Hilton said she and Fallon were the club’s first members. “It reminds me of me,” Hilton said of the ape, to laughs from the audience. “I’m really into cryptocurrency and art, so when I saw this, I thought it was perfect.”
Hilton went on to explain that the Bored Ape Yacht Club is a new online club that only accepts NFTs as payment. “It’s a really fun way to collect art because you can actually use the art to do things, like a vote for things or get discounts on things,” Hilton said.
Paris Hilton, wearing a sparkling neon green turtleneck dress and a high ponytail, looked at a picture of a glum cartoon ape and said “reminds me of me.
In January of 2022, “The Tonight Show” aired an episode that has since become a time capsule of sorts, showcasing the temporary alliance between celebrity marketing and the crypto industry. At the time, Bored Ape Yacht Club was not the biggest crypto phenomenon, but it was one of the top beneficiaries of celebrity hype.
That celebrity hype, in turn, helped draw new consumers to crypto — an industry rife with manipulation and fraud, and one that US regulators are now giving more scrutiny in the wake of the collapse of crypto exchange FTX.
But for a time, when crypto’s prices seemed to have no limit, the money appeared too good for some to ask questions. Questions like: Why are some of those apes wearing prison clothes?
“That was a very significant moment because the audience for that show is very different from the typical crypto person,” explained Molly White, a software engineer and a fellow at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. The Bored Apes — a computer-generated collection of 10,000 cartoons that explore the social and technological impact of crypto on society.
Hilton, Fallon, and other celebrities quickly took to social media to show off their new purchases, and the price of the NFTs exploded.
A class action lawsuit, filed in December, alleges Hilton, Fallon, and other celebrities conspired in a “vast scheme” to artificially inflate the price of Bored Ape NFTs and enrich themselves, MoonPay, and Yuga Labs.
The suit claims that the celebrities used their social media influence to drive up the price of the NFTs and that Yuga Labs, MoonPay, and the celebrities themselves all benefited financially from the scheme. Hilton, Fallon, and the other celebrities named in the lawsuit have not yet commented on the allegations.
Guy Oseary, a Hollywood agent, reached out to Yuga Labs in the fall of 2018. After investing in the company and joining its board, he urged his celebrity clients to start posting Bored Apes on social media. These included Madonna, Steph Curry, Lil Baby, DJ Khaled, Snoop Dogg, Gwyneth Paltrow, and more. The app soon began selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, with Justin Bieber purchasing one for $1.3 million.
The class action lawsuit claims that the purported interest in Bored Apes by high-profile tastemakers was entirely manufactured by Oseary at the behest of Yuga Labs. In order to make the promotion of, and subsequent interest in, the BAYC NFTs appear to be organic (as opposed to being solely the result of a paid promotion), the Company needed a way to discreetly pay their celebrity cohorts. The suit alleges they did this through MoonPay.
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