One Joint with Bria Vinaite

One Joint With Bria Vinaite

It’s rare when even a practiced actor’s first Hollywood film is Oscar-nominated, so consider Lithuanian born, Brooklyn bred Bria Vinaite’s experience on Earth an extraordinary one. She’d never tried out for a role before filmmaker Sean Baker sent a life-changing Instagram DM asking if she’d audition for The Florida Project, a film called “near-perfect,” by critics. Vinaite, after hesitation [DMs aren’t typically this earnest] accepted the challenge, auditioned for the role, and became Halley, the former stripper and young mother to Brooklynn Prince’s Moonee. Three weeks of acting class later, a star was born. 

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Alyssa Shapiro: First of all, happy belated.

Bria Vinaite: Thank you. I celebrated for so long. I don’t ever want to eat cake again. I don’t want to go out to eat for a while. So many dinners! It was a really, really good time. 

AS: We’re going to talk about weed a little bit.

BV: Yassss.

AS: Do you remember the first time you got high?

BV: I was like 15, and I was in the city walking around with my friends, and I remember tingles all over my whole body. I remember walking around and I just kept asking everyone if they felt that! I was so mind blown. I really liked it.

AS: What’s your relationship like with weed? Do you smoke—

BV: Every single day. All day. Not all day. But I’m a very productive stoner. I smoke a lot because I have anxiety and it’s really helpful to manage that. I’ve found, now that I have a more hectic schedule, it’s even more important for me to smoke, because I get overwhelmed sometimes. Anytime I feel some type of way, it definitely brings me back into this calm little bubble that makes everything seem manageable. 

I have gone without smoking for a few days here and there, but it’s usually not by choice. If I’m traveling in a foreign country and I can’t find weed, I’ll fully be stressed. Every time I travel, usually only hash is available. And I’ll smoke it, but by the time I come home I just miss weed! So much!

AS: How are you feeling right now in your life?

BV: I’ve been planting seeds with people I really want to work with, and I’m starting to see them bloom from seeds to little flowers. So much has changed; it hasn’t even been a year since The Florida Project came out, and there have been so many positive changes in my life, and in myself as a person. I can’t wait to see where it goes. 

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AS: At what point did you first feel like you came of age, like you became a woman?

BV: You know what’s really crazy? I feel like recently! I guess every young adult always has that question inside them, am I an adult? You get to make all these decisions all the time. It obviously takes time to grow up, and learn what to do, and to not eat cake for lunch—

AS: Or to eat cake for lunch.

BV: Exactly! The silliest little things. I’ve been living on my own since I was 17, 18, and I always paid my own bills and I’ve taken care of myself, but I never felt like an adult. Even though I was slightly responsible—because I still would do irresponsible things— but in the past year I feel like I became an adult, I fully feel like a grown ass woman. Everything in my life is organized and on point, and I’m working hard. On my 25th birthday, I was like, wow I’m a grown-up. I feel like a grown-up. It’s really weird. It was the first time I ever felt that way.

AS: What will you do next, with your organized self?

BV: I have a lot of dream projects. I’m writing a book with my best friend, a self help book for young women. But it’s not a preachy, annoying one. It’s life lessons that if I would have learned as a teenager, my life would have been a lot easier.

AS: Like what?

BV: Understanding your emotions and not just reacting based off of emotions. Understanding that they are fleeting and it’s okay to feel them, but the way you choose to feel everyday is your own choice. You want to wake up happy and start your day trying to genuinely be happy, versus letting all these outside things affect you, it makes a huge difference. Little things that might sound so silly! But are really beneficial.

AS: Do you have a mantra?

BV: The way you do anything is the way you do everything. If I don’t fucking show up it’s never going to get done, so I just have to do it and put my shit aside; it doesn’t even matter. That motivates me a lot. Any time I feel lazy, I’m like, ‘no,’ [smiling] ‘I’m not a lazy person.’ 

AS: When you sleep, what do you dream?

BV: I don’t dream a lot. Every time I do have dreams they are really intense and I get stressed out. I prefer it that way, that I don’t have dreams.

AS: What’s the most authentic expression of love?

BV: Freedom. A lot of people who love things get really possessive over them. You know you really love someone when that does not involve any sort of possession, and you just want to see them thrive, versus feeling like they only belong to you. That’s the purest form of love, when you just give love.

AS: After The Florida Project, what made you want to continue acting?

BV: It felt really fulfilling. It was the first thing I did that I felt really proud of. It’s really hard work, and you’re working so many hours a day, memorizing, it’s just a lot. But it felt like what I had to be doing, and really natural to me. I did a film called Violent Delights, we wrapped a few months ago, and I did the OA season 2 which is my favorite show in the world, honestly. That was a wild experience because I just loved everyone so much! It was really special. And I worked on a few things I can’t talk about yet! It takes time.

AS: In the last year, what is the most important thing that you’ve learned about yourself?

BV: That I can do anything I put my mind to. Sleep isn’t as important as it used to be. I’m still trying to rock out as long as I can before I have to sleep. It’s of course important to take breaks and relax, but when you love what you’re doing so much, being tired doesn’t even matter.

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Photographed and interviewed at the studio of artist Laura Poladsky.