A fashion expert explains how the digital ingenue can take on Julia Roberts

July 12, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Virtual starlet Aki Ross is getting more press than Ming-Na (”ER,” ”The Joy Luck Club”), the flesh-and-blood actress who voices her in the hyper-real, computer-animated movie ”Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” Created to portray a scientist trying to save the earth from annihilation, the digital heroine has taken on a life of her own.

Aki has not only graced the cover of Maxim’s Hot 100 and the pages of Entertainment Weekly’s It List, she has also been besieged by interview requests from the likes of In Style and Teen People. ”She’s like one of the people on ‘Survivor,”’ Ming-Na tells EW.com. ”The coverage is very weird. I feel like I’ve been half-cloned.” ”Final Fantasy” producer Chris Lee agrees: ”I’ve done interviews with people asking me what kind of makeup she’s wearing. Is it more autumn, or is it spring? I’m like, ‘I don’t know what’s inside her beauty bag!”’

But will her fame be fleeting? Hironobu Sakaguchi, ”Fantasy”’s director and creator of the top-selling video game series, hopes not. The Honolulu-based CGI Svengali plans to treat his creation like a real actress, says Lee: ”Sakaguchi wants to take Aki and put her in another movie as a totally different character. This is the first time that will have been done.”

But such a career move won’t be easy, according to Style.com fashion maven Nathan Cooper. He says Aki’s creators need sartorial smarts if their digital star is to make the successful transition to other films. Here’s his advice on how the unreal actress can maximize her moment in the limelight.

How can Aki avoid the fashion mistakes that have led to the premature crash and burn of so many a young starlet’s career?
The first thing she should do is find a designer to become a associated with — the way Joan Allen [”The Contender”] has become Michael Kors’ person. They all have their allegiances. I’m sure Donatella Versace would be keen to dress someone with such a good figure.

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