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Yasss Teen: Dive Into Vine With Dylan Collins

The upcoming generation of teens is full of kids who are stars to each other, but inhabit practically a different social universe from adults. They're building their own social media followings on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, you name it -- but to what end? For the olds among us: who are these teens, and how can we be as cool as them? Get to know the most fascinating teens on the internet in our feature, Yasss Teen.

dylan collins 1.jpgOver the course of his four-year career, Vine star Dylan Collins has lead a semi-successful online campaign for president of Brazil, traded barbs on Twitter with Tyler Oakley, and been invited to hang out with Riff Raff. But, most notably, he is the star of The Gringo Vine, which took off in April of this year and inspired hundreds of knockoffs and even more hate in the comments under his Vines.

A native of Jackson, Tennessee, Collins is a rising junior in pre-medicine at Union University in his hometown. We spoke with him over the phone about his Brazilian fans, Vine beef, and turning 20. [This interviewed has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.]
You started making YouTube videos when you were younger, to promote yourself as an actor. Is that when you started putting yourself on the internet and making a social media presence?

Yeah, my social media presence started whenever I was doing the YouTube videos. But I actually had, a couple years before that, tried out for a talent agency called The It Factor for a Disney Channel show called A.N.T. Farm. I don't know if you've ever heard of that show. I believe Jake Short is the actor in it. But I actually won the competition.

Unfortunately, my mother was kind of like, "Yeah, let's go to this audition, let's see how you do," but she wasn't expecting me to actually win the thing, I guess. I won the audition and I made it to the second round, and I went and auditioned for the second round, and got it, too. For the third round, they told us that they were gonna fly us out to California and, unfortunately my mother wasn't a big fan of actually going through with the flying out part, because she didn't want to move away.

I'm sorry to hear that stopped your chances for the show.

Yeah, it was a disappointment, but my mom was more aimed towards school, and said that I need to work harder in school and keep up responsibilities. But it never stopped me. After that I kept going.

What was your reaction to your mom not letting you be on the show? Did you just start putting yourself online?

Yeah. As soon as I figured out that it was not for my mother -- I wasn't rebelling against her, but I wanted to put myself out there. I said, "You know, if I got it to make it to this TV show, I can do it." And I started posting the YouTube videos. I made a Twitter, and a Facebook, and all these different apps. And I started exposing, and just kind of doing different things, and that's where the story starts.

When did your accounts start to grow?

I would say, around 2013 or 2014 is whenever I really shot off on Twitter. It was actually only a couple months ago, whenever my Vine blew up. It went viral.

Because of the gringo vine?

Yeah, it was the gringo vine. There's actually a story behind that, it wasn't just me randomly sitting up there saying I was a gringo. I became famous in Brazil. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, I just randomly became huge in Brazil. I campaigned what was called "Dylan Collins for President," because their government was failing. The president was Dilma [Rousseff], I believe? I thought it was a brilliant idea, "Dylan Collins for President."

It was a joke between me and all the Brazilians, and it started gaining a lot of popularity. Just, a lot. One of their biggest TV programs, Programa Pânico, started airing "Dylan Collins for President" on their actual TV shows. I started getting all these different tour offers, like The Gringo Tour, because "gringo" is like, the white boy or from a different area, from America.

[Ed note: The "government failure" he refers to was actually a series of mass protests and riots against President Dilma Rousseff, sparked by a corruption scandal at the state oil company, led mostly by white, middle-class youth. His fake presidential campaign really was, briefly, successful: it trended third nationally in Brazil, under two anti-Dilma hashtags. We weren't able to find the clip from Programa Pânico; we'll update when we do.]

I made the gringo vine, and Americans saw it, I guess. And Americans, of course, were like, "What is this for?" They didn't understand that I was actually presenting for another country at the time. It kind of blew up in America, and everyone was like, "Who's that gringo? What's a gringo?"

Did the gringo line come from Brazilian fans calling you that?

Yeah, everyone started calling me gringo, Dylan the gringo, then they said they want a gringo tour. So I was like, "My name's Dylan Collins, and I'm a gringo." I just did it to be funny for the Brazilians, and then it ended up being funny for six million people.

Do you remember what on Twitter started getting you a lot of followers, before the Vine thing happened?

Before the Vine thing happened, I was friends with Austin Mahone, who's a singer. It was before he had gotten big, and I started attending the Teen Hoot, which is an event in Nashville, with him and a couple other artists. I started having little meet and greets and stuff like that. I started having different clothing, like the Barnabas clothing, a few other clothing offers. From there, promotions with different artists, just by hanging out with them. I helped Yo Gotti, a rapper, film his [currently unreleased] music video. Him and Starlito, out of Memphis.

yo gotti.jpg(photo via Dylan Collins)

How much time a day do you have to put into your social media presence?

I would definitely say, probably two to three hours, if I'm not coming up with a new idea, such as a new vine, or a YouTube video. On those days, it takes the entire day to basically dedicate and come up with different ideas. You gotta find engaging stuff. You gotta be original, that's my thing. You always need to be original and that's kind of what some of my vines are about. Not being able to do the TV show pushed me to keep trying and keep trying. But it also showed me that, if I could do it, then so could everyone else. So it encouraged me to push towards encouraging other people. So many people say, "How do you make the vines?" I can't tell them anything besides, "Be yourself."

Does it bother you online when you see big popular accounts recycling material or stealing jokes?

No, the only thing that really bothers me is a lot of the big MagCon, the bigger people. I used to be helping them and they actually tweeted out my videos, and exposed me across social media. A lot of their followers were kind of just dissing me out. I have a sandwich vine, it's like, "Sorry, I fell asleep while I was waiting on you to go make me a sandwich." They were tweeting [negatively] about it, and that was the only thing that got to me. But it was publicity, that's the way I look at that.

I noticed you got some negative feedback on that vine from Tyler Oakley and Andrea Russett, in specific. Did that have an impact on you aside from publicity? How did you feel about their criticism?

I wasn't actually even sure who they were, at the time. I kind of looked them up a little bit more, and I started remembering about Tyler Oakley -- he came out, not too long ago. I just remembered what he had been through.

One thing I never did is I never went on anyone's social media site, ever, through all of my posts, and criticized anyone else. So to me, it was a little bit saddening to see how another artist or someone else in the entertainment industry to do that. But it didn't stop me. It encouraged me to keep going.

I kinda joked back with them on social media, like, "You're right, I'm cancelling all my tours."But overall, it kind of encouraged me. It showed me that, hey, all of these people are working together and they're trying to do one thing, and they're all in it together. It's like they're all this one big bunch. But hey -- I'm going viral without any of them. They're all working together to be viral.

I've been reading about all these vine stars that live in L.A., coincidentally on Vine Street, and making all these videos together and living together. Would that be something interesting to you, living with other internet stars and working together with them?

I see myself as more independent. I wouldn't mind doing different collabs, but I definitely wouldn't want to be referenced to always being connected, like the MagCon group. I'm not hating on the MagCon group, it's very successful. But for me, I would be more independent. Just to show individuality, show how everyone can be different, and keep it more of that level.

Do you have a goal that you want to accomplish with your presence?

Well, in school, I'm studying pre-medicine. It's my third year of pre-medicine. [Working as an entertainer] isn't necessarily something I'm working towards. I'm not working every day to try and become something. But I started noticing, if I said, "Hey everyone, go buy this coffee," everyone would tweet back pictures of them buying that specific type of coffee. And it showed me how much influence I really have on social media. Sometimes it can be a little scary; I could be like, "I'm at this place, getting this," and the next time someone else is there, they're taking pictures: "Look where I am." I'm just like, I didn't know it was that big of a deal. I was just Snapchatting a picture.

I don't really have an overall goal. I guess it's just to influence everyone, hopefully correctly. I like helping people, like different upcoming people, on YouNow or different sites like that, I try to help them and promote them. The first thing someone says to me if they're upcoming: "Can I have a shoutout? Can I have a shoutout?" And to me, it doesn't bother me. I love helping out other people like that.

How do your parents feel about your social media presence now?

They definitely think it's interesting, and they find it quite funny. They're kind of in the same situation of asking, "What do I want out of it?" They're asking if I'm wanting, basically, if I'm gonna move away and try and go do something with it, or if I'm gonna stick to the plan with what I'm doing. They support me, though, 100 percent.

I don't know if you've noticed, but on Vine I get a lot of hate, randomly. I don't know exactly it all started that way. I guess with the gringo vine. My parents ask me how I deal with it. They tell me, "I would not be able to read those Vine comments, how do you keep doing it?" And I just tell them, "It doesn't matter." I'm just continuing to do what I'm doing and wherever it leads, it leads.

Is the Vine hate mostly targeted at the gringo line?

It started on the gringo line, and it moved. It's a lot of negative comments all across. It's kind of like, my Twitter is all about more of me, and being able to influence people better, and the Vine is more of like, everyone's seen the gringo vine and they're like, "Who is this kid? Is he another MagCon guy?" Trying to figure me out. Even my "Be yourself" vine, one of my most popular, even that gets hate.

Not all hate, there's a lot of people who support it, obviously. People that follow me. But I believe the hate's from the people that tweeted it out, Tyler and all of them and their following. Followers, they listen to artists, they listen to people who have influence. If I say, "Hey, this is what this is," then most of the time, people are gonna catch on and they're gonna start to believe it. They're gonna approve of it.

But these artists tweeting them out, their followers are going to be impacted, and their views becoming not necessarily what their view would be if they just followed me. Their minds are getting altered. People look up to these people. People look up to Tyler Oakley and Andrea Russett -- and to me, with people you look up to, there shouldn't be downing someone else. That's my opinion about it.

How do you describe your brand online?

More uplifting, and originality. I like the originality of it. Everyone started making gringo vine remakes. Everyone else was trying to be like, "My name's such and such and I'm a gringo!" I'd say it's more comedy and uplifting. I don't think anyone can say their name and say that they're a gringo without laughing in the video.

What's the coolest thing that's happened to you because of your social media presence?

I got to work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Disney On Ice. I got to take pictures with different kids, and go work and do photography and social media exposure promoting the event, and things like that.

disney on ice.jpg(photo via Dylan Collins)

With all of the tension - and since you don't necessarily think you'll go into entertainment as a career - do you think that you'll ever step back from social media?

That's a tough question. Ever since my mom stopped me from doing the TV show, it's kind of pushed me towards social media.

Even if you do end up pursuing medicine as a career?

I guess I could say that things change, and I'm a changing person, and maybe I won't pursue it as often. I'm a junior in school right now, so I've got a couple years left until I finish up with my pre-medicine track.

It's a hard position to be in. I also turned 20 this year. It's hard figuring out what you're going to do with the rest of everything.

It is, it is. And the fame thing, it kind of just came on. It wasn't something, like, all these other people, they're made videos every single week of their lives for the last three years. I've put up, you know, five to seven videos over the last two years. All these other people are vining with some of the biggest viners of all time. I'm kinda just doin' me. It just kinda came on. It just kinda stuck to me. I'm in a spot where it's like, "Uhhhh, what do I do? What am I doing with my life?"

How did you come to hang out with Riff Raff recently?

On Vine, everyone was talking about how my smile is kinda like Riff Raff's, and they're like, "Are you Riff Raff's brother?" And so his PR contacted me, and they told me how he was gonna be in Nashville, and asked if I wanted to go up there and go on the tour bus and listen to some of his new songs coming out, just take pictures and do social media exposure with him. I went up there and did it and had a great time. It was a lot of fun.

How do you decide how to follow on social media?

On Twitter, I like to follow people who are active. People who are not just there for the show. People that I influence. People who appreciate me. So, whenever I see people and they're tweeting out my links, or they're helping me with whatever I'm doing. You can tell. To me, whenever I have people tweeting me, I can see the difference. It's not that everyone doesn't want a follow, 'cause I'll get a million people, "Follow me, follow me, follow me!" But there's a difference in someone who actually looks up to you. And in the way that they're presenting themselves.

How did you verification on Twitter come about?

I got verified in 2014. I contacted the co-founder of Twitter, actually. It's really random. I just tried his email. I told him about who I was, and asked if there was any specific process, and he linked me up with someone and within 24 hours I was verified.

Wow. That's pretty cool. I don't know if you're familiar, but there's this movie called Follow Friday: The Film about someone who, among other things, travels to the Twitter headquarters and meets with people there to try and get verified. And she still isn't verified.

I know that a lot of my friends have asked me - different viners with way more following than me, like millions of followers - and they'll ask how I got verified, and I'll help some of them out and give them the email that I used, and they don't get verified. I'm not sure exactly if I was the lucky little choice that got picked out, or how that exactly worked. But there's a lot of hardworking viners that don't get verified.

What do you use to communicate with people that you know IRL?

Facebook and Twitter, mostly, for people from high school. When I was in high school, my Facebook really blew up. I've seen people actually telling me to sign their shoes in the hallway.

What are the most important things to you outside of social media?

School, and keeping my friends feeling important. A lot of times, between school and social media, it's hard to juggle the social life outside of the family, too. I have 450 text messages, and my friends are like, "Hey, why haven't you responded?" I've been busy doing this, and this. I like to dedicate a lot of my time to school, and just my friends.

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