If the list of best-selling NFTs was a party, it would have been filled with cartoon bears that look like frat boys, dive-bar-crawling apes, and puking children — until a group of glowering, Amazonian women threw themselves into the mix. The NFT scene really is overwhelmingly, grossly male. It is starting to expand, though, thanks in large part to the World of Women (WoW) NFT collection — a series of 10,000 diverse female avatars created and illustrated by Yam Karkai, a woman who claims to be on a mission to give back to women-centric organizations.
Karkai’s brainchild has generated more than $40 million in two weeks. Although the set sold out almost immediately when it launched in July, the pieces are just now beginning to become prized collectors’ items: The rarest WoW NFTs — which were all originally priced at 0.07 ETH, or about $225 — are officially going for hundreds of thousands.
“Our intention with this project is to balance representation in the NFT space while at the same time pushing it forward and supporting causes that are close to our hearts,” reads WoW’s website manifesto. In designing the art itself, Karkai purposefully avoided the use of any religious or political symbols, and any “elements that are specific to a culture’s customs or practices.” Since each woman was randomly generated upon launch — based on a variety of pre-designed traits — she didn’t want anyone to end up getting, for example, a blue-eyed white girl with an afro, according to an interview she did with crypto blog CoinDesk this fall. (Karkai was not available to speak when Rolling Stone reached out for comment.)
Fans of the project say Karkai’s attention to detail and care, as well as promises of philanthropy, make it stand out. “The team really has more than their own self interest in mind,” an avatar-owning Twitter user, who goes by the handle @IFreed23, tells Rolling Stone. “It’s very refreshing.” Tanya Sam, a tech investor and former Real Housewives of Atlanta castmate, is particularly thrilled that “all the women look like [her],” she told Rolling Stone via Twitter: “They look like ALL my friends.” Sam says WoW — which strives to equip newcomers with knowledge, via Discord conversations and its educational hub, so they can better navigate the space — was one of the first NFTs she bought. “I am actually pleasantly surprised by how many females and black females are paying attention and wanting to lean more about the space,” she says.
WoW has also been doing monthly “ArtDrops” — airdropping pieces by lesser-known, emerging crypto artists from around the world, many of whom are women, into members’ virtual wallets. The goal, presumably, is to get closer and closer to flooding the playing field with fresh faces, one drop at a time.
And since celebrities just keep piling in, the collection isn’t hard to find. It’s an age-old trope — that one wherein high society loves to feel young, hip, and good-hearted. Born jpegs, the images have morphed into the sort of social currency Sex and the City‘s Charlotte York Goldenblatt would yearn for in carefully decorating a Park Ave gallery’s walls with a starving artist’s work: It makes her feel better about herself. Just sub the chichi New York real estate for tweets.
Back in mid-October, Reese Witherspoon became the first Hollywoodian to change her Twitter profile picture to a blonde-haired, blue-skinned WoW avatar, but the stampede arrived in January. In the first few days of the new year, both Shonda Rhimes and Eva Longoria purchased and paraded their shiny new NFTs; so did beauty influencer and entrepreneur Huda Kattan, who has 50 million followers just on Instagram, where her profile picture is — you guessed it — a WoW avatar.
As the community got more and more star-studded, YouTuber-turned-boxer Logan Paul sold a WoW avatar to The Sandbox — an online gaming platform for metaverse world-building — for a whopping 200 ETH (more than $650,000 at press time) and set a new record. When asked about the intent behind this purchase, Sandbox spokespeople didn’t immediately reply. However, The Sandbox has previously blogged about buying a tons of expensive avatars from various collections to prepare for a future wherein community members “turn 2D collectible image NFTs into 3D playable avatars that are animated, can run, jump, socialize, play games, and interact with their other peer Avatars in The Sandbox.”
Prominent figures across booming industries took notice. Two-time WNBA all-star and Olympic gold medalist Napheesa Collier, Ralph Lauren’s chief digital officer Alice Delahunt, Bumble chief brand officer Selby Drummond, and Mexican singer Thalía, who has a combined social following of nearly 40 million fans, started buying. One Direction’s Liam Payne revealed that he was a WoW member. And on Wednesday morning, Jan. 12, the WoW team announced that superstar manager Guy Oseary, famous for his ties to Madonna and U2, had started representing the collective — just like he did with the Bored Ape Yacht Club group in November.
When the Oseary news broke, the WoW project was already trending in the top 15 on OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace. The next morning, it was number four, and the floor price had risen high enough for the collection to be valued at a quarter of a billion dollars.
347 WoW NFTs changed hands on Wednesday, selling for an average price of 8.9 ETH — nearly $29,000. That means approximately $10 million was traded in those 24 hours alone.
All of this money was fueled by the secondary — i.e. resale — market. WoW only earned about two million dollars from the initial sellout, 15 percent of which was put into a fund for reinvesting in crypto art, according to the WoW website. An additional five percent was divided equally between She’s the First and Too Young to Wed, which are charities focused on educating girls and ending child marriage. Another 2.5 percent went to a community member who goes by the name Strange Cintia and needed money for surgery to treat a severe case of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. (Since then, WoW has hosted a number of auctions. They did one for Rockflower — an investment fund for entrepreneurial girls in developing countries — that raised $49,000 last summer.)
Although there was no mention of donations made on secondary sales in the original plans, WoW announced in a December blog post that it had hired a philanthropy advisor, climate’s rights activist Inna Modja, to help the group “renew [its] vows to charities.” Modja should play a key role in the plans for a larger, spin-off collection, which WoW has said is coming this year. Meanwhile, the team is planning for a summertime “gala,” according to the blog post, which also bafflingly suggests that they may or may not have bought a commercial-grade airplane.