Film & TV

Actress Bria Vinaite is Just Getting Started

The Florida Project star is hungry for work—and she's landing it.
Reading time 6 minutes
Photos Courtesy of Moose Knuckles

There’s a reason ‘manic pixie dream girls’ are often disparaged as the cheap ploy of oversexed male writers. From 500 Days of Summer’s indie music-listening, ribbon-wearing Summer Finn to the passionately optimistic Claire Colburn of Elizabethtown, these women are playful femininity at its peak—so inconceivably beautiful, quirky and spontaneous, critics claim the trope is an unrealistic representation of women. Well, they’ve clearly never met Bria Vinaite.

Flitting around her Berlin hotel room, the Lithuanian-born, Brooklyn-based actress is preparing for one of her many engagements: this time, a campaign launch party for decidedly cool Canadian outerwear company, Moose Knuckles. The brand is one that champions originality and irreverence, which makes the breakout actress a great choice in attendee—although, these are not the only qualities of hers that turned designers’ heads, she also has her “fat ass energy” to thank (think BDE: not a physical state, but a mentality). Discovered by director Sean Baker via her twerk-heavy Instagram presence and cast as a single mother and sex worker in his critical-smash The Florida Project, the 24-year-old has since been wholly embraced by fashion and film alike; which, off the back of one movie, is pretty impressive.

“I always knew I wanted to do something important and bigger than me and be a vessel for something,” she says in her breathy Brooklyn lilt, “I just never knew it would be storytelling.”

Vinaite’s life is now a series of strange cities, exciting events and, of course, beautiful clothes. In a sequined Gucci dress (Alessandro Michele is apparently a huge fan, and seated her next to Donatella Versace one fashion week), her lilac curls bob as she runs back-and-forth from the bathroom ahead of the function, where she’ll have to be ‘on’ once again. It’s nothing new for the rising star, whose resume has continued to bloom since her breakout role. In fact, she just locked down a Diesel campaign. Oh, and she’s appearing alongside Simon Pegg and Juno Temple in the upcoming Katharine O’Brien film, Lost Transmissions. Vinaite is also slated for a recurring role in the brand new season of Netflix's, The OA, in the works. Last month, she was photographed amid a lineup of galactic star power — including Kim Kardashian, Priyanka Chopra and Zoë Kravitz — for Tiffany & Co. Chopra made a point of telling the starlet she loved her dress, and recently, Golden Globe-winner Sarah Paulson stopped the 25-year-old to congratulate her on her work. Vinaite “hyperventilated.”

She’s come a long way from the set of The Florida Project, where Vinaite would ask Baker every day, “Am I good enough to be here?” That insecurity has dissipated some, but she worries about being forever typecast — à la the likes of Chloë Sevigny, or Audrey Tatou — as an indie muse, or worse, falling off entirely. Even if the latter occurs, Vinaite wants to reinforce that she’s content. “If the only thing I have on my roster is The Florida Project, I’m proud enough of it. I haven’t been able to watch it in a year because I cry so hard every single time. It’s important.”

There’s no question the young actress arrived in Hollywood at a tumultuous time. The Florida Project was released in October of 2017, just one day after the New York Times published their investigation into Harvey Weinstein, spurring a reckoning for men in power across entertainment and catalyzing the #metoo movement.

Enter the subsequent empowerment of women and minorities in film — which skeptics are arguing may just more trend than transformation. As a result, the actress is hoping to write and produce her own film, wherein women come first and the men play the “girlfriends,” that is, the secondary characters. While Vinaite hopes the movement endures, she’s is the first to acknowledge that the industry’s continued support of abusers is still “a mind-fuck.”

“I feel so thankful to come into the [film] industry when everyone is being so open. It’s frustrating when you feel like you’re in an environment where even if you speak up, nothing changes until everyone comes forward as a unit,” she says. “In fashion, for instance, it’s going to take longer. All the fucked-up people are still doing what they’re doing.”

Vinaite is also having to contend with another monster: fame. It’s a relief that the she has many other young, famous friends, who have also been thrown into the spotlight with little-to-no preparation, but nonetheless, she admits, celebrity can be isolating. Consequently, Vinaite has become increasingly time conscious—more interested in reaching her professional goals than partying with friends. She has come to realize that growing out of certain  relationships could be for the best. “I’ve had a nuts life,” the actress explains, “but it led me here. If everything I’ve been through hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be this person.”

Simultaneously, it’s guidance from peers and co-stars that has kept her grounded. Paulson, for example, gave Vinaite the best advice: to ensure she was at 100 percent, to give 100 percent — something that isn’t always easy when you’re the never-faltering, ever-effervescent starlet conjured in the writers room. As she asks for advice on which heels to pair with her outfit, dutifully strapping on the armour to face the Moose Knuckles-curated influencers and editors three floors below, it appears, on closer inspection, that Vinaite is perhaps not the manic-pixie-dream-girl-brought-to-life that one might initially imagine. Manic? Sure. Pixie? Obviously. Dream girl? Absolutely. But she also eclipses the trope in her multidimensionality: she’s complex, compelling in her grittiness and, most importantly, one-of-a-kind.

“I’m so grateful that I never want to seem unhappy, but there are daily stresses that happen to any average human being that just suck. At the end of the day, you have to celebrate your own accomplishments,” Vinaite muses.  “I’m still a young adult, I’m just growing up.”

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