney characters, have already been pulled off Instagram, giving creators who use only animated or existing characters more than a bit of pause. “I’m very scared of getting taken down,” says Haus of Dreg’s Boopy. “But if I did, then so be it. I mean, what could I even do?”

“I make sure that I don’t do anything to sexualize the characters, and I don’t do anything to diminish their actual tone,” Horror Drag Race’s Shayne adds. “I’m just merging two mediums—horror and Drag Race—and blending it up into something that both groups of fans can enjoy.”

It’s not just Drag Race fans that are enjoying the AI experience, either. Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige, a queen from season 16 of Drag Race, just wore a look down the runway that first originated in a run of AI-generated images. One of her season 16 sisters, Plane Jane, follows at least one of the AI creators.

The Official AI Drag Race’s Michael says he has had multiple queens reach out asking to use their fictional creations as inspiration, with an unnamed queen from an international franchise asking Michael to design their entire package of runway looks based just on his Carla Montecarlo images. “I feel like it’s only a matter of time,” Michael says, “before I’m watching TV and spot something that I rendered a year ago.”