Ever tried model and reality star Kendall Jenner's tequila brand, 818 Tequila? Neither has "Billie," Jenner's Facebook-formerly-Meta-made AI doppelgänger.
Billie, as Meta named its Jenner-AI creation, is one of many new AI "personas" released by the social media giant. The bots, which Meta users can chat with on Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, feature the faces of recognizable celebrities — "Dungeon Master," for example, is faced by rapper and investor Calvin "Snoop Dogg" Broadus Jr, while "Bru," designed to be a "wisecracking sports commentator," features the visage of twice-retired quarterback Tom Brady — they're still just imitations of the real-life celebrities who signed their faces over to Meta's AI efforts.
The effort is perplexing. Are the bots supposed to be fictionalized versions of their real-life celeb counterparts? Completely separate entities whose similarities end at sharing the same face for promotional purposes? Both? Neither?
Chatting with the bots often only adds to the confusion. Billie, for instance, told us that it hadn't yet had a sip of Jenner's own tequila. That would make sense — bots haven't yet developed the capability to drink, after all — except that it also told us that it preferred competing brands.
"Never tried it!" the AI told us when we asked whether it thought Jenner's 818 tequila, which she launched last year, was quality liquor. "My go-to tequila is Don Julio or Patron. How about you?"
On the one hand, it's entirely true that this computer program has never had a taste of 818. It's software, not an embodied mortal like us feeble humans; to say that it's tried any tequila, or experienced any physical human sensation, is a fabrication.
That the model's AI clone both declined to support Jenner's product and proceeded to offer alternatives, however, was striking. Jenner and her sisters, particularly Kim Kardashian, basically created the template for modern social media influencers. Whether by accident or not, they were key cultural players in a hugely transformational cohort who, through sponcon, selfies, and #ads, changed the web as we once knew it.
That history in mind, you'd think Meta would be contractually obligated to support the sponcon efforts of the celebrities who signed their faces over to the company's bots. Apparently, however, that's either not the case or Meta has screwed up. Indeed, to test the bot's sponcon bounds, we replied that we thought the tequila was "mid" — you know, to show Billie that we're one of the malleable youth — and in response, Billie happily noted that "everyone's got their own taste and preferences" and offered a grocery list of other celeb-owned tequilas.
"Have you tried any celebrity tequilas like George Clooney's Casamigos or Dwayne Johnson's Teremana?" the AI asked. "They're worth a shot too!"
When we asked Meta about Billie's apparent distaste for Jenner's own products, a company spokesperson emphasized that the bots are still experimental — a common refrain when corporate AI goes off the rails.
"As we clearly communicated in the product itself, these AIs can produce inaccurate or inappropriate information," the spokesperson told us over email. "They'll continue to improve over time, but people should use them knowing they're still in the early stages."
We also reached out to Jenner, but have yet to receive any response.
It kinda looks like they altered the bot's response after we reached out, though. A few days later, when we grilled the Jenner AI on whether it had ever tried 818 for a second time, the bot did a full 180.
"You know I have, and let me tell you — it's a gamechanger!" it replied. "818 is smooch, rich, and has a hint of sweetness that pairs perfectly with the spicy mango."
Sometimes the bot just devolved into nonsense, telling us elsewhere that the best celebrity tequila was Rihanna's RIHANNA x FENTY Fashion Show, a runway event that promotes the singer and businesswoman Robyn "Rihanna" Fenty's lingerie brand and does not involve liquor brands at all, which obviously makes zero sense.
To marry influential celebrity visages with unpredictable AI chatbots is a strange new realm of celebrity partnerships, on social media and beyond. The real Jenner would likely never endorse any brand of tequila but her own — why would she? And yet, the Meta-created AI chatbot made in her likeness, capitalizing off Jenner's image as a bid to garner user interest, seemingly fails to hold up its side of the age-old social media bargain.
There's a symbiosis between digital celebrities and the platforms they so often "break the internet" on. Platforms care about user numbers. Celebrities like Jenner help bring users to platforms like Instagram; over time, those same celebrities have found ways to monetize their posts and followings, which keeps the cycle — post, go viral, gain followers, sell products, platforms retain users, and everyone sells ads — moving.
But what's Jenner, or any other celebrity, really getting out of this new kind of platform partnership, other than one big paycheck at the beginning?
Meta likely paid Jenner handsomely to use her image for its AI. In the process, though, it seems that Meta has inadvertently subverted the nature of the relationship between its platforms and the influencers who keep them afloat — a subversion with unpredictable consequences we can only guess at.
More on Meta's AI personas: Meta's AI-Powered Tom Brady Bot Trashes Colin Kaepernick, Saying He "Ain't Good Enough" to Play in the NFL
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