Who’s Training Our AI Apps?

Rachel Sklar
5 min readJul 13
I definitely look like this.

(Originally published on December 6, 2022.)

Over the weekend, my Instagram feed was suddenly filled with stylized, artsy, fanciful portraits of friends and follows — the fruits of a new AI app called Lensa, from Prisma Labs. As I scrolled, I saw an army of avatars with flowing hair, glimmering skin, and/or ostentatiously-brushstroked faces. I also saw breasts.

I saw a LOT of breasts. Encased in an metallic skintight spacesuit in the “Iridescent” category or the flowing, décolletage-baring gowns of the “Fantasy” category, or the delicate vines and rosettes encasing milky-yet-heaving bosoms of the “Fairy Princess” category, or just your garden-variety cleavage and come-hither eyes of the “Light” “Focus” and “Anime” categories.

Under the breasts, I saw captions from women, and many of them commented that they had not uploaded sexy, cleavage-baring photos and were mildly confused about the number of sexpot images. (The app allows you to have a trial period, during which you can pay for a slate of 50, 100 or 200 images across various categories. If you buy the app for $49.99 then it’s cheaper. And yes, I bought it. Research!) I gave it a try, and uploaded my 10 selfies, in a range of sweaters, blazers and the like. 100 avatars later, there was a not-inconsiderable variety of tank tops, plunging Vs and weird skintight suits straining to stay buttoned over the bosom imputed by the app, since I had not uploaded anything below the shoulders.

I tried it again, with nary a clavicle in sight. But still, when my results came back: breasts.

Then I tried it with my boyfriend’s photo — and to my surprise, he got A WHOLE BUNCH OF DIFFERENT CATEGORIES!!! “Rock Star.” “Superhero.” “Cyborg.” “Adventure.” “Astronaut.” Are you effing kidding me!!! This wasn’t even subtle. And to add insult to injury, every photo seemed to have been overlaid with a hotness filter reminiscent of Timothée Chalamet.

As my friend Allana Harkin (formerly of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee) observed in a direct message: “These AI things make men look like themselves and women have bigger tits.” I responded: “They make men look like HOW MEN SEE THEMSELVES.” Rock Star. Superhero. Adventurer. Astronaut.

Rachel Sklar

Writer, entrepreneur & activist. Founder of TheLi.st and Change The Ratio. Just here to elevate women & sing showtunes. Find me @rachelsklar on Twitter/Insta.