Scentbird’s CEO Is Also a Spiritual Guru. Not All Customers Are Pleased.



Scentbird co-founder and chief executive Mariya Nurislamova is no stranger to the entrepreneurship speaking circuit. She regularly takes the stage at business conferences and shares her views on podcasts, where she expounds on how she approaches fundraising, marketing, branding and products at her start-up, which sells subscriptions to receive fragrance samples from brands such as Burberry and D.S. & Durga.

At the same time, Nurislamova has built a parallel following as a guru, who talks to some 300,000 followers across YouTube, Spotify, TikTok and Instagram about extraterrestrials and how we are all living in “the Matrix,” along with wellness tropes such as meditation, chakras and crystals. On those channels, she describes herself as a “spiritual teacher, intuitive, channel and writer.”

The founder’s two worlds rarely intersected until recently. But Nurislamova’s more extreme spiritual musings have begun making the rounds on social media; YouTube videos dissecting her views have garnered over 670,000 views. For the first time, large numbers of Scentbird customers and brand ambassadors are seeing clips of Nurislamova’s beliefs.

Many don’t like what they’re seeing.

“I won’t be working with them moving forward if they offer me anything in the future,” wrote YouTuber Zachary Michael, an influencer who had worked with Scentbird. He shared the comment under a video about Nurislamova posted last week by the channel Keya’s World, which is focused on debunking spiritual guru claims.

The video, and others like it, comb through TikTok posts and 603 YouTube videos shared by Nurislamova since May 2020. They show her asserting it is possible to “heal yourself” from cancer or AIDS in seven days, that miscarriage is a “choice” and not an “accident” and that abortion will negatively impact one’s karma. These clips are posted alongside ideas such as “consuming honey makes you a better person,” that crooked teeth are not “random,” “tomatoes and potatoes are here to keep you sick” and “coffee is bad for your aura.”

Nurislamova’s views on “the Matrix” have attracted the most attention. She frequently endorses the idea that humans are living inside a video game-like, “virtual reality-type system,” as she calls it in one of her videos. It was while discussing this concept in a May 2022 video with her husband, Scentbird co-founder and chief product officer Sergei Gusev, that she described Hitler as “the greatest – one of the greater – sources of knowledge of 3D planet earth warfare.”

“Do you know how many millions of souls benefited from learning from the experience he has created? So is he evil? Not really. I don’t think so,” she said.

When asked by The Business of Beauty about that statement, Nurislamova said, “Videos are really taken out of context, so they take a very small portion of what actually was said, and when you remove the context, the message really changes.” She also stated, “Because I perceive everything as oneness, of course, murder is not okay. Absolutely freaking not. I would never endorse that. Never, ever in a billion years.”

Complaints about Nurislamova’s viewpoints are so far contained to comments sections on social media, and beauty and fragrance Reddit threads. But her videos present a jarring contrast with Scentbird, a 10-year-old business that bills itself the “Netflix of fragrance,” where customers can opt to receive samples via mail for a monthly fee. Unlike many wellness brands that can be found at Goop or Erewhon, the closest Scentbird comes to mystical, new-age marketing language is a “scent horoscope” recommendation tool on its site.

The company emerged during the mid-2010s boom in subscription fashion and beauty boxes, participating in the tech incubator Y Combinator and raising $25 million from venture capital firms including Goodwater Capital, Rainfall Ventures, FundersClub, Soma Capital and others.

Nurislamova told The Business of Beauty that Scentbird has had growth of “45 to 50 percent year-over-year for the past two years,” and that the company has been profitable since 2019. She said revenue is “well above $100 million” annually with over 700,000 subscribers.

She said she does not bring her beliefs into the workplace, and used only her first name on most of her spirituality content in an effort to “protect Scentbird.” She noted, “I’d be surprised if my investors knew,” and that they “know my character.” Several investors contacted by The Business of Beauty did not respond to requests for comment. While Gusev appears frequently in her spirituality videos, where she says he hypnotised her to bring her into a “deep theta state,” she said Andrei Rebrov, a co-founder and chief technology officer, “did not know I had an account until two days ago.” Rebrov did not provide a response by the time of publication. A fourth co-founder, Rachel ten Brink, left the company in 2019 and did not respond to a request for comment.

“My name was really not all that much out there,” Nurislamova said.

Origin Story

Nurislamova says on her YouTube channel that she had a spiritual “awakening” in 2018. She said she began watching videos about astral projection and eventually had visions in a dream involving a spirit speaking to her.

She began posting on the new accounts early in the pandemic, a time when conspiracy theories, new-age spirituality and pseudoscientific health content were taking off online. One of her earliest podcasts in 2020, recorded with Gusev, criticised Covid-19 measures including mask-wearing and stay-inside policies, saying a “victim mentality” and “underlying energy” would make it more likely to contract Covid-19 or increase its severity.

Nurislamova told The Business of Beauty “I am not a conspiracy theorist.” However, the subjects of her hundreds of videos have ranged widely, and often dovetail with beliefs held by right-wing conspiracy theorists. That includes her recent exploration of the “Starseed” theory that posits the existence of human-alien hybrids, a belief system held by the “Q-Anon Shaman” made famous by his unusual appearance at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, among others. She describes her belief in “visitor souls coming from all types of planets, constellations, star systems, different galaxies, even.”

Nurislamova has built a business around her beliefs, including books and events. Last month, she held a 28-person, spiritual retreat in Glastonbury that, for $1,111, promised to “tap into the mystical energies associated with Glastonbury.” She charges $3,000 for a private online spirit-channelling session and $125,000 for a “one-on-one in-person transformational retreat.”

But to a different audience, many of her statements are bizarre, and offensive.

In a Jun. 6 video receiving over 100,000 views, YouTuber Noor Jasmine, who has done sponsored content for Scentbird in the past, called out Nurislamova’s claims made about hair colour, including “it’s hard for people with black hair colour to be intuitive in decision-making. They’re also not as good at discernment. Things like dancing and moving their body comes very naturally; things like sports come very naturally.”

“If you guys have watched my channel, you’ll know that Scentbird has sponsored a lot of my videos,” said Jasmine in the 38-minute video. When commenters on a recent sponsored post alerted her to Nurislamova’s content, “I was like, ‘damn,’ like really? This sucks. … I really like Scentbird,” she said.

While Nurislamova said she did her best to keep her two worlds separate, now that her content is being directly linked with her brand, she doesn’t plan to take anything down.

“I think it’s a good thing, actually, that this whole convergence is happening,” she said. “I think it was just a matter of time. … I’m glad that it’s coming to the surface that I’m both of those things.”



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