24-year-old ‘scares’ TikTok with celebrity deepfakes

Jesse Richards is a 24-year-old visual FX artist and he’s borrowing celebrity faces on TikTok

Richards has mastered the art of the deepfake. For the uninitiated, a deepfake is a video of a person where their face or body is digitally altered to appear as somebody else. There are major concerns with this technology because it is can be used to spread malicious or false information about the impersonated party.

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But what Richards is doing is pretty far from that. The Los Angelino has been making deepfakes for two years now, mostly as a way to entertain his 1.1 million TikTok followers. His videos are about the transformation, you see him before and after, not about tricking the viewer since you always know it’s really him.  

He has convincingly morphed into Justin BieberZac Efron and Leonardo DiCaprio, which earned him 8.1 million views. 

“Why does it look so real?” one concerned commenter wrote.

“I create them to show people how deepfakes can be used for good things and not just bad things. I have brought joy to millions through my deepfakes on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube,” Richards told In The Know. 

He said that he became inspired to make his own videos by the deepfake YouTuber Ctrl Shift Face. Richards’ videos can take up to four days to create and rely on quality lighting and editing. While Richards is aware of people’s reservations about deepfakes, he believes it will just take some time for society to understand them. 

“When people are scared of what deepfakes can do I always show them how people were scared of Photoshop when it came out,” Richards said. “Everyone was so worried about how you couldn’t believe photos anymore. But then we just moved on and understood that Photoshop exists and that it’s not so scary after all. We just won’t be able to assume that videos are real right away now.” 

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