Vaping isn’t just an alternative to smoking. It’s an art. At least, for 21-year-old Austin Lawrence, it is.
Co-owner of Vertigo Vaporium in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Lawrence is better known for his Instagram fame. “Vaustinl,” as his handle is called, has accrued more than 320,000 followers. Notorious for his vape tricks, Lawrence makes videos of himself blowing vapor into double lassos and other intricate forms — and those videos get thousands of views and shares around the internet.
Lawrence calls himself a “tricker,” and is the most famous tricker on social media. “Lucid_stease” and “Isaacvgod” are good, Lawrence tells GQ, but they both have far fewer followers than “Vaustinl” does. In fact, Lawrence got so big, he even came into the rapper Drake’s purview.
When Lawrence discovered that Drake was following him on Instagram, and even re-posted one of his videos on the “champagnepapi” account, the starstruck vape king messaged him. “He was like, I’ve never seen the machines you were using,” Lawrence says. “Then he said, yo, could you hook me up with a vape? I told him, I’ll hook you up with a starter kit or whatever. And then he was like yooo, should I just fly you out?”
That’s how Lawrence ended up visiting Drake at his mansion in Calabasas, a hilly town nestled between the mountains and the oceans in northwest Los Angeles. But really, that was only after and because he’d spent thousands of hours practicing and shooting videos in a black-walled dungeon of a vape shop, on an otherwise average block in Jersey.
He started out watching Youtube videos about building vapes, though there were few tutorials on how to blow O’s or do other tricks. Lawrence says he came upon the technique by accident — though it takes a great deal of practice and physical discipline, on par with mustering up the strength and balance to hold a difficult yoga pose.
Blowing a thick O requires a sharp cough from deep within Lawrence’s diaphragm, then traveling up through his sternum. His older brother Jared, who co-owns Vaporium, takes all the videos on an iPhone. They spend time later editing them and setting them to music, and post about two to three a week.
O’s like that caught Drake’s attention, and after just one repost, Lawrence instantly gained 50,00 followers.
Lawrence is living the millennial dream, a success story of Insta-fame and mad followers. The world of vaping, e-cigarettes, and weed accounts occupies substantial real estate on Instagram, where videos of blowing smoke are blowing up all over the internet. Instagram is fast becoming a highly valuable, and free, marketing tool to prove your fame and standing among your peers — just like Lawrence does.