The Florida Project‘s Bria Vinaite isn’t the Typical Breakout Star
BY: ARIELA KOZIN
Any attractive woman with the right angle, barely-there wardrobe, and sleepy eyes can attain Instagram fame. The social media platform has made a certain level of fame perhaps too attainable, but Bria Vinaite is a different story. She created a narrative that was so much more than the hundreds of pouty looks clamoring for our attention on our explore tabs.
The Lithuanian-born, New York-raised blonde flipped her seductive poses, with a joint as her prop, into a lucrative weed merch business. ChroniCal Designs NYC is made up of bikinis, jewelry, tees, and dad caps emblazoned in that recognizable five-point leaf and phrases like “Can we smoke weed in here?” Stars like Kehlani requested custom designs to take selfies. “I always wanted to do something creative, but I wasn’t necessarily ready to settle on just having that. I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what,” Bria reflected during our sunny moments together at the Four Seasons hotel.
Her world shifted forever when she got a direct message on Instagram from Sean Baker, the filmmaker helmed for making Tangerine, an acclaimed film shot on his iPhone. Sean said he wanted her to audition for a role in his new film in Orlando. “At first, I thought it was a joke,” Bria laughed.
Though, she would later find, Sean wasn’t joking. Despite her lack of acting experience, he wanted to make her to portray the main character in The Florida Project, revolving around a reckless single mother living who had to barter on the streets to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. “On the plane ride over to film I was sitting on the plane like, I’m on my way there, I can’t back out now, I’d better do a really good job because what am I doing if I’m not going to give this a hundred and fifty percent?”
While Bria was greener than her 7-year-old on-screen daughter, her drive and raw talent made up for it. “She came down a month early for what was like a crash course with an acting coach. Sean remembered. There were so many times where I let her go off script and she held her own opposite Willem Dafoe. I’m so proud of her. She really kicked ass,” Sean explained.
Bria’s first role a particularly difficult one to conquer and she does it with a subtle vulnerability that has inspired critics to call her the breakout star. Her character, Halley, is the woman that you try to run away from on the street. The one who comes up to you peddling a knock-off perfume, smoking a cigarette in one hand and holding her daughter in the other. Still, Bria’s performance is vulnerable, powerful enough to make you questions your preconceived notions of the homeless.
After you witness her big screen greatness, it’s no surprise that she’s already booked another role. Once the press circuit is done for The Florida Project, Bria will start production on a new film called Disenchanted alongside Amy Adams and James Marsden.“It’s going to definitely different,” she laughed, describing the sequel to the live-action fairytale, The Enchanted.
As for her 420-friendly merch line? “I have had to take a break from it because I just don’t have time, but in the future I will get back to it,” she insists. “It’s something that I’ll always have to fall back on.”