By AFRO Staff
An African-American teen is now a multimillionaire after garnering demand for her art in the digital market.
Nyla Hayes sells her art as NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens.” These tokens are unique or one-of-a-kind assets, such as an original song or painting, which are sold online and purchased via cryptocurrency.
The 13-year-old’s drawings focus on illustrations of everyday and famous women, such as Michelle Obama, Virginia Woolf, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Frida Kahlo. While the subjects of her now-3,000 portraits are diverse, however, they all bear Hayes’ signature mark – elongated necks, which the teen said was inspired by her childhood love of brontosaurus dinosaurs, which she called “long neckies.”
“At first I just wanted to put two things that I love together, and that was a Brontosaurus and women,” she told the “Today” show. “I wanted to show how beautiful and strong women were, and I thought of the brontosaurus as that as well.”
Hayes began drawing at the age of 4 and her parents bought her a smart phone at age 9 to foster her gift.
“I could see how passionate she was about her art and I just thought like, if I could support her in any way. That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Latoya Hayes told NBC News.
At first, Hayes just showed her doodlings to family and friends, afraid others would find them “weird.” But, then an uncle introduced them to the world of NFTs, and she decided to share her art with the world.
“Honestly, when I first heard about NFTs I was kind of like, I honestly don’t know about this but I’ve been wanting to put my art out for a while so it was a good platform to do it,” she said.
Since then, Hayes’ success has soared. In January, her portrait of Frida Kahlo sold for almost $5,000; in February one of her “Long Neckie Ladies” sold for about $3,000 and, in March, another sold for more than $6,000. In all, her art has netted about $7 million in sales.
Additionally, in 2021, Time Magazine named the teenager their first “Artist in Residence,” in recognition of artists who are finding success via NFTs. As part of that gig, Hayes has recreated the magazine’s “Women of the Year” cover portraits.
“I just thought it would be cool to put my art out there and show people that,” Hayes said. “But to see how people react to it…. I was never expecting it to blow up like this.”
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