August 24, 1999
Web posted at CNN: 5:21 p.m. EDT (2121 GMT)
NEW YORK (Reuters) — Her employers call her the perfect fashion model, the perfect employee: Webbie Tookay is never late, never too tired to work and has no personal life to interfere with her job.
Not surprisingly, Webbie Tookay is not real.
Elite Models, the worldwide agency that launched the careers of supermodels Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell, now has Webbie Tookay, a computer-generated animated mannequin that can show up anywhere, anytime.
The centerpiece of a new division of Elite called Illusion 2K — Virtual Models and Actress Management, she is available to pose for advertisements or fashion shows on the World Wide Web, in print or in films.
“She is never too tired to work, and she is available all the time. She can be in many places at the same time, so we don’t have a problem scheduling her,” Luciana Abreu, a partner in Illusion 2K, a Sao Paulo, Brazil, company that teamed up with Elite, told Reuters.
“Also, she does not have a personal life that interferes with her work, and she doesn’t age, and she doesn’t gain weight,” Abreu said in an interview at Elite’s offices in New York.
Could all of this perfection crumble if the Y2K millennium bug strikes Webbie Tookay when the year 2000 turns? Her designers say no, she is Y2K compliant.
The millennium bug arises because many older computers use only the last two digits of a year to record dates. Unless corrected, such systems could treat 2000 as 1900, generating errors or system crashes on January 1.
She supports the environment, birth control
Created by Swedish designer Steven Stahlberg, the virtual model has “perfect measurements,” Abreu said. “It was decided to give her the major tendencies of today’s models. She is not that skinny. And she has well-defined breasts, well-defined hips,” Abreu said.
She is a combination of a voluptuous blond European, a Latina and an Asian. And Webbie Tookay not only looks good but has her own opinions about things. She would never wear fur, for example.
“We are very proud of her personality and her character,” Abreu said. “She has environmental concerns, she is for birth control; and besides, she looks very pretty.”
The Illusion 2K company was formed in July, and its first “Webbie Planet” Web site http://www.illusion2k.com integrates video, text and photos of Webbie Tookay with different looks, modeling services and entertainment. Other “virtual top models” from the Illusion 2K stable, including male models, are expected to join Webbie Tookay in the coming year.
Where www doesn’t stand for World Wide Web
This is one site where WWW does not stand for World Wide Web. Instead, it is the acronym for What We Wear, a virtual store with the virtual top model demonstrating her exclusive products found only on the Internet.
The company said it wants to attract people ages 14 to 25 to a site featuring leading clothing manufacturers and the consumers’ own preferences, behavior, activities and measurements.
Three other sections of Webbie Planet, all hosted by Webbie Tookay, are the digital magazine Webbie News; theater, movie and other leisure activities on Webbie Fun; and Webbie Cine News, designed to be shown in three-minute segments in movie theaters.
“We want to develop a relationship. Visitors to the Web site will become Webbie’s friends, and they will give her information. We’re going to create a community who are Webbie’s friends,” Abreu said.
Asked whether the “perfect” Webbie Tookay would be too much competition for real-life models and threaten their jobs, she said, “We and Elite don’t think that’s going to happen. Actually, she’s just another choice. She’s something new, a new application of technology, but for sure there are things that only a real model will be able to do.”