Six Seconds of Fame: An Interview With Vine Star Jessi Smiles

PHOTO: Jessi Smiles on Vine

There are many different ways people get famous these days. You can get mommy and daddy to pay for a really bad music video to publish on YouTube or you can do something that is super adorable and funny because you’re a baby. But not everyone is rich or still breastfeeding. So you've got to be creative and make something happen.

But if you were thinking of coming up with something clever and posting it on Twitter, you are stuck in 2009. Say hello to Vine - a growing social media monster available for download on smartphones.

Vine users, or viners, have found an enormous community of millions of people sharing videos in a raw and unedited format since you cannot just upload that “super sweet” video of some homemade lightsaber action you put together on After Effects; it’s all on the spot with your phone/device camera. Like Twitter, your posts are short and sweet (six seconds max) and hopefully you’ll gain followers beyond your grandma and that weirdo that’s liked you since 5th grade. The most popular viners have gained followers in the hundreds of thousands but a select few have reached the million mark. And even fewer have done that in four weeks time.

Meet Jessica Vazquez, Vine’s superstar princess from Miami, Fl who just recently hit her millionth follower. Posting daily as Jessi Smiles, the 20-year-old Cuban-American has used her sense of humor and charm to gain her enormous following; it also probably helps that she’s gorgeous. Along the rise, she has partnered with other big Viners, had celebrity cameos, and took followers along for the ride that was her love life.

Jessi and another super viner named Curtis Lepore began flirting through Vine and twitter with things getting serious after a few weeks. Seemingly out of an episode of MTV’s Catfish, Jessi decided to meet Curtis in person by flying to New York City while Curtis was visiting on business from L.A.

The event known as #curtisandjessimeet resulted in thousands of fans showing up at the meeting spot in Washington Square Park on Sunday, August 4th just to see these two love birds meet face-to-face for the first time. I wasn't kidding when I said it was out of an episode of Catfish, because host Nev Schuman was even there to crash the meetup.

I got a chance to talk with Jessi Smiles about her big date in the park and her sudden rise to social media fame:

Gabriel Morales: First Jessi, congrats on your million followers! How did that moment feel when you hit that 1 million?

Jessie Smiles: Oh, I freaked! (laughs) I absolutely freaked, it was such a quick climb for me, and it was a surreal moment to actually see that “1M” and then having them (Vine) verify me right after. So it was a really cool moment, a million people is a lot of people so I was really excited.

Gabriel: You do so many collaborations with big Viners, which all of you seem to do, is there some elite Vine club we don’t know about?

Jessi: Yeah, everyone wonders how we all know each other. We just found each other through Vine. Simon Rex first found me, he told me he was in Miami and wanted to collab (how cool people say collaborate) so he really got me started. We just contact each other through twitter and trade numbers. It’s so funny. I have more numbers of Viners than I do of people I don’t know through Vine. It’s really cool because Vine has such an awesome community of people.

Gabriel: So a little over a week ago, you had a very special day when you met your guy for the first time in person along with thousands of your followers. How did you and Curtis meet?

Jessi: That night when I hit 10,000 (followers), me and a couple of friends thought, “Hey, let’s make #twerkforjessismiles and get it trending.” I think that’s how he found me because it was the number one trending topic and then he started commenting on all my stuff! I put on one post, “I just farted,” or something stupid like that and he posted back, “Oh my god, I love you.” He started following me and I freaked out. Ever since then it was flirty comments to each other, he tweeted me his number, then we were FaceTiming...it started with this cute flirty thing and then we both thought, “Wait, I actually like you.”

Gabriel: So then you decided to meet in New York and make it official?

Jessi: When our management found out that we were going to meet, they told us we have to make this into an event. It wasn’t meant to be that big of a thing so I was nervous about it. I thought there would be a lot people there to see us meet so I didn’t feel too comfortable about that. But it turned out amazing, it was a lot of fun.

Gabriel: Weren’t there thousands of people that showed up at Washington Square Park?

Jessi: Yes, which was bizarre and so nerve-wrecking! Because even though I was into drama in high school, I was never the lead role. So the fact that SO many people came out and everyone knew who I was and who Curtis was...it was such an amazing thing and they were so loving and cared so much for us.

Gabriel: So that is when you realized you were popular?

Jessi: Yeah! My friend reminded me that I wasn’t even popular in high school. So it was weird when a bunch of people on Twitter asked me to be their best friend. Granted, I know people were just interested because I had so many followers, but a lot of them were genuine people that are like, “You’re so cool, let’s hang out.” so that’s pretty amazing.

Gabriel: Speaking of high school, were you always the funny girl?

Jessi: I was always cracking jokes, anyone can tell you that. If tomorrow Vine dies, I’m still gonna be that funny girl. It’s in my blood, I guess. I just crack jokes naturally and it sucks sometimes because I kind of do it during serious situations but it’s just the way I deal with things. It’s better to get by with the things in life if you can laugh about them, you know?

Gabriel: I think it’s that awkward/quirkiness that makes you so lovable.

Jessi: Thank you!

Gabriel: So do you get noticed now?

Jessi: All the time! I know in L.A. or Times Square there are a lot of people but I did not expect to be recognized with my huge sunglasses on. Even in Miami, I went to a Chipotle and we ended up not eating there because I freaked out about being verified (for the one million followers) and ran out of the store. So I decided to get sushi but I even got recognized there, and at a Starbucks. I wasn’t expecting this part of it, I don’t claim to be famous but people actually know me so it’s weird getting used to. Now I have to start wearing make-up wherever I go, which sucks, but it’s an amazing experience.

Gabriel: Have you gotten any endorsements?

Jessi: Anyone who knows anything about marketing knows that where there’s millions of people watching, there are companies endorsing and pushing their products. I’ve gotten plenty of brand deals and it’s gotten bigger as my audience has grown. But I’m not so fond of kinda “selling out” with product placements here and there, you know what I mean? I’ve been hesitant but if my fans love me, they want me to be successful! (laughs) I’m gonna be smart about it, I’ve provided my followers with posts of me being raw and funny. So, I’m going to see how this works out.

Gabriel: So with this kind of fame, comes ALOT of haters. How have been dealing with that?

Jessi: It’s been so hard, I can’t even lie about it. People mock me for having thin skin but they don’t realize that this jump happened for me in four weeks time. A little over four weeks ago, I had 3,000 followers. And I just hit a million. So this whole jump has come with not only an overwhelming amount of love but an overwhelming amount of hate. And it has been extremely hard to adjust to. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I’ve tried everything from not reading the comments, turning off my phone, I deleted the app once. As of now, I block hundreds of people a day. If you are rude, I delete your comment and block you.

Gabriel: On Instagram, you have a great quote, “Don’t let people tell you to dim your light just because it’s shining in their eyes.”

Jessi: Everyone has their own dark side, some people have just been rude and mean just so I can notice them! Some people have told me I sucked, then when I responded, they would reply with, “No no, I love you! I just wanted to get your attention.” I guess people think they don’t get noticed when they’re nice so they have to be mean to get attention.

Gabriel: Do you think Instagram video will kill Vine?

Jessi: Not at all. You’ve got people making the effort with these six second movies that are really interesting and great to watch. Instagram video kind of sucks because you can just upload video which takes away from that raw, in-the-moment feel. I could go, “oh I have pimples on my face” and just use filters. I don’t like that! Instagram is a great app, I do believe that it’s great for pictures. I’ll be there forever, but it doesn’t have that solid group of people that are as great and supportive of me as Vine does. It took me forever to get to a thousand followers on Instagram. On Vine, it took me a month to get to a million.

Gabriel: So what’s next for Jessi Smiles?

Jessi: When I met Pharrell Williams, he sat me down and said, “Jessi! Two year plan, go!” and I honestly couldn’t answer him. I would love to move to L.A., not just for Curtis because we’re fine with the long distance thing, but for the opportunities in acting and comedy. I love acting, I did it all through high school. I’d love to do movies, romantic comedies, something like Tosh.0.

Gabriel: -or Girl Code?

Jessi: Everyone has been telling me I should be on that show! I have no clue what it is, I don’t watch tv, I just watch Vine. I tweeted about it, I said that all I want to know is if I can talk about farting while getting free food.

Gabriel: Would you consider a Jessi Smiles product line? Maybe a catch phrase?

Jessi: I dunno, I always thought who would buy something like that? Maybe my whole, “Stick it in your butt!” from my Vine post. I got recognized with that in the street. If I were to put that on a t-shirt, I’d probably crack up.

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