‘ I don’t need to have kids because I have her ‘: Bria Vinaite with Brooklynn Prince and Valeria Cotto in London in October 2017. Photograph: Jo Davidson/ Shm/ Rex/ Shutterstock
” I don’t need to have children because I have her !” she grins.” For me to be on situated and have these tiny children wailing’ Bria, let’s play Barbies !’, I’m like:’ OK !’ I don’t have anyone to play with Barbies with, so I’m down with it. Kids bring so much exhilaration and good energy into my life, and that’s necessary where anything around you is so serious. And then they go home at the end of the day – it’s the perfect situation .”
Her own childhood was a mixture of good energy and bad. Born in Lithuania on 10 June 1993, she was brought up by her grandmother in a small village where she knew everyone:” I remember going sledding in the winter, and my grandmother taught me how to ride a bicycle. You could play outside. It was a really free place for small children .”
Her mother had moved to New York when she was small, and when she was just a little bit older than Moonee in the film, Bria moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to join her. She spoke no English.” It was really intense, I had to have ESL- English as a second language- lessons for three years, because I literally just couldn’t communicate, and I’m such a social person, so it was hard for me .”
For three years she had no friends. Instead, she read books.” I was so nerdy. I had a system for my volumes on my shelves, I numbered them one through a hundred. I would set numbers on the bottom of the books. I would write volume reports for my mum and read them out. It wasn’t even homework, I just liked doing it !”
Vinaite had a tough time at school, especially when she moved up to middle school.” I’m thankful for it in a way, because I learned to fend for myself and not need anyone. I learned how to be myself and not care about judgment from other people .”
She has called out fellow pupils on social media for being mean to her at that time, and, at 14, she rebelled. That was the year she started getting tattoos, and when her mom , now working in finance, sent her to boarding school. She doesn’t like talking about this time.” Once I grew up, I let all that go and moved on with my life. I feel like I blacked out a lot of my childhood. It’s not that it was anything bad that I’m suppressing, but I’m so focused on my future that I don’t think of my childhood, you know? Who cares about that? I’m trying to move forward .”
At 18 she left home, ascertained not to go to college (” It’s good for others but not for me “) and embarked on her own career.” I had a bunch of different jobs. I worked at a store, I ran at a bar. It’s New York; you have to do a bunch of stuff to get it together .” Her mother was in a new relationship; she has a half-brother, who’s” four or five, I don’t know “. At 19 she started her dres line. She sold the clothes in head stores and online( she favor online because she has direct access to her customers and attains more gain ). And then, oddly enough, she moved to Miami.
It was winter 2015. New York was freezing- she’d been living near the water and the wind was icy- and when the lease on her flat came up, she and her flatmate decided to up sticks and move” to the closest warmest place “.
Because they had no friends in Miami, they stayed in a lot and worked; their living room was a studio, with sewing machines, mannequins and a hot press machine. The funny Instagram videos started because” I was trying to entertain myself. I literally was at home alone. Just trying to stimulate myself laugh and trying to keep my spirits up, because I was homesick .”
After nine months in Miami, she went back to New York. And then Baker got in touch.” And- whoosh!- everything changed .”
No wonder she cried when she talked about it. Vinaite’s life has transformed. Still, her body is a testament to her previous existence. I ask her to talk me through her tattoos. It’s hard to know where to start: “INFINITY” on her knuckles. “Chief” on one forefinger-” that’s for when I’m smoking”- and a moustache on the other for more smoking laffs. A pair of knuckledusters on her bum (” my first !”). The logos for the LA Lakers and New York Yankees on her hands. And, on her calves, two naked females being attentively sexually serviced by Death.
She has a breastplate of roses with- argh!- a penetrate on the bone between her breasts.” I can’t take that one out ,” she laughs.” Don’t get pierced when you’re young, folks !”
On her right forearm she has a complicated design to encompas over a musical note; she has superstars under one ear. So many. And around the back of her thighs, where the top of a stocking would be, she has ” Chronical” and “Designs”. There’s no real rhyme or reason to any of them, she says. They were done spontaneously. She might try and “organise” them, get some more roses to cover old ones.
I wonder if any are reminders of people she loves. She wrinkles her nose.” I don’t think I would ever care about a person enough to tattoo them on my body ,” she says.” You have to really care, and I just don’t ever wishes to …”
Vinaite is emotional but not sentimental. Idealistic but pragmatic. Single and happy about it.
” Every daughter has the boyfriends they fall in love with and want to be with ,” she says,” but I’m a realistic person. There isn’t such a thing as for ever. I don’t want to be married. I don’t want to be tied to the same person for the rest of my life. I want to live my life. I want to travel, I want to work. I’ve seen a lot of status of women not be able to be their full potential because they have men holding them back, and I never want to be that female ever in my entire life. I will never set a human first. Like that Harvey Weinstein thing. Hearing those tales stimulated me really upset because I’ve had such an amazing group of men around me. Sean, Willem, Thor, everyone. I can’t imagine being in this industry and having to deal with that, on top of everything else .”
What’s different about Vinaite, I realise, is that she’s playing her own game. Not her mother’s , not a man’s , not Hollywood’s. Though she has a director now, she’s self-motivated and self-made, on every level. She took full advantage of her lucky break, emotionally and career-wise; she’s determined to continue. And there’s no reason why she shouldn’t, says Baker.
” Every one of the actors now on top of their game started somewhere ,” he says.” Bria happened to start with us. She has the knack and she has the acting bug. There’s no reason why she can’t have a great future .”
” I’m all about the future ,” she told me to.” I definitely want to keep working on things that make you feel. So many things are thoughtless, and you’ll watch them, and it’s just a distraction. But I want to make run that I’m proud of. I want to make run that makes people talk, that inspires people. I got so blessed with my first project being so special, and now I understand what that magic is like, I want to do things that make me feel those same feelings again.
” When I’m older, I hope I have a really nice body of work that I’m proud of, and I hope that it’s all films that are impactful, and make a difference. I want to open the world’s eyes in many ways, and I hope I look back and I’m really proud of all the choices I build .”
Ahhhhh, Bria Vinaite deserves all of this and more. I actually hope she gets it.
The Florida Project is out on 10 November