The viral Lensa AI app made me more 'beautiful' — and the results surprised me

Lensa AI Magic Avatars
(Image credit: Future)

It’s not just you — my social feeds are also filled with digital portraits produced by an AI photo-editing app called Lensa. Curious about what kind of art it could create with my selfies, I decided to try out the chart-topping app's viral “Magic Avatars” feature. 

When the first gallery of Lensa images appeared in my Instagram timeline a few days ago, I thought someone I followed simply found some cool filters. But as more avatars were posted, I realized there’s more to these artistic avatars than meets the eye. Using a collection of sample photos, the Lensa app’s AI (artificial intelligence) conjures up a collection of digital portraits across several art and illustration styles.

Obviously I wanted to see how I’d look in AI-made art. I searched and downloaded Lensa on the app store (iOS, Android), ignoring all the basic photo-editing features to launch the Magic Avatars feature. 

Lensa laid out what to expect from the AI, noting that there might be some defects or oddities in the artwork. It also asked me to confirm I was over the age of 18, which I later learned is because some of the portraits created can be a bit provocative. The AI has a tendency to emphasize certain features based on conventional beauty standards — that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but important to understand if you’re going to join me in trying it out.

It’s also important to know that the Magic Avatars feature is not free. While you can bypass the recurring Lensa app subscription, the Magic Avatars feature has one-time fees, the rates increasing based on how many images you want made. The Lensa app promoted 100 avatars for $11.99 as the “most popular” option, but I opted for 50 avatars priced at $7.99. I figured it was a worthwhile investment for something I’m probably not going to do more than once anyway. 

Lensa AI Magic Avatars: How it works

Lensa AI Magic Avatars

(Image credit: Future)

I gave Lensa access to my camera roll, where I needed to select and upload 10-20 non-AI images of myself for the Magic Avatars feature to work its, well, magic. Based on the examples of good sample photos the app demonstrated, it seemed my iPhone’s selfie folder would be the best source for collection. It asked for a variety of backgrounds, facial expressions and angles. 

After confirming my photo uploads, which included a dozen selfies I’ve taken in recent months, Lensa let me know it would take the AI about 20 minutes to make my avatars. The app is kind enough to offer push notifications when the images are ready.

Sure enough, in 20 minutes my photos were ready. But I wouldn’t say I was ready to see myself digitally recreated in 50 different ways.

Lensa AI Magic Avatars: The results

Lensa AI Magic Avatars

(Image credit: Future)

Lensa spat out 50 avatars, with 5 images per 10 styles. Stylish, Anime, Light, Cosmic, Fantasy, Kawaii, Pop, Iridescent, Focus and Fairy Princess are the styles I received. While some like Pop and Stylish could be mistaken for Photoshop filters on a girl who looks like me, the whimsical Fantasy and Fairy Princess styles transformed me into the heroine of a medieval video game or movie. The AI completely captured my essence, yet placed me in settings I’d never seen myself in before. 

That said, my sense of sheer amusement didn’t last long. Upon closer inspection, I came to see the girl in Magic Avatars as a better version of me: shinier blonde locks, fuller lips, higher cheekbones and plenty of cleavage. I understand the appeal of sharing these on social media, showing off portraits that make me look, to put it plainly, beautiful. 

Luckily, I’m not the type to let AI twist my sense of self, so it’s not like I’m left wishing I looked more like my Magic Avatars. Does this mean you should try it? As long as you don’t mind spending the money and can take the experience with a grain of salt (and assurance from me that you don’t need AI to make you attractive) I would say Lensa is worth a go. That is, of course, if you don’t find your selfies being analyzed by AI utterly creepy. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.