Improbable as it may seem, Bria Vinaite can soon say she starred in an Oscar-nominated film. That would be The Florida Project, her first acting role of any kind. She used to be a ganjapreneur, which is how director Sean Baker discovered her.
Scrolling Instagram one day, he happened upon Vinaite’s account @chronicflowers. Vinaite was a popular follow within the cannabis community, so much so that Dazed Digital called her “Instagram’s marijuana merch queen.” On her feed, she would be smoking joints, flippantly telling others what to do to make her happy, and promoting her cannabis-themed fashion line, Chronical Designs.
She sold hats, T-shirts, bikinis, socks, you name it. It wasn’t what Vinaite wanted to do as a career, but she says it paid the bills for a few years.
“I was kind of annoyed that it was so particular,” she told Vanity Fair. “But there’s a market for it, and I feel like at the time that I was coming out with it there wasn’t any, like, funky girl brands that were up to date with the cuts.”
Baker slid into her DMs—literally. Messaging back and forth, they gauged each other’s interest. As an independent filmmaker, Baker was critically lauded but popularly to the masses. Vinaite wasn’t sure if he was another try-hard dude making stuff up.
“She was self-deprecating, she had the physicality and rebellious nature…” Baker told the Guardian.
Vinaite eventually accepted Baker was being genuine and agreed to be in his movie. She watched all his other films in one day and flew down to Miami for the summer. Six weeks before shooting started, she underwent a crash course in theatrics with an acting coach, preparing herself for some of the emotionally devastating scenes in The Florida Project.
Without her the movie wouldn’t quite come together. She provides the harsh, but necessary reality check whenever the movie dips into the more fantastical elements involved in being kid. Though you wish her character Hailey would just change her ways, you understand why she doesn’t.
All that is a credit to Vinaite. She went from a cannabis entrepreneur to starring in Oscar-worthy films, with a little thanks to Instagram. According to IMDb, she’ll have a part in director Harmony Kormine’s Spring Breakers follow-up, The Beach Bums. Chances are, you’ll recognize her when you see her.
“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,” Vinaite told the Guardian. “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 make.”