If you've seen the pastel-hued sensation that is The Florida Project, chances are you, like me, fell in love with Halley – the blue-haired, weed-smoking, heavily tattooed single mum at its centre. Aesthetically, Halley and Bria Vinaite (the actress who plays her) are pretty much the same person. Vinaite’s ever-changing hair is currently bright red, but the tattoos are all hers, and her Instagram stories – which I watch religiously before going to bed every night – mostly feature her smoking blunts while she listens to Migos.
Fittingly, it was Instagram that led to her being discovered by The Florida Project director Sean Baker, who decided to base the lead role of his film on her. After auditioning several A-list actors for the part, he ended up casting Vinaite in her first ever acting role. It was her playful attitude that caught Baker’s eye, which hasn’t changed at all despite her sudden rise to fame. When I called her up for a FaceTime session from her flat in Brooklyn, she immediately proclaimed her love for my bright orange acrylic nails and, with my heart aflutter, we got down to talking about books, broken bones and BBQ wings.
VICE: What was your worst phase?
Bria Vinaite: Probably when I was 16. I was just a little crazy. I didn't really go to school much and I went out a lot. At 16, that's not something you should be doing.
I feel like a lot of the best people I know did the same.
Yeah, I feel when you do that you have so much more life experience, and then by the time you're in your early twenties you don't go out as much. It's so hard to get me to go out-out – I won't do it.
How many books have you actually read and finished in the past year? Don't lie.
Honestly a lot! I would say I read around 50 books a year, sometimes more.
What conspiracy theory do you believe?
That aliens are real. You know, it's so crazy – I have to show you this [walks to other side of her apartment and shows me a keychain]. It literally says "aliens are real and the government is hiding them". Someone sent it to me!
What do you think they look like?
I've read a lot of things from people who claim they've seen aliens and shit, and I never believe what they say. I don't think they look like what we think they look like. I also think they might be smart enough to know how to blend in enough that we don't notice them. They might just be like particles in the air, you know what I mean? We don't fucking know what the fuck they look like, so how are we gonna try say they look anything like anything humans have seen? I'm excited to find out, though, when the day comes.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
On the fucking flight to go film The Florida Project. I was watching an animated movie, I think it was Zootopia, the one with the little bunny, and I started crying hysterically. This guy was sitting next to me and he tapped me on the shoulder, and he was like, "Are you OK?" And I was like [howling] "No!" and I just started talking to him. It was the last half-hour of the flight. He calmed me down, and I felt a lot better.
In the past month, what is the latest you've slept in?
You know what's really fucked up? Something is wrong with me – no matter how late I go to sleep, I still wake up really early. I went to sleep at like 6.30AM the other day and I had nothing to do the next day and I woke up at 10AM. I can’t sleep past like 10.30AM. I’m not a morning person – my day usually starts at like 9 or 10, but sleeping anything past that freaks me the fuck out.
What is the nicest thing you own?
I think my plant Roger, because he's like my best friend. He's just a really nice thing to have around.
Did you grow him from a baby?
No, I wish. But he's the only plant I've ever managed to keep alive, so I'm proud of that.
What would be your last meal?
Am I dying?
Wow, OK. There's this really good barbecue place in Brooklyn that's called Dinosaur BBQ. I'd probably get their chipotle garlic wings and a really big plate of their potato salad, and collard greens and probably mac n cheese. Just the whole spread.
If you were a wrestler, what song would you come into the ring to?
"Interlude" by Quality Control with Offset and Lil Yachty.
What's the grossest injury or illness you've ever had?
I broke three bones in my wrist and two healed back, but one didn't, so it's still sort of broken.
How did you do it?
I was a little drunk... and I fell off a really large stage and landed on my wrist. I was sooooo lit that I thought that I was fine. My wrist was so swollen, but I'd never broken anything before so I thought it was just sprained, but the next day I woke up and I was smoking so much weed and it wasn't helping, and I tried to pick up this tiny magazine and my wrist gave out, so I went to the doctor and he did an X-ray and was like, "Girl, how high is your pain tolerance? You have three broken bones!"
Do you think drugs can make you happy?
What kind of drugs?
Any and all.
I think they can be a quick fix, but not something you should depend on for happiness.
What's going on with this vape you're smoking? It looks really high tech.
Oh my god, it's called the JUUL and I'm obsessed! I'll go somewhere and I'll see someone else smoking one and we'll, like, nod at each other [laughs]. It comes with different flavour pods and I really like the mango one; it tastes really good. It's also stopped me from smoking cigarettes so much, which is good. I went from a pack a day to a pack every week-and-a-half, so I’m proud of myself.
What film or TV show makes you cry?
The last episode of The OA. It's about this girl who was blind and then she became not blind, and she was held hostage by this scientist because she had a near death experience.
What's the latest you've stayed up?
I've gone days without sleeping. The worst was when we were in London for the London Film Festival premiere. We did this huge red carpet, then I was like "I wanna go out!" so I went out, got in at 6.45AM and had to be up at 7.15AM for hair and make-up. In my head I thought it was a good idea to have a nap, but it really wasn't. That was the most work I've done on such a little amount of sleep.
I would have cried.
My eyelids felt so heavy. It's so good having hair and make-up artists in these situations, though. The other day I got food poisoning and I was flying out to go straight into hair and make-up to accept an award after projectile vomiting for six hours straight. I went in and told the lady what was up, and was like, "I really don't think there's much you can do, I look so sick," and when I got out I looked at myself after and I was like "WOW". I felt so sick but I looked amazing.
What’s the closest you’ve come to having a stalker?
I haven't had a stalker yet, but I have posted where I'm at on my story and then... oh my god, I will never forget this. I was at this fucking fried chicken restaurant and I fucking just woke up, smoked a blunt – like, I looked like a fucking nut job: sweatpants, hair in a bun, looking crazy – and I went to get food with my friends. We called an Uber, and when we stepped out of the car there were these three dudes taking photos on these huge cameras, and I'm like, "That's not for me!" and then the next day I look online and see these photos of me looking like shit, and it blew my mind. I was like, 'Wow, I really have to go outside looking cute.'
That would really piss me off.
I'm lucky I live in Brooklyn, because I don't really get bothered in my own area by people taking pictures of me. Like, people say hi to me and stuff, but that's fine. I don't think I would ever move back into the city. On the opening weekend of the film I was walking around with no make-up, doing errands, and people were coming up to me and I was so angry because I never wanna seem like a jerk, so anyone who came up to me for a picture I was like, Sure!" But then after, I see it on Instagram and I'm like, 'I look so gross and you're straight tagging me on that shit!'
What memory from school stands out to you stronger than any other?
My favourite teacher of all time was my fourth grade teacher. Her name was Ms Laro and I loved her so much – she was the fucking best. One day she called on me for something and I accidentally called her mom in front of the whole class and I didn't live it down for the whole year.
If you had to give up sex or kissing, which would it be?
I mean, I don't do either at the moment, so both. But honestly, I'd rather give up sex because I don't have it enough to need it.