Drop, Cover, and Hold On: Bria Vinaite

by Chelsey Sanchez

Bria wears PRADA top, skirt, and shoes.

Feel the ground rumble, the premonitions of an earthquake riding out in waves beneath Hollywood’s cracked concrete and Los Angeles’s tall tilting skyline. This shaking isn’t due to the seismic shift of the tectonic plates: this is the ever-present trembling of the Hollywood machine, a stampede of people rushing through, flooding the city and filling our streets with their cars, suitcases, and dreams. They are starry-eyed, seeking that evergreen fame that legend swears grows in Hollywood like weeds peeking through the spaces in the sidewalk. It’s the eternal metaphoric California Gold Rush — and, at its epicenter, Bria Vinaite has hit the jackpot.

Perhaps she is also still a little starry-eyed. Who could blame her? Before the 24-year-old entered the realm of actors and directors and fancy international film festivals, she was just your typical free spirit who ran a profitable weed merch business through her social media. Lucky she did, as it was her unique online presence that led director Sean Baker to discover her.

Charmed by her spunky persona (“All I used to post was videos of me dancing around my living room with a blunt,” Vinaite says), he casted her in The Florida Project, a film that was earthshaking in its own right at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The second project from director Sean Baker – who broke through in 2015 with Tangerine – the film generated a lot of buzz at the festival, leading A24 to buy the rights to distribute it. A24, mind you, is the same entertainment company that brought us inimitable contemporary classics like Ex Machina (2014), The Lobster (2015), and the Academy Award-winning Moonlight (2016).

And all this for a first-timer.

Bria wears PRADA dress and shoes. 

For her first-ever acting gig, Vinaite became Halley, a fiery young single mother raising her kid in a Florida motel room. Plagued with terrors of forgetting her lines, the actress grounded herself by flying in early prior to filming in order to take part in an acting workshop with the kids who’d become her co-stars. “I learned so much; I asked a hundred questions every day,” she says. “It felt like I was in a dream! I would redo the entire summer again if I had the chance.”

Bria wears PRADA top, skirt, and shoes.

Watch out for A24’s release of The Florida Project, but also watch out for Vinaite, who has shaken up the Hollywood machine with her performance. Aftershocks could well be on their way. “I still can’t believe this all started because Sean hopped in my DM’s,” Vinaite says, her enthusiasm and disbelief still palpable. “Before this, I was definitely utilizing Instagram to the fullest but I never would have imagined getting such a door opening opportunity just from being myself.”

Written by Chelsey Sanchez  
Photographed by Carlos Serrao   
Styled by Mui-Hai Chu featuring Prada fall/winter 2017
Hair: David Cox
Makeup: Sarah Uslan
Manicure: Camille Black
Photographed at Hubble Studio

Issue 155

The Aftershock Issue: New America

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