It’s not hard to find a young person who knows social media like the back of their hand — or cracked iPhone screen. What’s not so common, though, is someone who has established a career and gained a massive following from a social media app that only lets you post videos in six-second increments.
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Jay Versace has done just that — and he’s not even 20 years old.
Versace first blew up on Vine, but before he found himself with over 2 billion loops from his comedic sketches and now-distinctive facial expressions and wigs, he never expected he would one day earn a living making other people laugh.
Versace had other plans in mind. But for that, you’ll just have to keep on reading.
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AwesomenessTV: Did you always know you wanted to work in comedy?
Jay Versace: No. I actually thought I was going to be a photographer, or an artist or something. I never thought about comedy ever.
ATV: What about when you got your start on Vine?
JV: It just randomly happened. I was just like, “Okay, let’s just see where it goes,” and it went far.
ATV: When did people at school start to recognize your Vine success?
JV: World Star Hip Hop is this website where all the viral videos go, and one of my videos was on World Star. I went into school one day, and literally people were walking into me like, “We seen you! We seen you! What were you doing on World Star?” and I was just sitting there like, “Wait, what?” From there it was just like, from people at school to people when I went to the mall [recognizing me]. Just crazy.
ATV: Who were your comedic influences growing up?
JV: Rickey Smiley, Will Smith, Tyler Perry, and Eddie Murphy. I still go to their films and stuff for motivation because it’s so refreshing looking at them, at their stuff.
ATV: Last year The New York Times mentioned you and your career a lot in a piece about black comedy losing its home when Vine shut down. What do you think about that?
JV: I liked it because I felt like at least I’m getting appreciation for what I did do. I’d already told everybody, “I think Vine’s not going to be here for a while and everybody should go switch. If you want to still watch my videos, switch to blah, blah, blah.” And everybody did, it was very smooth; I feel like I still have the same fan base [on Instagram that I did on Vine]. So when I saw that article I was like, “This is appreciation for what was.”
ATV: What’s the best part about what you do?
JV: The fact that I can just be myself and literally change the world. Like people just want to see somebody living their life and getting through things and relating to other people and having fun at the same time. And that’s all I’m doing and that’s the best part about it, like I don’t have to put any work in, like nothing’s really hard.
ATV: Since you started on Vine, how have you seen the digital world change? Is there anything you wish was different?
JV: I feel like there’s a lot of creative, talented people that came from Vine and Instagram. There’s a lot of really good actors that came from these apps. I feel like they should have more opportunities, and I just feel like the right people aren’t getting the opportunities and the people who are actually putting all the work in there are not getting credibility. I just feel like the people who work in TV and all those things, they should start integrating more creators than they already do.
ATV: Do you think there should be more of a merge between traditional media and what’s going on in the digital world?
JV: They’re already starting to do it, but I just feel like I see so many talented people and I’m just wishing the best for them. I’m like, “I really hope you get far.” There’s a lot of crazy, different, unique personalities on the internet, and we need fresh faces in the acting world. So why not, ya know?
ATV: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
JV: The best piece of advice that I’ve ever gotten is when I saw my grandmom for the last time, when I was leaving New Jersey to [go to] L.A. by myself. I was 18 years old and I was scared out of my mind. I had seen her because my grandmom was really sick and she didn’t know that I was leaving; she didn’t understand.
I’m like, “Grandmom, I’m leaving, I’m going to be living in L.A. now,” and she’s basically telling me, “You better give it all you’ve got.” And every time I wanna give up I always think of that, ’cause she passed away so I’m always thinking about what she said. That’s one of the best pieces of advice because I use it whenever I’m sad.