“Like Crypto and Beautiful Women? Worry not!”
A few weeks ago, Vulcan Post was invited to attend an NFT event entitled Crypto Kingz & Beauty Queenz with the above kicker. Since we’ve been writing about NFTs since the start of the year (we even minted our own, story here), this was a fitting event for us to attend, and so, we did.
The media conference was held on May 19 at Vogue Lounge. Stepping out of the elevator and into the lounge’s entryway, I found myself a little unnerved.
It was my first time attending an NFT and a Miss Universe event, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The LED walkway was impressive, I’ll give them that, but it’s what comes next that will actually cement my opinion on the event.
After signing in, we were led towards the “tech support” area, which was actually just the bar. There were a few laptops, manned by people I didn’t even realise were staff members—the one who helped me was nursing a glass of what looked like whiskey (or maybe just tea?).
Essentially, they were getting everyone to sign up for the Zetrix Wallet so they could airdrop us some crypto, though I haven’t received mine yet (I’m waiting, MUMO and NFT Pangolin…).
As a model attendee, I had already downloaded the Zetrix Wallet app on my phone. After all, they had already spammed us with several emails and even a WhatsApp message to do so in the days leading up to the event. So, I left my colleague behind (sorry, Zhareef) and wandered off to take in the space.
I managed to flag down a staff member who said he could answer my questions. He didn’t want his name to be quoted, but that was fine—I just wanted to chat.
During our conversation, he told me that 8SIAN would be involved as an artist for the Queen collection, a privilege reserved for the last lady standing. So, I asked him who the artist was for the other two collections. He grabbed a press release, but he couldn’t find the answer.
Odd, I thought. But maybe it was an in-house artist or a collaborative team effort from MUMO. Heck, maybe the contestants designed their own NFTs!
Spoiler alert, I was wrong.
The event began with speeches from Datin Elaine Daly, MUMO’s national director, and Mohammad Johan Nasir, NFT Pangolin’s business development director. Johan talked all about the NFTs, which you can read about in our article here.
With that, the first contestant, decked out in sparkly Habib jewels, began to strut across the space. She was holding a frame in her hand. At first, the sunlight made it hard to tell what she was holding. Is that a portrait of herself?
Oh. No. Or actually, yes, it is a portrait of herself, but more specifically, it’s the NFT.
I was flummoxed. It was just pictures of the contestants—who, don’t get me wrong, are beautiful. But as NFTs, the pictures were beautifully boring. (This was when I realised why the staff member couldn’t figure out who the other artist was, because there wasn’t one.)
The staff member from earlier told me that it was actually a gif. After the event, I went on NFT Pangolin’s website to check. Sure enough, they were gifs. What’s moving, you ask? The background. The pretty, swirling background.
To be fair, I guess the artistic quality of the NFTs isn’t really necessary when the NFTs are to be used as votes. Each NFT sale of the Universe Collection would account for 5 extra votes. The bids for auction-only Competition Collection would also translate into votes.
But, still. For 1 ZTX (around RM20), I’d expect them to be a little more personalised or at least meaningful.
After all the contestants had strutted across the stage with their portraits/NFTs, it was time for the Q&A session.
I decided to ask how the team envisioned NFTs to help in women’s empowerment, referring to what Johan had said in his speech:
“We are also happy that with these NFTs, they will spread the awareness of certain causes and can be used to infuse the positive message of women empowerment in society via all the socially conscious contestants.”
Datin Elaine passed her mic to Johan, though I would’ve liked to hear her answer. His response was as followed:
“We had a great chat with a lot of contestants, and we also found out that a lot of them are very passionate about certain causes. So, we tried to figure out a mechanism that allows them to do so. A lot of them can actually be done through NFTs, because we can actually set a certain percentage that can go to them to raise funds in terms of contribution.”
He went on, “In terms of the whole messaging that we want to try and work with, especially with our partner 8SIAN, they have been very, very vocal about the works they have done in this space to empower Asian women. We hope that the messaging can be promoted that way. We don’t want it to look like… how do you say, a sexist thing, right?”
After the conference, I also had the opportunity to talk to emcee and finalist Lesley Cheam. I asked her if she knew of the climate controversy around NFTs. She did.
“To me, NFT is a new thing but it is the future. Everyone is going in that direction where NFT and bitcoin and that kind of crypto… it’s eventually going to take over the whole world,” Lesley said to me. “To me, it’s very acceptable, in a way.”
However, in a later conversation, Lesley expressed that she has misunderstood the question and was not aware of the climate controversy. Rather, she had been talking about NFTs in general, not specifically in regards to its sustainability.
At least, NFT Pangolin supports lazy minting, which seems to be what they’re doing for the MUMO NFTs too. It’s a more financially and environmentally sustainable way to do it.
Lazy minting means the NFT isn’t actually minted until someone decides to buy it. So far, only one MUMO NFT of contestant Catherine (Kate) has been sold.
Needless to say, I was a little disappointed with the collection. The portraits felt a bit low-effort, and I believe the contestants deserved better NFTs.
With the NFT voting mechanism, I wonder if contestants could essentially buy their way into becoming Miss Universe Malaysia.
10K Universe Collection NFTs are available for each contestant, and each NFT is priced at 1 ZTX (RM20), so it would basically take around RM200K to buy out 50K votes. A lot of money, but arguably not an impossibly large sum.
To be cynical, the auction-only Competition Collection could also lead to bid-rigging or wash-trading.
There’s also something to be said about the objectification of women by selling their portraits as NFTs. But beauty pageants have always toed the line between empowerment and objectification, so it’s nothing new.
I do wonder whether all the other participants agree with Lesley’s opinion of NFTs’ role in climate change being “acceptable”, and whether they had a say in the NFT project.
What if one of them was against NFTs? What if they didn’t like its environmental impact or didn’t want someone else to own a picture of them in the metaverse? Would they feel comfortable enough to share their concerns? Would they feel like they would be heard?
I’m not sure. Throughout the event, I got the impression that the organisers feel strongly about wanting to be first movers in terms of NFTs and pageantry. Datin Elaine had talked about wanting to put Malaysia on the map with this project, and so did Johan.
“I believe that moving forward, the nation has to slowly educate themselves about blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and everything else that comes along with it,” he said toward the end of the conference. “Otherwise, the country gets left behind. Our population of Malaysians needs to learn about this stuff. That’s the way the whole world is moving.”
Their ambition to be at the forefront of this movement is admirable, and despite our criticisms of the NFTs themselves, we can’t deny that their utility as a voting mechanism is interesting and something that we haven’t seen before.
Whether it accomplishes their goals, only time will tell. In any case, I am looking forward to 8SIAN’s upcoming NFTs based on the next Miss Universe Malaysia. Hopefully, they’ll be an upgrade from the 15 Universe Collection designs that are available on NFT Pangolin now.
- Learn more about Miss Universe Malaysia Organization here.
- Learn more about NFT Pangolin here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about NFTs here.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post