So you just became internet famous. Now what? This is the situation Emily Yang faced in March 2021. Better known in the NFT space as pplpleasr, Yang’s was a different kind of fame. Rather than going viral on social media, Yang’s fame came with a payout of half of one million dollars.
After the monumental 310 ETH (around $530,000) sale of Yang’s NFT, titled x*y=k, the budding artist was propelled to Web3 stardom. Not only did she become a niche internet microcelebrity overnight, but her influence immediately spread throughout the NFT space, propelled by the creation of her very own DAO.
Much like other NFT success stories, Yang’s newfound notoriety was the culmination of years of creative output and continual adjustments to extenuating circumstances. And while internet fame can be elating, it is also fantastically fleeting. So how is a person, especially someone active in a space that thrives off of anonymity, supposed to react to their entire life going public? As Yang puts it, the key is to remain humble and inquisitive.
“I’ve simultaneously gained a lot more confidence, but also realize how much there is to learn,” Yang said in an interview with nft now. And while she’s neither first nor last to emerge from seeming obscurity into the NFT space, her whirlwind journey to fame is truly unique.
The origin of pplpleasr
Yang laid the foundation of her identity as a multidisciplinary artist before her name went vogue on Web3 Twitter. In the days preceding her “high-quality meme generator” clout, she took inspiration from Pixar movies, seeking a career in 3D animation after graduating from UCLA with a Design Media Arts degree in 2015.
Having found work as a visual effects artist in her years after college, she designed assets for feature films like Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Star Trek Beyond. Her achievements working in and for production studios eventually earned her a job offer in 2020 as a digital artist at Apple. But when the offer was rescinded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployed Yang pivoted, seeking out new ways to sustain herself.
Around this time, pplpleasr was born on social media. Yang joined Twitter in 2020, and got involved in DeFi summer, which seemed natural considering her basic knowledge and interest in crypto. DeFi summer was a period during the sunny months of 2020 that saw the crypto industry awaken to the promising sector of decentralized finance (DeFi). Throughout the summer and fall, Yang went viral again and again from the original animations she created for prominent DeFi platforms like Pickle Finance, Harvest Finance, SushiSwap, and others.
After a short time as a full-time meme generator, Yang was commissioned by Uniswap to create an artistic interpretation of the decentralized exchange’s (DEX) newly-updated algorithm. Little did Yang know that her entire life was about to change, as with the auction of the Uniswap video (x*y=k) impending, a group of pplpleasr super-fans took action to pool resources and win the 310 ETH bid for the piece, creating the PleasrDAO in the process.
What comes after NFT fame?
As of writing, more than a year and a half has passed since Yang broke into NFT stardom. While her name may not be making daily headlines, her drive to create something unique and lasting has become as much a part of her celebrity as her initial achievements.
With PleasrDAO on a continuing mission to collect culturally significant digital art, and the Fortune Journalism PleasrFund — partially funded by proceeds from Fortune and Yang’s NFT magazine cover collaboration — still making an impact in the NFT space, Yang has seemingly settled into her life as a public figure. No longer seeking to make ends meet, she spends her time building the collaborative decentralized storytelling project Shibuya with another renowned crypto-artist, Maciej Kuciara.
“After the Uniswap NFT and the Fortune cover, I was trying to find a bit more purpose for my next big project. And I was not personally super interested in any of the NFT projects that were happening,” Yang said. “I have a little bit more interest in longer-form content and storytelling, so selfishly, I wanted to find a way to channel that.”
Through Shibuya, Yang and Kuciara launched White Rabbit, an animated series featuring a plot dictated by those who have collected “producer passes” in the form of NFTs. As a project that Yang says is the culmination of her career thus far, Shibuya seems to serve as both a passion project and a logical next step for the evolving creator.
“We kind of want [Shibuya] to be the A24 of Web3. Think of any A24 movie or IP. You just associate A24 with good content,” Yang said. “I feel that high-quality content in the Web3 space is lacking right now. I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of people in the space don’t come from a content-making background.”
As both Yang and Kuciara are well versed with the ins and outs of the animation production process, the lack of quality content in Web3 and their expertise in the field are surely driving factors behind the project. And as Shibuya grows, Yang says she’s more than happy to stake her reputation on the platform’s ability to become a trusted source of decentralized entertainment.
Coping with the ups and downs of being an NFT hotshot
When Yang isn’t focused on building the future of decentralized storytelling though, she can often be found traveling, be it for NFT and Web3 events, collaborative opportunities, or simply for pleasure. Her nomadic and energetic nature helps highlight the humanity shared by all within the NFT space, regardless of status or prestige.
The pace of the NFT space can often feel too rapid to keep up with, prompting many to attempt to be plugged in 24/7. But Yang says she believes there’s still value in patience and learning things over time. This belief has undoubtedly helped her navigate the astounding nature of her own rise to prominence.
“A lot of us forget about this notion of delayed gratification… I think by attending high-profile events, you realize how small we actually are,” said Yang. “Web3 can open up a lot of possibilities, but a lot of people don’t realize that, in the grand scheme of the world, there’s still a giant mountain to climb, and our little hill of crypto and NFTs is quite small.”
Considering the strain that the blockchain industry can place on one’s mental health, tips and tricks from a success story like Yang could prove invaluable to those looking to “make it” in the NFT space. Although a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist for those seeking NFT stardom, Yang emphasized the significance of tempering the drive to become the king of your small hill, since the “element of remaining humble is important to allow yourself to climb even more.”