Dubai: Finding fame and fortune on social media is an art form that requires skill to set the trend – and the expertise to keep fans wanting more.
One of the youngest social media celebrities who mastered the business of content creation is Emirati influencer Rashed Belhasa, who first shot to fame at the tender age of 14. Now at 19, the trendsetter has accumulated a strong local and international fan base who watch his every move in anticipation for the next big craze.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Belhasa, who goes by the alias Money Kicks, revealed the secret to his success, his passion for social media, and his upcoming plans in the realm of boxing.
Making money at 14
Belhasa gained recognition as one of the first YouTubers in the UAE, showcasing luxury brand items on his vlogs that ranged from just about everything, from smartphones to luxury vehicles.
“I started out on Instagram around 2015 and posted pictures with celebrities, and then suddenly I wanted to be a YouTuber, because everybody in the US was doing it. So I posted a video that got one view, and I kept hitting refresh and then I got two or three more views. But that didn’t stop me because eventually, it went crazy,” he recalled.
Belhasa attributes his passion for designer sneakers as the main reason behind his success, which ultimately led to his massive following and the level of stardom he was able to reach today.
“I started YouTube when the YEEZY 350 sneakers came out [designed by American rapper Kanye West] and the hype was crazy. I watched YouTube videos from the US and the sneakers were crazy hyped, so I wanted to do the videos myself. You can say that one of the biggest reasons the sneaker game went big here was because of me. I take that credit.”
“I never knew that [social media] could become a lucrative business. Never in my life. I realised [the potential] only after six or seven months when I got a big brand deal and I took that money to the restaurant Nusret – and finished it all – and then I just wanted more and more,” he jokingly explained.
“Social media, alhamdullilah, is a good business. It feels good making your own money at 14.”
When I realised I was famous
Like most UAE residents, Belhasa has a favourite holiday destination that he calls his second home. And so it was befitting that it was in France where he first realised the level of his international success.
“I go to France every year. And so in 2017, I did not think twice when I was approached by a French TV to film a 30-minute documentary here in Dubai. When I went to France afterwards, I was stopped at nearly every single block by fans and that was then I realised I was famous. There was so many people and I had to get a bodyguard. It was intense.”
He also pointed out that the fame surprised him as it is completely different in the UAE, “Dubai is my hometown, and I don’t have to worry about getting a bodyguard here.”
Growing up as a public figure
Being a public figure undoubtedly has its own set of cons, but Belhasa said he learned to grow a thick skin from an early age and not let internet trolls wear him down.
“I never cared about haters, I see them as motivators. If you don’t get hate then you’re not doing it right, that’s what I always tell everybody. Its not easy doing it at 14 with a lot of fake people but you learn a lot. When I was 14, I was living like I was 19. I saw a lot of stuff, travelled alone, did things on my own, I learned a lot, and became independent.”
Like any other Emirati teenager, Belhasa completed the 16-month mandatory national military service when he turned 18. Now, he also faces the responsibility of attending his first year of university this September, and intends to study business marketing.
The secret to success
“The key to building a successful business is building relations. Your network is your net worth, as it’s all about who you know. My father always told me to remember the importance of: contacts, contacts, and contacts. It’s the most important thing,” he said.
For those who want to venture into a career on social media, Belhasa stressed the importance of maintaining a clean public image, which is crucial for endorsing products and becoming the face of a brand.
“For those who wants to start social media, it’s important to have a clean image, and you shouldn’t do anything stupid because a lot of big brands will not work with you. A lot of people can have millions of followers but make less money than someone with 50,000 followers. But if you maintain your public image, endorsements will come and a lot of people will start contacting you.”
From YouTuber to professional boxer
Keeping in line with setting trends, Belhasa admitted to changing his content that now caters to fitness buffs and boxing aficionados. In a first event of its kind, he will soon headline a star-studded boxing match where YouTubers and influencers will fight it out at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai on July 30, 2021.
“I saw the Paul brothers [Jake and Logan] boxing and it looked big and crazy. The Middle East is an untouched market, and I wanted to be the first one to do it here,” he said.
“You have to change your social media content, since the fans grow up with you and you have to keep doing something new. Everybody was shocked when they heard the news and I was getting calls from everyone around the world, they couldn’t believe that I was going to be in the ring. But I’ve been practising and I’m ready to knock them out.”