Beauty influencers are getting into NFTs and the metaverse

As one of the world’s top beauty influencers and the founder of Huda Beauty, Huda Kattan built her empire on social media. Now, she’s setting her sights on a new arena. 

“I have not been this excited about anything in my entire life. I am more excited about NFTs than I was about social media,” she said. 

Joining celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg, Kattan is one of a growing number of influencers collecting NFTs — and publicly evangelizing about their value. With NFTs from the World of Women collective as her profile pictures on Instagram and Twitter, Kattan has been posting YouTube and IGTV explainers over the past month sharing her enthusiasm for collecting the digital blockchain-minted artworks. 

“I’m obsessed with NFTs. It’s all I talk about. Any moment I get to talk to anybody about NFTs, I take it. And if there’s not a moment, I try to make one,” she said.

As female artists make up an estimated 5% of NFT sales, a growing number of influencers and celebrities are promoting NFTs created by women. NFT companies have also realized women are an overlooked market for sales, and have been working with beauty influencers and celebrities to increase their appeal to a female audience.

Kattan has emerged as the most prominent beauty influencer collecting NFTs. She currently has 273 NFTs listed under her account on NFT platform OpenSea, from collections including World of Women, Mutant Ape Yacht Club, Alpha Girl Club and Soul Cafe, among others. 

Her introduction to the digital artworks came around seven months ago, when her husband, Chris Goncalo, started collecting them, purchasing from high-priced collections including Crypto Punks, Bored Ape Yacht Club and Doodles. Her first NFT was a World of Women piece gifted by Goncalo. 

She was skeptical, at first. 

“I was like, ‘Thank you for this picture. But it looks like graphic design. It doesn’t really look like anything that’s of value,’” she said. But her appreciation for the woman in the piece grew.

“She looked like me, and she was wearing a dress that I would wear. She was wearing makeup that I would wear. She was a little bit olive in skin tone, and she had this cool little straight hairdo,” Kattan said of the avatar of her NFT. “I started to understand a little bit about how people could identify themselves within NFTs.” 

Now, she frequently posts videos to her YouTube and Instagram channels discussing NFTs as an investment, stating that they can be a tool of female financial empowerment.

“Women just don’t get involved in finances. They’ll typically go to their husbands, and then their husbands will actually buy the stocks for them if they want to buy stocks. And I got really upset by that,” she said. “They don’t get the opportunity to invest the way that they want to invest. There’s not enough education out there.”

And her husband “actually stopped by me gifts completely. He’s only been gifting me NFTs.”

While she declined to say how much she has paid for NFTs in total, Kattan said they are a major investment for her these days. 

“My husband and I sold our Bitcoin to go into NFTs,” she said. In addition to artwork, the couple has purchased NFT real estate in Sandbox. Her current favorite NFT in her collection is a purple World of Women “Night Goddess” avatar she uses as her Twitter profile picture. It’s listed on OpenSea as being purchased for 20 ETH ($75,870 at the time) by another buyer and transferred to her account two months ago. 

“I am obsessed with her, and I love her. I just think she’s beautiful,” said Kattan. In addition to the aesthetic, the value of the piece doesn’t hurt. “She was expensive. And of course, she ended up going up in value a week later. And I think she’s since probably tripled or even quadrupled or even more since then.” 

Kattan isn’t the only major public figure giving visibility to the World of Women collection, which has backing from heavy hitters in the entertainment industry helping to drive hype for its 10,000 randomly generated digital images on the Ethereum blockchain. Like Bored Ape Yacht Club, World of Women is represented by Madonna and U2 manager Guy Oseary, and has been promoted publicly by Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria after they purchased pieces from the collection. It also just inked a deal with Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine for an entertainment deal that will include feature films, TV and a live event. Within the past month, World of Women pieces have sold for prices of over $600,000.

“Celebrities play a role in backing the NFT space altogether. As more collectors see them getting involved within the space, as well as collecting, it encourages them to want to learn more about the space, about the artists, about being a part of the community,” said Jacquelin Napal, co-owner of L.A.-based gallery Art Angels. Mainly focused on physical art, the gallery is known for celebrity clients such as Kylie Jenner, Drake and Beyonce. It recently began selling NFTs.

To reach potential female collectors, NFT marketers are increasingly turning to the beauty world, enlisting influencers to create sponsored posts for NFTs in the same way they do for beauty brands. 

Sona Gasparian, the founder of Persona Cosmetics and a beauty influencer, recently shared a sponsored IG Stories post for a new Winter Sports Champions NFT pack. Created by Marvel Studios visual artist Anthony Francisco, the NFTs were made in partnership with Olympic athletes.

“It was reasonably priced, so I felt comfortable promoting it,” she said of the collection, which she also supported to “give back to the athletes.” She was approached about promotion after she posted about her personal interest in collecting NFTs. She currently owns eight, including official Disney NFTs. 

Influencers also add cache to the exclusive community that has formed among wealthy NFT collectors. NFT company Afterparty frequently hosts glamorous influencer-studded NFT minting parties at its Hollywood mansion, announcing new NFT owners on a microphone and sharing the news on Instagram. Recent NFT party pictures on its Instagram account featured Charly Jordan, Helen Owen and former “Bachelor” contestant Kristina Schulman minting new NFTs.

Beauty influencers are getting into NFTs and the metaverse

“Once you have one, two or three [celebrities buying in], they speak to their friends. They say, ‘Me, too. I want to get in,’” said Thibault Launay, CEO and co-founder of Exclusible, a luxury NFT and metaverse real estate marketplace. “This is what happened with Bored Apes,” with Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z and Eminem among those driving demand. He said the same thing is now happening with metaverse real estate.

Exclusible announced on February 16 that it had sold 25 luxury private islands in Sandbox to buyers including model Sara Sampaio and sports stars such as Paris Saint-Germain F.C. star Marco Verratti, tennis players Ana Ivanovic and Stanislas Wawrinka, and FC Basel co-owner Dan Holzmann. The total value of the private islands added up to 910 ETH, or $2.5 million. 

“It’s kind of interesting, but in a way, there’s nothing new,” said Launay, of the NFT and digital real estate market hype. “It’s how the luxury world works. If you go to a cool club or cool restaurant, you need to know somebody. It’s just the continuity in a digital world.”

Celebrities and influences also communicate with each other about which NFTs to buy. Kattan is in an NFT-focused group chat with celebrities to share tips, but declined to share the names of the participants. 

Not all beauty influencers are enthusiastic about the NFT world. In late January, nail influencer Cristine Rotenberg, who goes by the handle @Nailogical, shared a screenshot of several proposals she received from NFT companies on Twitter, writing, “We may not all know exactly what an NFT is but you should know that every celeb/influencer promoting them got an email like this.” The emails were from companies offering to help mint her own NFTs, with one stating there are “millions in potential earnings” to be made. 

Beauty influencers are getting into NFTs and the metaverse

Critics of NFTs contend that celebrities are using their major platforms to hype NFTs for self-enrichment, and have criticized the environmental toll from the energy it takes to mine cryptocurrency. NFT values can increase when pieces are publicized by celebrities or associated with Hollywood–World of Women prices “surged” when Oseary was announced as the collection’s manager. Critics have called celebrities’ public support of NFTs, such as Paris Hilton’s discussion of Bored Apes on Jimmy Fallon, “profoundly unsettling” and “a match made in hell.” 

Kattan disagrees with the critics, citing the money that can go back to the original artist when a piece is sold. 

“A lot of people look at it and they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s a scam. It’s rich people getting richer.’ And, ‘Oh my god, why am I missing out on this? That person’s making $10 million? I couldn’t have done that. Or could I have done it? Oh gosh, it’s got to be a scam.’ So a lot of people are a little apprehensive about it. I disagree. Once people get over the learning curve and over the hump, it’s actually life-changing.” She noted that her husband has purchased a piece from a prominent elderly nursing home-based NFT artist who goes by the moniker “Lucky Grandma” and has made thousands on her artwork. 

With World of Women NFTs, owners can also cash in on ongoing profits when it comes to some versions. For World of Women’s “Royalties Club” NFTs, royalties are paid out from secondary sales. Kattan estimated she paid about 155 ETH for one of the World of Women Royalties Club NFTs. She declined to confirm an exact value, but noted “it was a lot.” A Royalties Club NFT from World of Women in her account was last listed as being sold for 100 ETH six months ago to another user. No price was shown on the transfer to her account one month ago, but 155 ETH would have been worth $393,948 based on the Ethereum price listed on OpenSea at the time of transfer.

“It’s actually going to help democratize wealth in many ways,” said Kattan of the NFT market. “There’s a world where we’re going to see people really start to distribute wealth.” She also suggested using NFTs for charity purposes. ”Why can’t UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders actually put a cause on an NFT and I can buy into that?” 

Many beauty brands such as NARS, Givenchy Beauty and E.l.f. have launched their own NFTs, while Valdé Beauty recently enlisted both traditional beauty and metaverse influencers to attend an NFT launch party in Decentraland. But as skepticism about NFTs grows, some consumer brands have started to see backlash for NFT promotions. And NFT-collecting founders are still considering how to incorporate NFTs into their brand.

“We haven’t done anything yet, but that’s definitely something we want to do in the future. We just want to make sure that it’s very aligned with what we do now as a brand,” said Gasparian of Persona Cosmetics. So far, her interest in NFTs is “just all personal.”

Kattan is also still “exploring” options for incorporating NFTs into Huda Beauty, she said. In addition, she noted that the concept of an initial coin offering, or “ICO,” intrigues her as a means of going public. 

“That’s something that I would really explore for our company,” she said.

Concerns about the security of NFTs have also recently been raised after several valuable NFTs were stolen on OpenSea. OpenSea contends it was a phishing scam, while some victims said it was a security issue on the platform. 

For now, Kattan is no longer in buying frenzy mode.

“I’ve spent enough money to where I’m comfortable. And I hope that I don’t lose that money, but I don’t want to invest any additional cash into it right now,” she said. She is open to buying new pieces, but said, “If I do want to buy something, I’m selling something to buy other things.” 

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