DAVIDSON, N.C. -- Nash Grier needed just 12 minutes to win the loyalty of 1.4 million people.
A 15-year-old Davidson Day sophomore, he has rocketed to online fame with the Twitter-powered app called Vine, in which users post six-second, looping videos.
That means each step along the way – he has posted 124 Vines since April – took about as long as it takes to read this sentence.
Nash is the 26th most-followed person in the world on Vine, according to rankzoo.com. He recently passed Ellen DeGeneres (1.2 million followers), and he’s 35 spots ahead of Miley Cyrus, 60 in front of Justin Bieber.
He gains about 100,000 followers a week, so by the time you read this, he might have reached 1.5 million. He has followers from Australia to Saudi Arabia and international businesses are courting him for branding possibilities.
How do you get the attention of a million people with six seconds? Top Viners do comedy, from one-liners to outlandish personas. Nash does a little of all of it.
His Vines are a mix of adolescent humor and angst, song parodies and slapstick. He describes them as “upbeat stuff that’s kinda wild and makes people laugh.
“Originality is the biggest thing.”
He says he has a hard time fathoming one million people watching his videos.
“It just stuns me every time I try to think about it.”
What does he do with six seconds?
He keeps a long list of ideas – they come “usually on the fly” – on his iPhone. Production is another matter.
Some take mere minutes: Last week, he and 4-year-old sister Skylynn sang six seconds of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” and got some 375,000 likes and 300,000 “re-Vines” (others posting the video on their own feeds). Nash said the video took 2 or 3 minutes to produce.
Others take hours. In one, he yells “shotgun” for a car ride, then dashes, swims and skateboards to claim the front seat. That took two hours, since he did the stunts three times before getting it all right.
Christianity figures among his topics, as do kittens. Among his most popular is a video of him asking Skylynn what’s wrong with America. In a thick Southern twang, she answers: “They. Need. Jesus.” Nash gives an “Amen!” Another opens with a clip from Katy Perry’s “Roar,” then shows Nash clutching a mewing kitten.
Taste varies, too. He uses plenty of bathroom humor. He’s done some ethnic caricatures, including one he felt the need to hashtag with #notaracist and #iloveallpeople.
Not all his videos are G-rated, said his dad, Chad Grier, who’s also football coach at Davidson Day, but he doesn’t think his son has crossed a line. “Some are PG-13, but never R.”
Twitter launched Vine this January – later specifying those downloading must be 17 (Nash’s family knows he uses the app).
Getting a million followers is rare: With more than 40 million users, 48 to date have hit the 1-million milestone. And these aren’t A-list celebrities. The only person ahead of Nash you might have heard of is Harry Styles, the young British singer from pop band One Direction.
Nash’s own Vine fame almost didn’t happen.
He downloaded the app this spring, then took a break from all social media. He only returned to Vine to show a friend a video of someone drop-kicking something (he doesn’t remember what), then started playing around.
He got his big break in mid-July, when Tiffiny Semashko, a high school student in Arkansas with about 300,000 followers at the time, re-Vined his “They. Need. Jesus.” About three weeks later, he said he had 200,000-plus followers.
“It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and just hasn’t stopped.”
Hurry -- with patience
Scott Pacitti, founder and leader of The Chuckleheads improv troupe in Charlotte, said it’s interesting to watch the evolution of humor.
“I think the younger generation …it’s very normal for them to either watch people or be on camera,” he said, adding that popular TV shows like Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” routinely feature homemade videos.
While no one can definitively say what makes Nash’s videos so popular, their comedic situations – often mundane moments or visual puns – along with their relevance to young people and his oft-commented-on blue eyes are part of the recipe.
Local stand-up comic Tom Stover frowns at people’s shortened attention spans, but does enjoy funny Vines. “Most of it’s original. You definitely have to find your own voice.”
Stover said crafting a perfect six-second Vine isn’t easy, because there’s no way to edit with the app: It’s a one-take format and mistakes can’t be fixed. “That takes an incredible amount of patience,” he said.
Nash holds his iPhone in front of his face, hits the record button and says, “ Stair-diving.”
He and his brother Hayes, 13, have stuffed pillows into their shirts and pants and donned random layers of clothing, towels, even football padding. “Usually the dumber we look, the funnier it is,” Nash says.
They deliberate about how to jump into the empty baby pool at the top of the stairs and settle on a running start from the hall around the corner.
That’s a typical evening in the Grier household as Nash executes a Vine.
Businesses, both national and international, have taken notice of Nash. He said he gets a few emails or phone calls a day from prospective managers, people wanting him to promote their brand or others asking for a license to use his videos.
His family is working with an attorney to sort out next steps. “We’re going to have to put an end to it,” said his father of the constant requests. “I want Nash to be Nash.”
Among the groups who have approached Nash is Viral Spiral, a London company that connects international brands, creative agencies, production companies and publishers with viral content. For example, said Viral’s Ben Zola in an email, they manage everything surrounding the “Charlie Bit Me” YouTube video, which has led to a web series, merchandise and an app.
And Nash’s videos have attracted a demographic that advertisers are quick to capitalize on.
“You will doubtless be un-surprised to hear that ‘tweeners’ represent an extremely powerful (and) valuable demographic to marketeers and advertisers of all strands,” Zola wrote.
Nash said he’s hopeful for opportunities beyond Vine, and he’s also planning to start posting longer videos on YouTube. He’s reading up on how to edit videos now.
‘He never brings it up’
Talking in his dad’s living room, Nash is polite and almost soft-spoken. He seems enthusiastic about crafting interesting videos, and less wrapped up in the craze of it.
Teacher Julie Brown, who has Nash in her Advanced Placement biology and honors zoology classes, says the attention hasn’t gone to his head.
“He doesn’t have this huge ego. He’s very self-effacing,” she said. “In class, he never mentions it, he never brings it up.”
Nash is the middle child of three brothers, and his parents say the three are close. If you watch Nash’s Vines, you’ll see his brothers, Will and Hayes. Hayes often shoots for Nash, too.
Nash is a perfectionist, says his mother, Elizabeth Grier-Floyd. Often, he’ll spend a lot of time on a Vine but won’t post it if he doesn’t think it’s good enough.
His new-found fame still surprises her.
“We’re in a restaurant having lunch after church, and two or three girls come up to the table and say, ‘Nash, can we get a picture?’” she says, sighing. “At a football game, 40 people came over from the other side of the field to get pictures. It’s crazy. If I’m at a stoplight, there are cars waving at our car.”
Excellent stats are in the gene pool. Last year, Nash’s older brother, Will, threw for a national-record 837 yards in one gameas Davidson Day’s quarterback, and a national recruiting website rates him the 25th best overall recruit in the country. He now finds himself sharing the limelight in the Grier house.
“I’m not Will’s brother anymore. Will is my brother,” Nash says, grinning. “I’m paving the way for all middle children out there.”