• Best female speaker in the “Top 50 of the best female speakers list”, the Drum, January 2018 
  • One of the “Top 50 Creative Leaders driving change in the world at large”, Creative Review, June 2017 
  • One of the “Top 50 inspirational women in architecture and design”, Dezeen, March 2017 
  • Nominated 3 times as one of the “150 Female Creative Leaders 2017, redefining the creative industries”, The Dots, March 2017 and March 2021
  • Dr. Ben Hayoun has a Barbie doll and a Lego made of herself 
  • Director and founder of the postgraduate University of the Underground- world’s first tuition free university and charity based under the urban space teaching unconventional research practices supporting FREE, PLURALISTIC and TRANSNATIONAL Education worldwide
  • Senior Fellow at Hannah Arendt center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College since 2018
  • Radio host at underground radio Worldwide FM with the montly show ‘the Nelly Boum Show’ since 2020
  • Dr. Ben Hayoun has two doppelgängers who work with her to appear at multiple places at the same time 
  • 2020 Sundance Institute Grantee for the feature film – currently in production- Red Moon
  • Indiewire SXSW Highlights Women filmmaker, 2015, Indiewire 
  • Nominated for a VISION Award at SXSW 2015, SXSW 
  • WIRED Innovation Fellow 2014, WIRED 
  • United Nations Advisor since 2015, United Nations Goalkeeper for education since 2017 
  • Chief of Experiences at WeTransfer since 2013 
  • Member of the Space Outreach and Education Committee and Vice Chair of The Committee for the Cultural Utilisation of Space (ITACCUS) at the International Astronautical Federation since 2013 
  • Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London Teaching Award, 2016 
  • Woman of the Year Achievement Award, finalist 2015 
  • SETI Institute Designer of Experiences since 2013 
  • Best of The Year 2016 and 2017 by the Metropolitan Museum (MET), 2016 and 2017 
  • Advisory board member at AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) in Los Angeles since 2015 
  • Advisory board member of the METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International since 2018 
  • Director and founder of the International Space Orchestra in NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute since 2011 
  • One of the 50 international designers ‘shaping the future’, ICON 2013 
Nelly Ben Hayoun- Stépanian PhD is an award-winning designer of experiences, filmmaker and artist, who creates multi-dimensional experiential projects at the intersection of film, science, tech, theatre, politics and Design. Wired awarded her their inaugural Innovation Fellowship in 2014, and Icon magazine recognized Nelly as one of the top 50 designers ‘shaping the future’. In 2018, Nelly has been distinguished as the first on the list of top 50 women on the speaker circuit by The Drum Magazine; while in 2017, Creative Review named her one of the Creative Leaders 50, selecting 50 creatives they felt were ‘driving change, not just within their organisation but in the world at large’, Dezeen selected her as one of the ’50 inspirational women in architecture and design’. She is the founder and director of the International Space Orchestra the world’s first orchestra of NASA space scientists and astronauts; and the founder of the tuition-free university- University of the Underground- which includes board members and activists like Prof Noam Chomsky, Pussy Riot, Massive Attack and Prof. Arjun Appadurai, this tuition-free educative and cultural program is supporting plurality of thinking, free and transnational teaching and unconventional practices in the basement of nightclubs.
Nelly is the author and director of three feature-length documentaries (ie: The International Space Orchestra, 2013; Disaster Playground, 2015 and I am (not) a monster, 2019).
In 2020, Nelly became a grantee of Sundance Institute with her new documentary- currently in production- called RED MOON. Through role-play, magic, and doppelgängers, the film RED MOON offers an experimental vision and template for future diasporas beyond Earth. Set in Algeria, Armenia and France, the film asks How will human inhabitants of the moon understand origin, borders and nations? For this film, Nelly investigates her family origins in Algeria and Armenia- which led to the start of her radio show on underground radio -on Worldwide FM- the Nelly Boum Show.
Her various roles include Director of Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios, Designer of Experiences at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, Senior fellow of the Hannah Arendt center for Politics and Humanities, Chief of Experiences at file transfer service WeTransfer, Vice-Chair of the IAF (International Astronautical Federation) Technical Committee on the Cultural Utilization of Space (ITACCUS), a member of the IAF Space Education and Outreach Committee (SEOC) and a member of the IAA (International Academy of Astronautics) Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) permanent committee, a United Nations Advisor to the UN VR (Virtual Reality) labs and UN Education Goalkeeper 2018, an advisory board member at AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) in Los Angeles and a visiting professor at the Royal College of Arts and the Architectural Association. In 2016, she was awarded with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London Teaching award. When she is not making films, Nelly is a keynote speaker and has spoken worldwide about the value of experiential design practices in the context of nightlife, outreach, community and education. Her design work has been exhibited at the National Museum of China, MOMA, V&A, the MET and other leading design institutions. Nelly is also an amateur boxer who trains at the legendary Gleason’s Gym in NYC in the fighting crew of trainer Hector Roca. She has two doppelgangers who work with her to appear at multiple places at the same time, a Barbie doll and a Lego made of herself.

Nelly received a BA in Textile Design at ENSAAMA Olivier De Serres (college of applied arts) in Paris, a MA with distinction from the Royal College of Arts in Design Interactions, she holds a PhD in Geography (Human geography and political philosophy) from Royal Holloway, University of London.