Miss Influencer: inside the business of being the world’s first influencer pageant and the brands backing it

Posted by Chloe James in Analysis

11 months ago

In a city full of influencers, how do you find the next big thing? You make them compete, of course. This winter, Dubai is set to host Miss Influencer – the world’s first ever influencer and beauty contest. A shortlist of 25 content creators will spend nearly two months battling it out both online and onstage with the hope of winning the ultimate prize: becoming an even more successful influencer.

The contest is the brainchild of entrepreneur and former model Lilla Bolyki. Her goal was to redefine the concept of a pageant for the Instagram generation – shifting the focus from beauty to talent, creativity, and a flair for digital content. “Miss Influencer is all about women empowerment,” she explains. “It’s about the education of the future generation of social media users and creating a huge community that truly believes that raising awareness and posting about global issues are as trendy as posting your outfit and expensive dinners.”

This moral compass is key to earning entrants a place on the shortlist. So is engagement. To enter, budding influencers need to submit five pictures to Miss Influencer. Not only does their content need to match a certain standard, but it cannot contain nudity, racism or anything anti-religion. The pageant team reveal their favourite candidates on Instagram on 24 October – and give them just under a month to gain as much engagement as possible. One like or one comment equals one vote.

For the top 25 with the most engagement (and another 25 hand-selected by the Miss Influencer team) what follows is an intense assessment of their other influencer skills – namely, selling a brand. Each influencer will be assigned to a different brand or “empowering and educational topic” for which they need to raise awareness. The top 15 are judged on “creativity, content quality, engagement, and traffic”, before participating in a three-day bootcamp of “missions and mentor programmes”. Three more are eliminated, with the final 12 going head-to-head at the “Final Mega Show” where they’ll have to demonstrate “who they are” to a host of celebrity judges. (And breathe).

But why the UAE as the locations for the contest? “The UAE supports women more than anyone outside of the region can imagine,” Bolyki says. “That’s one of the reasons influencers happily relocate here.” That, of course, and the opportunities. “Living a glamorous lifestyle here positively affects their engagement. The locations, scenarios, and activities they post are tremendously attractive for their audience. Also, the income they generate here is sky high compared to other locations.”

One issue influencers have described facing in the UAE is, well, influencers in the UAE. The country is home to countless creators vying for social success – saturating the market to the point that it’s tough to stand out. This is a hurdle Miss Influencer wants to help the right candidate overcome. Not only will the winner (AKA “The Queen”) land a 100,000 AED cash prize, a year’s accommodation in Ramee Dream Hotel, a Mazda CX-30, and a magazine cover with Victor Magazine, but Bolyki foresees them becoming the most in-demand creator of 2023. “They’re not only gaining huge awareness from the other participants’ audiences, but they’ll be introduced to the biggest local brands and media, giving them the chance to build a personal brand, increase their social media value, get invited to exclusive events, and join a community where they’re valued.”

In short, they win a shortcut to true influencerhood. Brands are promised a similar shortcut to successful influencer marketing in return. While automotive brand Mazda sponsors the entire pageant, other brands participate by being the subject of the content competitors create to vie for the most impressive, creative, and engaging campaign. There’ll be 50 influencers spotlighting a brand at once – which, Bolyki predicts, will translate to a boost in awareness and access to a sizeable new audience. “Imagine the top 50 most influential influencers in the region creating a creative campaign for you at the same time,” she says. It’s free – and contestants pin the prospects of their future online career on the content’s success. Which is to say, they’ll go above and beyond to ensure strong engagement.

How exactly this plays out for both Miss Influencer (both titled and prospective) and brands remains to be seen. The future of Miss Influencer itself, however, looks bright. Bolyki plans on taking the concept to other countries next year, with the UAE’s Miss Influencer representing the contest at each launch. And for the influencers involved, there’s a strong selection of reputable local brands lined up for Dubai’s 2022 iteration.

Finding and establishing a credible, powerful content creator is an ambitious concept. Dubai’s micro-influencer pool is, as we’ve previously heard, frustratingly small. If Miss Influencer’s test-run is successful, this could be the path this community needs to stand out in an increasingly saturated market. May the best influencer win.

By Chloe James, Middle East correspondent for CORQ. Picture credit: Lily Bolyki via Instagram.