He is only 14 years old but Rashed Belhasa is already famous and a friend to the stars.
The teenager is a social media celebrity with tens of thousands followers on YouTube and Instagram and is an entrepreneur who co-owns a clothing brand. He is also the first call of most celebrities and footballers who fly into Dubai for events or a holiday.
“They all want to spend time on our family farm and see our tigers,” says Belhasa, who studies at the International School of Arts and Sciences in Dubai.
“Wiz Khalifa is my friend. Steve Aoki is my friend. They have all come to our farm. But sometimes I have to say no to celebrities who want to come here. I don’t have the time and it is tiring.”
Watch a video of Rashed Belhasa showing off his favourite sports shoes here
But Belhasa doesn’t let them down himself. His meet and greet schedule is handled by his agent. This week, the youngster invited us for an exclusive show-and-tell of his US $30,000 (Dh110,188) sports shoe collection and to discuss his meteoric rise on social media.
Belhasa, who goes by the moniker Money Kicks online, has racked up more than 96,300 followers on Instagram and 77,300 subscribers on YouTube.
Dressed in an all-black sweatshirt, shorts and a cap which read KingPin, all from the clothing line KA-1 that he co-owns with Dubai-based model-turned designer Ross Mackay, Belhasa is ecstatic when showing us his most recent acquisition. We are in a small storeroom filled from ceiling to floor with boxes of trainers where he proudly opens a box – inside is a pair of black leather and red suede sneakers twice his size. Belhasa signals to read the handwriting sprawled on the side of the toe box.
“I bought these two weeks back and they are signed by Michael Jordan,” he says, with a broad smile. “This one cost me $1,900 and is my most expensive [pair of] shoes. It is a 2004 edition Air Jordan 13 retro “Bred”. Michael Jordan has touched these shoes and has also given a certificate of authenticity. I will meet him one day. I wasn’t shocked when I met my favourite footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, but I will be shocked when I meet Jordan.”
Belhasa has 70 pairs of the Air Jordan, of which 15 are from the OG (original) series and the rest are the retro collection. “When popular designs from the past Air Jordan line are revived, they are called retro,” explains Belhasa.
His fascination with sneakers didn’t start too long ago. He got hooked only after witnessing the mania around the Kanye West designed Adidas trainers Yeezy, last year.
“My brother won the first pair of Yeezy shoes in Dubai last year and back then I was like what are these weird shoes, they don’t look nice,” he recalls. “But then I saw the hype around it and thought they were interesting to collect.”
He now has 200 pairs, including several pairs of Yeezys that don’t cost less than $100.
“I buy these rare shoes from my plugs online,” he says before explaining that “in the sneaker game, our contacts are called plugs”. “Last year, July was the craziest. I bought more than 20 shoes in France and my dad thought I was crazy. But he knows that this is an investment.”
And his sports shoe collection is a hit with the celebrities he hosts on a regular basis. It has spurred the sneakers talk series on YouTube that have become the most popular videos on his channel. His video with Wiz Khalifa has got 429,929 views.
Belhasa says he wants to eventually open the first training shoe consignment store in Dubai. “Whatever I make from my clothing line and YouTube ads, I put into buying sneakers,” he states. But this isn’t just me wasting money, this is a serious business investment.”
With the dizzying array of shoe wear and social media celebrity status, Belhasa’s parents make sure he remains grounded while continuing to support his lofty ambitions.
“The way we have raised our sons is that they know what they want in life,” says his mother Sara Belhasa, who founded Dubai’s Studio 8 Boutique.
“They have seen us working and making a name for ourselves in our respective fields, and so we support him so that he can fulfil his dreams.”
She says they can’t make frivolous purchases and are accountable at home. “I remember a time when Rashed broke the TV set by mistake and Saif [his father, a prominent Emirati businessman] cut the amount from his pocket money every month. They know the value of money.”
She says she doesn’t worry about his business ambitions being a distraction from education because he applies what he learns in the classroom.
“And YouTube has given him the confidence that he won’t have been able to gain otherwise,” she says. “He gets to meet people and interact with them.”
Belhasa says he is at ease with the public attention he receives. “I get happy when people identify me in malls because of my YouTube videos now,” he says. “They want to take pictures with me. I like it.”