Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
When you work as a journalist or a communications pro spotlighting tech innovation and culture, you get a lot of off-the-wall questions from entrepreneurs wanting to make it big. But after 20 years of working in media, nothing had prepared me for the onslaught of requests I received from NFT (non-fungible token) artists and founders in the second half of 2021.
Here are a few: Can you grow my brand-new Twitter account that I started today to 10,000 followers by next week? Can you get our new NFT collection a media hit in the next few hours? And my favorite: Can you make me famous?
At first, I didn’t get it — at all. I mean, sure, time is of the essence, but so is sanity. What was driving this light-speed pace?
The Market Value and Status Symbols
After taking a moment to process all the noise, I realized that in addition to NFTs evolving as rapidly as crypto (a sector with a compound annual growth rate of 12.8 percent), NFT marketplaces, platforms where NFTs can be stored, showcased, traded and minted (created), provide the perfect solution for merging crypto and culture.
In 2021, NFT trading volume reached $22 billion. Dominated by a few early proof-of-concept NFTs, including the Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks and Beeple’s Everydays: The First 500 Days artwork, which sold for $69 million, some of these digital assets have become status symbols. This became blatantly clear to me in December 2021 when I attended Miami Art Week and Art Basel, where NFTs took center stage.
Between all the panels, yacht parties, perfume and the Bored Apes plastered on the sides of trucks, I hadn’t been that over-stimulated by an unabashed display of capitalism since my first time stepping foot into Times Square. I didn’t want to be left out of Web 3.0 — the next generation of the internet — any more than the next tech entrepreneur, but I was exhausted by all the hype. Then suddenly, by mid-week, everything changed when I was introduced to the flipside of NFTs.
The Growing Diversity and Solidarity Symbols
Against the noise, exclusivity and commercialization of the NFT craze, subculture movements are spreading. While attending an event focused on wellness and Web 3.0, put together by NFT artists Visionnaire, Wata, Devin Mailey and Nigel Hammett, I saw a group of Black NFT creators discuss their well-being and self-care practices, as well as what being a part of the NFT community has done for them. Near the end of the conversation, the moderator asked them each to share how creating NFTs is helping them break generational curses.
My brain instantly began reorganizing itself when I heard that question. A movement that can help artists break a generational curse is something I want to support. Suddenly, I got it.
NFTs’ wealth creation isn’t being owned solely by the already wealthy. Now, more than ever, people in underrepresented communities who want to share their creativity with the world or invest in crypto have a chance. There are still high fees to pay when using the blockchain, and yes, that’s an issue, but the entry point into crypto has never been this digestible or accessible.
The Women Creating and Sharing Wealth
Like a number of other innovations used primarily for capital gain, NFTs are being harnessed to drive social change. One artist, in particular, is Maliha Abidi, the creator of Women Rise, a collection of unique NFT art pieces celebrating women activists, artists, scientists and coders from around the world, with 25 percent of the proceeds going to the Malala Fund. In the future, Abidi wants to build the first school in the metaverse — the digitally immersive ecosystem evolving from Web 3.0. Through the virtual school, she aspires to bring awareness to the 258 million children who are out of school —129 million of whom are girls.
Other notable women-led NFT projects (and there are many) include Women and Weapons, 10,000 pieces of art hand-drawn by Sara Bauman, and featuring diverse women. Like Women Rise, Bauman and her team donate a percentage of the proceeds to the Malala Fund to help girls make knowledge their weapon.
The World of Women NFT collective, which recently signed a deal to be represented by Guy Oseary, who has ties to Madonna, U2 and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, has partnered with Code Green NFT to finance citizen-powered climate action solutions.
Founded in Ghana, Africa, the Women of Sol NFT collection advocates for women’s health and education, while the Alpha Girl Club NFT project is on a mission to provide more people with access to mental health tools through an app available to Alpha Girl holders.
The Amazonas NFT is focused on minority inclusion and has held Twitter Spaces on how to build eco-resorts in the Peruvian jungle and support reforestation of the Amazon. The MILM (Mom I’d Like to Mint) NFT art project is aiming to empower moms by financially assisting them to enter the NFT space.
These are just a handful of women-led NFT initiatives that inspire me. There are plenty more and many new projects are emerging every day. Will they all make it? I hope so. One thing is certain: The NFT craze will no longer be referred to as a craze in the next year. It will be on the tip of every brand strategist’s tongue, and more companies will explore how they can capitalize on it. At the same time, more activists and creatives will experiment with ways to drive impact, tell compelling stories and build community. That is why I’m a bonafide believer.
(Full disclosure: Author owns a Women Rise NFT, a Women and Weapons NFT, a World of Women collab NFT and an Alpha Girl Club NFT.)