We’re a full year and a half into cryptocurrency mania, and while the craze has calmed down, celebrities and companies alike are still coming out with partnerships with initial coin offerings and digital coins. Some celebrities have even made it their sole mission on tour, social media, and in panel discussions to promote digital coins.
Over the last year, dozens of celebrities have come out in support of cryptocurrency, whether it be their own coins or companies who have reached out to them. In fact, the trend of celebrities promoting cryptocurrency has gone so far that the US Securities and Exchange Commission created a fake ICO complete with its own set of celebrity endorsements. If you click buy on the page, it brings you to a lecture from the SEC, warning you, “a celebrity endorsement does not mean that an investment is legitimate or that it is appropriate for all investors.”
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Actors, pro athletes, and other celebrities can provide a little-known cryptocurrency with the star power it needs to gain enough attention from investors. And even if the SEC says it’s a highly dubious strategy, the hype is clearly working for some initial coin offerings. But what happens after the celebrity promotes the coin? Here’s a look at some of the more popular ones, and where they are now.
Last September, the TV star and heiress Paris Hilton tweeted the newly emerging coin called Lydian, saying: “Looking forward to participating in the new @LydianCoinLtd Token! #ThisIsNotAnAd #CryptoCurrency #BitCoin #ETH #BlockChain.” The tweet has since been deleted, but not before reports looking into LydianCoin found that its chief executive had previously pleaded guilty to domestic abuse. A month and a half later, the SEC issued a statement, urging caution around celebrity-backed ICOs, that many believe was directed at Hilton.
Since then, Hilton has largely stayed quiet about cryptocurrency, but in June, her father Richard Hilton auctioned a $38 million mansion and allowed people to bid by bitcoin.
Last year, the actor became the brand ambassador for the cryptocurrency called “Bitcoiin,” which was just one letter away from the original thing. This past March, New Jersey regulators sent the Bitcoiin founders a cease-and-desist order, saying the coin was never registered as a security in the state.
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Soon after, Seagal and the anonymous founders parted ways with the coin. Since then, his Twitter account has been largely silent and so has his Instagram, except for a mysteriously incongruous post on Thursday asking for donations for a homeless shelter in Russia.
Musician Imogen Heap has spoken about her interest in cryptocurrency since 2016, so she’s ahead of the curve compared to her peers, who mainly caught on when bitcoin prices soared late last year. Heap has had her eyes set on a blockchain project called Mycelia, which would help musicians track their publishing, recording, and composition rights through an app called the Creative Passport. The Creative Passport would use the blockchain, a digital public ledger that stores data in a verified way, to contain music makers’ personal information and track works and payments.
While the technology hasn’t launched yet and is still in development, Heap is currently on a world tour performing at concerts and giving talks about the budding technology. There are countless projects like the one she’s described that store other kinds of data, so it’s definitely not unheard of and seems feasible enough. But even Heap herself has admitted that blockchain isn’t the only solution to helping artists track music rights and that she’s drawing upon the hype of these buzzwords to get attention.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather backed several ICOs, and dubbed himself Floyd “Crypto” Mayweather last year. By now, we know that Centra, one of the coins he backed, was charged with fraud by the SEC, while another coin, Hubii, tanked its initial coin offering, raising less than a fifth of the $50 million it sought.
Centra was supposed to offer a debit card with Visa and Mastercard integrations but the SEC alleges that it had no connection with either company. Centra’s founders also made up names of people who worked there and paid celebrities for promotion. Curiously, the SEC did not name Mayweather in the statement. (Notably, DJ Khaled was another Centra supporter. Both posted images of themselves holding the Centra debit card onto social media.)
Lately, Mayweather has stayed away from promoting more cryptocurrencies and has stuck to other, safer expressions of wealth by posting photos of himself next to piles of cash, riding a Ferrari, or otherwise sporting bling.
Akon and his vision for Akoin
Grammy-winning singer Akon explained his cryptocurrency-fueled vision during, what else, a blockchain panel titled, “Branding Africa: Blockchain, Entrepreneurship and Empowering the Future.” Akon would have a town he describes as “a real-life Wakanda,” like in the futuristic movie Black Panther, where all transactions would be made on the basis of Akoin. Beyond being a good pun, Akoin would rely on mobile cryptocurrency apps that function as digital wallets in a city that’s still currently under development.
According to Akon’s tweets, the singer has been attending more blockchain summits to discuss the new city he’s helping to build.
Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan
In October, Ghostface Killah co-founded his own cryptocurrency company called Cream Capital, a play on the Wu-Tang Clan song “C.R.E.A.M.” In the song, the C stands for cash, but for Ghostface Killah’s coin, he’s swapped out the C for crypto. A month after launch, Cream suspended its token sale with “no plans” to hold it in the future. Cream tells The Verge that it has plans to hold an airdrop event for its Cream Network Token later this year.
All the rest…
The above list excludes the celebrities who own small stakes in bitcoin, ethereum, or other currency and those, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who were paid a sum to advertise cryptocurrency but nothing came of it. Some people, like Elon Musk, have even misplaced the keys to their digital wallets and can no longer access the funds.
Other than that, celebrities like Mike Tyson and Ashton Kutcher have hopped on the bitcoin bandwagon years before most and focused their investments on the more established virtual currencies like bitcoin and ethereum. By not placing risky bets on emerging ICOs, they’ve smartly navigated away from landing in the crosshairs of the law.
Update July 23rd 11:20AM ET: This article has been corrected to reflect that the CREAM coin on the market is unrelated to Ghostface Killah’s Cream Capital company, which is considering its own token release this year.