Wednesday, February 28, 2024

From porn star to NFT queen: Elsa Jean’s story

Elsa Jean is a top 1% OnlyFans creator, host of the 'Heartbreakers podcast, Collaborative Editor of lifestyle outlet Thrissle, and the founder of Elsa Jean digital passes. She is one of the first women to launch explicit digital membership passes on the blockchain.

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A small-town girl from Ohio, Elsa’s alcoholic father left her family when she was 7, and at only 16, she became the provider for her family when her mother, who battled mental illness, left her and her sisters. After working multiple jobs, Elsa joined the adult film industry and built a brand that established her as one of the top adult film actresses in the world. After leaving the industry one year ago, Elsa is now building her own content platforms and serving her fans in new ways through her digital passes and her weekly podcast episodes. 

The 26-year-old former adult film actress has built a multi-million dollar brand with her over 3M followers. She is a leading voice on sex and relationships for heterosexual & LGBTQ audiences, sharing insight from her personal life and providing guidance with her sweet, supportive demeanor and sprinkled comic relief. She has shot for Playboy Magazine and has appeared in Maxim, Fortune, LA Weekly, Business Insider, and Vice. Beyond her beauty and background, Elsa is an intelligent young woman who is at the forefront of explicit token-gated creator content on the blockchain. Elsa launched her digital passes in November 2022 to grow her brand, have creative freedom over her content, and provide lifetime value for her fans. Read about Elsa’s project in Business Insider here.

How did you stumble into NFTs? Did you have to learn what blockchains and crypto are? Was it easy to understand?

A few of my friends had been avid crypto investors and collectors and I wasn’t that into the idea initially. It took some time to come around until I’d been curious enough to do some poking around Twitter and engage in the community which was interesting because that was what really got me going.

I was asking questions to these people who hadn’t known my background and weren’t fans of mine, but they were eager to help. They were so enthusiastic and it really felt like a space where people were really engaged with each other for the common good of creating inclusive communities using blockchain technology.

“Felt like a space where people were really engaged with each other for the common good of creating inclusive communities using blockchain technology.”

What was your initial opinion? How was Web3 different for you? In terms of audience reach, business strategy, community, content, etc

The moment I saw what the blockchain community and the royalty system could do, I decided I wanted my fans to have a place like this, to have a vested interest in my new projects, and use the technology to be able to have access to a world that we would build together. Also introducing myself to a new audience was the fun part mostly because I intentionally chose a smaller community that had stuck out to me with Cardano, and the reception was so warm.

Some of the people who had advocated for me to join were so enthusiastic at the thought of a former adult entertainer doing what the cam girls had originally done for the dawn of the internet, taking the chain to mass adoption.

Elsa Jean
Elsa Jean

What would you say to those who proclaim that NFTs are just hype with no value?

I would say, don’t spend what you don’t have, and if you want to buy NFTs as art, do so because you love the art. The value is something that you feel, people need to agree with you in terms of actual dollar amount, so that can be a little subjective. I prefer my NFTs to be “digital access memberships” because of the value attached to the blockchain art (which are cute, girly, digital renderings that represent my brand). I would also say, do your own research on any NFT projects you’re looking to buy. Research who the founder is and what the roadmap plans are. The NFT technology itself is becoming integrated more invisibly in projects simply as the tech behind the creative project, so while some people may think NFTs are all hype with no value, it’s the technology and what you create with it that is valuable and can stand the test of time.

“I WOULD SAY, DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE, AND IF YOU WANT TO BUY NFTS AS ART, DO SO BECAUSE YOU LOVE THE ART.”

What early challenges did you face? (In general and as an explicit content creator)

I grew up in a small town with parents with mental health issues that left me raising my sister at a young age, so my work ethic had to be strong from the get-go. Coming from humble beginnings set me up for not needing to meet people’s expectations of who I should be or what I should do for them, so ridicule and judgment do not have a big impact on me.

I’m always on a mission, I get tunnel vision and just set my sights on the next goal. Challenges will always arise every now and again, however, I don’t like to live in the problem, I just try to be in the “solutions business” as much as I can and find a way. 

How did your community react to you entering the world of Web3?

My community initially hated it! They had seen an adult star do something in NFTs with no utility that had bummed them out early on. I don’t even think this was the creator’s fault; big companies try to make a quick buck off your brand and at that early stage it was too new to really comprehend for many creators. Situations like this did however inspire me to want to prove them wrong and make sure I lit up the Web3 space for what it really is and what can be achieved. 

How is a community built on blockchain different from a community built on a traditional online platform?

Web3 gives power to the people. Most Web2 companies take your dollar, harvest your data and have a business-first approach. Web3 cultivates more ownership and allows buyers to be much more involved in the process.

If you have a great idea and can find your community, the sky’s the limit for what you can achieve together using blockchain. Plus blockchain technology can be an in-house marketing system and valuable feedback provider for creators and founders to ensure you’re constantly moving in the right direction for all involved.

This can be an intimidating thing too because you have to deliver and keep up with all the moving parts and people. This is why it’s important to build slowly and intentionally as your community grows with your project. 

“If you have a great idea and can find your community, the sky’s the limit for what you can achieve together using blockchain.”

How have blockchain-based memberships and tokenized Web3 passes improved your reach to your audience?

My audience has had access to me in my web2 subscription-based platforms but never in such a way that allows them so many access points to me to give feedback and invest long-term in the growth of my brand. Web3 passes also allow me to connect with, learn more about, and grow with my audience. Web3 is a two-way street, as opposed to me just putting content out there and my audience buying or consuming it in Web2.

However, my audience is still a bit apprehensive, I won’t lie. It’s been a lot of new fans that have discovered my NFTs as opposed to adapting my whole existing fanbase, but these things take a moment to get used to before reaching mainstream adoption and feeling like the norm. 

Did NFTs become crucial for your business? If so, when did you realize that NFTs are crucial for your business?

I feel that it is crucial because we have to evolve with and adapt to new technology, and I truly believe that it’s not a question of if, but when the whole world has made the switch. Just like with Cassette and DVD to Dial-up and Broadband. Or analog phones. Companies like Warner Brothers and Goldman Sachs are all setting up Web3 divisions because this tech is the future.

Did your fans embrace your NFTs? If so, why do you think they did? Can this success be replicated with other forms of content?

Fans who embraced my NFTs were either super loyal, interested in Web3, or both. My NFTs attracted some brand new fans who were already in the Web3 space, and who believed in the way I was using blockchain technology to token-gate explicit content. I think other types of creators can absolutely find success with digital membership passes by building out the utility first and foremost.

Creators can use NFT tech to give their fans more of a say in their brand and offer direct access to them personally. Offering that next-level connection will intrigue followers, and the opportunity of potentially making a valuable investment by purchasing a creator’s NFTs as their brand continues to grow is just a bonus!

What advice would you give other budding female creators about growing their businesses?

Work hard and take big action. Anyone can do anything they want, and if you like it enough or feel passionate enough about the end result and bank those hours of learning and taking action, the odds of succeeding eventually become higher and higher.

Also if someone can’t explain something to you in whatever way it takes for you to ingest the information (if it’s colored pie charts, fine) then be wary. Everything is understandable on some level if you care enough about it. So don’t let anyone tell you something is too complicated.  

“If you like it enough or feel passionate enough about the end result, the odds of succeeding eventually become higher”

How difficult is it for a newbie to start and sustain his/her own line of NFTs? How can they make their launch successful?

I’m lucky enough to have an existing fanbase so I had a built-in fanbase when launching my digital passes. But for newbies, I would say stay the course, build the utility, grow your community consistently, and don’t launch until you know you have willing buyers. You want to be slow, steady, and intentional every step of the way to build trust and prove your project’s value. For a successful launch, give your fans something they want. Incentivize them to become contributing members of your community. 

What’s next for you in the NFT space?

Collaboration with existing access passes and utility, onboarding other women into the space, and I’ll be doing live events with ticketed access through my passes.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?

Keep an open mind and remember what cam girls did for the internet! I believe explicit content will be a gateway for mainstream users to adopt blockchain technology.

Thank you so much, Elsa, for taking the time to connect with us and give us your perspective on the world of adult entertainment and blockchain. I’m sure you’ll be a truly inspirational figure for those looking to start off their career. Thanks!

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