Christmas is just around the corner, which means ‘tis the season of gift giving and expressing gratitude to those around you. But a fashion mogul has decided to reward his hardworking employees with a more unconventional gift – by giving his staff AI-generated portraits of themselves.
Patrick Simondac, or “Patrick Starrr”, is a makeup artist and beauty influencer based in the US. He is most known for being the founder of One/Size, a makeup line whose signature US$32 (AU$48) setting spray is used by Beyoncé herself.
Patrick Starrr also has a combined 7.4 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, and has filmed ‘Get Ready With Me’ videos with stars like Gwen Stefani – so, he’s a pretty big deal in the makeup scene.
Merry Christmas, but AI
In early December, Starrr shared a TikTok video of him personally wrapping Christmas gifts for his employees. However, these are not the ordinary gifts one would expect from their boss: Starrr designed all his staff into AI-generated animated characters, and framed them as photographs.
“I spent 18 hours designing these,” the makeup artist wrote.
“This is the idea of a perfect Christmas gift because I learned how to do this from TikTok,” Starrr said in a follow-up video on the platform.
The beauty guru was likely referencing the Disney/Pixar AI art trend from a couple of months ago that took social media by storm. Users utilised popular AI art generators like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion to produce movie posters in the style of Disney or Pixar art.
In addition to the AI-generated art prints, Starrr also said that he customised each design for each employee, and included hand-written notes to add a personalised touch.
“Could’ve just given a bonus”
Patrick Starrr’s gesture might be well-intentioned, but users on social media thought otherwise. Comments under Starrr’s initial TikTok video were largely negative, with most users criticising the influencer for gifting his employees AI-generated artwork that may have cost little to nothing to make, instead of giving them more substantial perks like bonuses. Some also pointed out a huge contradiction in Starrr’s claims: AI-generated art is well-documented to scrape artists’ work without their knowledge or consent, so to what degree were the gifts “personally” designed?
“One time my bosses gave us hot chocolate and an orange as a bonus. This is worse,” one TikTok user commented.
Others also questioned Starrr’s thought process behind the decision. “If you are gonna go this route it would be a great opportunity to commission smaller artists, especially with the platform they have… this is just nasty,” one X user explained.
However, waves of online criticism did not seem to phase Starrr. The beauty guru posted a third TikTok video on December 8 filming his employees’ reactions to receiving the AI-generated art prints at what appears to be a company-wide Christmas dinner.
In the minute-long video, employees were filmed surprised, shocked, and cheering upon opening their gifts. One employee even received an extra AI-generated art print for her pet dog.
“I saw your talent… your character, [so] I wanted you guys to see how I saw you guys. I worked on these for 14 hours on Saturday, so if I didn’t post on Saturday, [it was because] I customised AI for hours,” Starr told his employees.
AI art vs. a bonus
It is unclear whether or not Starrr’s staff also received bonuses alongside the AI-generated art prints.
However, we should also be aware that the TikTok videos could potentially be a PR stunt to attract visibility for Starrr’s brand, and thus take videos like those with a grain of salt.
How would you react if you received a gift like that from your boss?