Shudu is the first virtual model created by Cameron-James Wilson. (Picture: shudu.gram/Instagram)

In the hyper-competitive world of modeling, fateful discovery stories are part of the industry's lore.

Gisele Bundchen was eating at a McDonalds in southern Brazil when her life changed forever. Natalia Vodianova was selling fruit at a market in Russia and Adriana Lima was spotted at a shopping mall at age 13.

But what if major companies and fashion brands didn't have to rely on chance - be it a fluke encounter or scrolling through strangers' Instagram feeds - to find the perfect face for their products?

Cameron-James Wilson maintains that some of them no longer need to.

The 29-year-old London-based photographer is the creator of Shudu, a striking Instagram model from Africa with more than 130,000 followers.

Despite her entrancing beauty, Shudu is a purely digital being, a fact that Wilson revealed after Shudu's image went viral, ending months of frenzied speculation about her origin earlier this year.

Shushu was created by fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson. (Pic: shudu.gram/Instagram)

Shudu has been called "the world's first digital supermodel" and the obsessive fawning her life-like features provoke suggests she won't be the last.

She arrives at a time in which Instagram, Snapchat filters and photo editing apps that rely on artificial intelligence have blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, turning ordinary people into paintings or delicately-featured, digital avatars who preen for "likes." This summer, Time magazine included a mysterious digital avatar turned style icon named Lil Miquela to its list of The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet. Miquela - who was being managed by a computer software firm in Los Angeles at one point - has 1.3 million fans. They dissect her online musings and fashion choices and treat seem Miquela's implicit artifice like an afterthought.

The virtual model, Lil Miquela, has an Instagram following of 1.3million. (Picture: Instagram/lilmiquela)

Virtual models like Lil Miquela and Shudu are just the beginning of the avatar revolution, some industry observers say. As people grow increasingly comfortable with these manufactured online identities, some brands see an opportunity to capitalize, Wilson said.

Virtual model Lil Miquela. (Picture: Instagram/lilmiquela)

"There's plenty of models out there, but it's hard to find somebody who is truly unique," he said. "A 3D model can't walk down a runway for you, but they can be digital spokespeople that help you shop or serve as the face of your customer service."

But brands are picky, Wilson added, and they "want someone that nobody else can have."