The new frontier of childrens entertainment is internet-native cartoon characters selling non fungible tokens on social-media apps for tots. When Olympia Ohanian — the daughter of the tennis player Serena Williams and the internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian — was an infant her parents got her a plastic baby doll. Then they got that doll an Instagram account.
Qai Qai as the doll was named emerged on the platform in 2018 in a series of enigmatic photographs. Though the dolls feed resembled crime-scene photography — Qai Qai could be dumped unceremoniously in a sandbox or splayed lifelessly on a lonely stretch of asphalt — it also had a delightfully nostalgic quality. The images embodied the comic dark side of a young childs obsessional devotion to a beloved object When a new plaything appears the object may be ruthlessly discarded. Every photo of Qai Qais casual neglect seemed infused with Olympias own boundless spirit.
As the doll amassed followers however she adapted to the demands of various online platforms. Soon she had mutated into a computer-generated cartoon figure with doe eyes and a curlicue of hair atop her head. This new seemingly sentient Qai Qai could lip-sync to viral videos like a TikTok star and wave from an F. A. O. Schwarz toy convertible like a mini influencer. Eventually the original Qai Qai doll vanished from social media replaced instead by a new one styled after the cartoon version and available for purchase on Amazon. Last week Qai Qai dropped her first NFT collection.