Ever thought you would be sending a message to a friend … through a celebrity?
Well, now you can do exactly that through Halahi, the region’s first digital platform that allows fans to request personalised video shout-outs from big names.
What is Halahi?
Through the new platform, you can get access to more than 160 regional stars – from actors and musicians to entrepreneurs and influencers – and pay to have them share a message, either to you or a friend.
Prices range anywhere from about $5 (Dh18.3) to $700.
Some of the names currently on the platform include beauty entrepreneur Mona Kattan, Indian actress Zareen Khan, Turkish actress Gizem Karaca and Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, with more celebrities joining every day.
“This concept exists in the US, and it has been proven to work," says Halahi's chief executive Sara Al Madani. "We wanted to be the first to bring it to the region. I know a lot of people feel very connected to their favourite celebrities, but what are the odds of actually meeting them in public or speaking to them? This was a chance to create an authentic relationship and create memories for fans and celebrities.”
Al Madani, along with Saif Belhasa, Ibrahim Naji and Mohamed Amine Belarbi, set up the platform to “bridge the gap between fans and celebrities, and build lifelong digital memorabilia in a world oversaturated with likes and comments”.
How does it work?
Fans looking for a personalised messaged can visit the Halahi website, or download the app (available on the Apple App Store or Google Play store), then choose their celebrity and type out what they would like the star to say.
The celebrity in question can then decide whether or not they want to send along the message. If they are comfortable with it, the video will be sent through the platform to the fan, and can be saved and shared onto social media.
If the star is uncomfortable with the message, however, the fan is given a full refund.
The platform’s algorithm is also designed to keep information private and to pick up on any offensive statements, adds Al Madani, who is also listed on the site and will offer her own personalised shout-out for $80.
'A more authentic interaction'
“The platform is designed to help celebrities as much as it is to help their fans, and allow them to interact in an authentic way. Especially during this pandemic, a lot of the celebrities are not working and this gives them an opportunity to generate extra income,” she adds.
“Meanwhile, because of the pandemic, I feel like a lot of people are feeling down … they’re looking for a reason to smile. And this gives people a lot of creativity when choosing a gift for someone.”
To create a more authentic interaction, Al Madani says the videos sent will be as real as possible, with no editing.
The concept behind a celebrity shoutout platform is not new.
In the US, Cameo was launched approximately four years ago with the mission to "create the most personalised and authentic fan experiences in the world". Some stars currently on its list include Bonnie Wright of Harry Potter fame, Sean Astin, who acted in The Lord of the Rings, and Ashley Greene from the Twilight series.
While Cameo has reached a moderate level of success in the US, Al Madani believes that Halahi has greater potential in this region.
“In the US, people are not heavy social-media users. People in the Middle East have spending power and use a lot of social media. We know it can grow to become quite big.”