Student quits school, finds fame on Vine
Memphis, once home to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, is now home to the King of Vine, 21-year-old Darius Benson.
Currently spending his days playing dress up, talking to himself, and capturing it all in six-second videos, Benson takes the “Do it for the Vine” saying to a whole new level. Vine is an app that allows users to create looping videos to share with their friends.
With nothing but an iPhone and a dream, this Memphian started using Vine in May 2013. By the end of that summer he had reached 20,000 followers; today he has more than 2 million.
His 6-foot stature and elaborate beanie collection are not the only things that attract viewers. The real crowd pleaser is the way he’s able to turn everyday situations into a comical six-second videos.
“Darius Benson is one of the funniest dudes I know,” David McKinnie, a 21-year-old U of M student, said. “He’s good, but it’s still crazy how quickly he became famous.”
Benson started this journey very confident in his skills, but had no idea how people would react to his Vine videos.
“It all happened pretty fast,” Benson said. “I wanted to be recognized, but I didn’t realize how much I would be recognized. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
Benson said that though his fame has affected many areas of his life positively, the more he becomes devoted to his Vine creations and entertaining, the more strained his relationship with his father becomes.
His father, Alvin Benson, former chief of the Memphis Fire Department and current chief of the Shelby County Fire Department, views his son’s Vine videos as a fruitless waste of time and a distraction from his future. He wants his son to consider going back to college sooner and putting his entertainment career on hold.
“I want to be proud of his accomplishments, but more than that I want Darius to make a real future for himself,” Alvin Benson said. “He would have made a great engineer.”
Benson was an engineer major at the University of Memphis until May 2013. When his Vine hobby turned into lucrative career, he decided to put his education on hold.
When Benson reached 100,000 followers, large companies began offering him payment to promote their products via his Vines. Benson has made 20 promotional Vines in the past two years for companies including Pepsi and Gillette.
To keep his promotional Vines entertaining, Benson said he tries to incorporate the products into a pre-existing Vine idea. In the Gillette promo, he humorously illustrates the downfall of trusting to all weathermen. In response to the weatherman predicting sunshine, Benson is shown using Gillette products to shave his head bald; only he walks outside and its snowing.
Each promotional Vine earns him anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. He said as his amount of followers increases, companies are willing to offer him more money for each promo.
Six months after Benson began using Vine, he signed a contract in Collab, a network designed solely to help Vine users make the transition to YouTube. Under the contract, Benson is required to ask his Vine followers what kind of videos they want to see on his YouTube, post said video to his YouTube, and then promote that video on Vine. Since the agreement with Collab, Benson also has gained 40,000 YouTube subscribers.
Benson said he knows realistically he cannot rely on social media to bring home the bacon forever. He hopes to eventually have a career as a live entertainer. He is inspired by the work of musician, comedian and actor Donald Glover and wants to pursue a similar career path.
This summer Benson plans to take a leap of faith and move to Los Angeles. Benson said he was influenced to make the move by other social media influencers who have moved to Los Angeles and made measurable strides toward a successful career in entertainment.
Benson admits that he is a little intimidated by what comes next, but is ready for the challenge.
“There isn’t a guidebook for this,” Benson said. “What I’m doing is outside of the normal realm. I guess I have no choice but to make my own guidebook and to walk my own path.”