NFTs continue to take the world by storm and social media influencers are starting to catch on to the trend . Case in point: for Irene Zhao, one of Singapore’s biggest Instagram stars, these uniquely identifiable jpegs earned her over US$5 million this January. Over the last few months, the 28-year-old has gone from being a model to a notable figure in the cryptocurrency space. And although many have written off her success as a stroke of luck, there’s a lot more to Zhao’s NFT collection, IreneDAO, than meets the eye. How ‘Vietnamese Kim Kardashian’ Ly Nha Ky spends her millions Zhao’s journey into the world of blockchain has been nothing short of remarkable. In a space which hasn’t been short of controversy – influencers have often baited their followers into pump-and-dump schemes, boosting the price of a stock through fake recommendations – her NFT collection has actually been delivering on its promises. Before getting into that though, here’s how Zhao got to where she is today. She started her influencer journey while at university Zhao moved to Singapore from China as a teenager, back in 2008. After finishing schooling, she enrolled at the National University of Singapore to pursue a degree in communications. This was when she began posting on Instagram as well. Her content mainly consisted of fashion and fitness related posts and she only had around 800 followers at first. She claims that she “got lucky” when people started liking her photos. In the six years since then, Zhao’s following has grown to 420,000. She has made Singapore her home and has no apparent plans of leaving any time soon. Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz’s glitzy wedding of the year As one of the 10 top influencers in the country, Zhao has worked with Asian brands such as Zalora and Acmé De La Vie. She shows off her wardrobe on an almost-daily basis, and we swear we’ve never seen her wear the same outfit twice. A year ago, Zhao began making YouTube videos as well. From time to time, she posts vlogs where she mostly speaks in Mandarin. But alongside her social media endeavours, Zhao has been working in the finance industry since graduating from university. First as a commodity broker, and most recently as chief marketing officer of a decentralised finance company, Konomi Network, thus beginning her journey into the world of blockchain. Year of the Tiger 2022: How to avoid bad luck this Lunar New Year She felt that online creators were being treated unfairly Despite having such a large social media following, Zhao has said she doesn’t enjoy posting for profit as much as people think. On Instagram she has to rely on product placements and paid advertisements to make money. This isn’t the type of content she likes to post – and it can annoy her followers as well. Zhao believes that NFTs could be the key to solving this issue. By creating her own NFT collection, Zhao set out to prove that online creators could get paid directly for their content. They would no longer have to push out content for free on social media platforms or rely on their audience reach to get sponsorship deals. Then, her NFT collection raked in over US$5 million This January, Zhao released her first NFT collection called IreneDAO. The collection features pictures of herself along with phrases and quotes which are popular in the cryptocurrency community such as “focus on the tech ser” and “have fun staying poor”. Inside Hong Kong star Rosina Lam’s crazy rich life of luxury The owners of Zhao’s NFTs get to be part of her DAO, which stands for decentralised autonomous organisation. They get to vote on and make decisions regarding the future of the NFT project. Members of IreneDAO include YouTuber Logan Paul , who spent almost S$300,000 (US$268,000) buying Zhao’s NFTs, and billionaire investor Mike Novogratz. In its first major action, IreneDAO released its own constitution. The constitution revealed that Irene hadn’t planned on keeping any of the revenue generated from her collection. She had merely intended for this launch to be a proof of concept – a new way through which creators could get paid. https://t.co/NDLT2XmTnT pic.twitter.com/BlfvPJDDql — IreneDAO (@0xIreneDao) January 17, 2022 That being said, the members of the DAO still voted to compensate her with 10 per cent of the proceeds. Another 15 per cent went to her team members, and the rest was put aside for future projects. Hong Kong’s 11 best Lunar New Year poon chois for every palate She’s building her own social media platform Since releasing her NFT collection, Zhao has been working full-time on her own decentralised social media platform. Titled So-Col (or Social Collectibles), she aims to empower other creators to follow in her footsteps. View this post on Instagram A post shared by SO-COL (@socol.io) So-Col will allow creators to engage with their fan base beyond the confines of existing social media platforms. Fans will be able to “invest” in their favourite creators and creators will be able to earn a fair share for their content. Zhao hopes to “disrupt the creator economy” through this platform and has publicly asked other influencers and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs to join her movement. Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .