JUST A LITTLE BIT

Why Millennial Women in Beauty Are Embracing Bitcoin

Bitcoin's been a boys' club since it burst onto the scene in 2009. But that's changing. More women are showing an interest in investing in blockchain technology — and it could fuel beauty's next frontier.
Illustration of a hand holding a bitcoin which is turning around in a hand on a pink background
Illustration by Bryan Vargas

Long gone are the days when content creation used to consume the mind of Michelle Phan. Her years as a full-time YouTuber were spent filming, producing, and conceptualizing beauty tutorials and vlogs almost nonstop. But these days, Phan dreams of decentralization.

The beauty mogul began investing in Bitcoin (a digital currency that's part of a decentralized system, operating independently of banks) as a way to diversify her portfolio. In learning more about Bitcoin, she noticed similarities between the cryptocurrency market and the beauty industry.

"The beauty space that I'm a part of is decentralized," explains Phan. "It's no longer having this middle person." Where fashion magazines and big beauty brands once served as authorities that would set the vast majority of trends and standards for others to follow, Phan spearheaded an influencer movement weakening that hierarchy. Now, thanks to YouTube and other social media platforms, "you can find every face in this beauty space," she says.

Phan has integrated Bitcoin into her own business model by investing in Lolli, a Bitcoin rewards application where users can earn the cryptocurrency when they shop online. Phan's beauty brand, Em Cosmetics, is one of the dozens of participating retailers listed under Health & Beauty.

Bitcoin remains a millennial favorite, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the number of women interested and/or involved in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology (which powers cryptocurrency networks) has been on the rise in 2020. And because the cryptosphere is still technically in its infancy (the Bitcoin network came into existence in 2009), there's a chance to ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of the industry's growth, says Cleve Mesidor, who leads the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain.

Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency offer the opportunity to "really close the financial inclusion gap," says Mesidor. Blockchain is "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way." Luxury beauty brands like Parfums Christian Dior are using the technology to trace the authenticity of their products and prevent counterfeiting.

Millennial enthusiasm for adapting to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology "just makes sense," says Mesidor. "You're talking about a generation that actually created the gig economy, the sharing economy," she explains. "The generation, specifically millennials, that had to find a different way because when they graduated from college, there were no jobs, so they actually had to forge their own path."

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Illustration by Bryan Vargas

That was the experience for Phan, who says that when she was a college student during the 2008 recession, she went into survival mode. Foreseeing a mound of student debt and little to no prospects in the job market, she became more serious about her YouTube channel.

Adapting to the times back then set the tone for her and other millennials' embrace of crypto. "I believe they saw from previous generations just the infrastructure that has been built is not the most efficient for the world that we're living in right now, this digital age," says Phan of her peers, adding that the most recent financial crisis brought on by the pandemic is amplifying their concerns and pushing many of them to look for financial sovereignty outside of the centralized system.

Because blockchain is a solutions-driven technology, Mesidor says the opportunity and appeal for women in the space are both apparent. As blockchain technology has evolved over the past decade, Mesidor says more women are "creating products and services to try and solve some of our most pressing problems."

One of those women is Dawn Dickson, CEO of PopCom, a software company that's revolutionizing self-service retail hardware like vending machines, kiosks, and lockers, allowing for the collection of valuable customer insights.

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Dickson, who started investing in Bitcoin in 2016, says the playing field is "pretty level" in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

"The access to information and the access to being able to trade or buy into these projects are open to everyone," says Dickson, who also took part in the inaugural Women of Color in Blockchain Congressional Briefing. "Often, we get left behind because of lack of access or information for early adoption."

One of the barriers to entry for all things crypto is a lack of knowledge. Dickson, Mesidor, and Phan encourage anyone interested in investing in cryptocurrency or blockchain projects to get informed before jumping in. Even in a time when there's so much uncertainty about the future, Phan notes this is fertile ground "for people to start educating themselves and doing their research."

And for the earn-as-you-learn types, cashing in on Bitcoin for current behaviors, like buying beauty products online, could just be the perfect introduction to the world of crypto.


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