Dope Magazine: How did you get your start in the world of vape tricks?
Michael Lee: I was actually a competitive travel athlete before I started vaping. During this time, I had been smoking cigarettes for a long time and I was feeling the effects on the field. I knew it was time to stop, so I turned to different alternatives to get me off cigarettes. That’s when I found out about vaping. I went to a local convenience store and bought my first vape pen. Vaping helped my physical addiction with cigarettes, and tricking was a fun hobby that took my mental addiction off of cigarettes. A friend and I started putting up videos on Vine. Those were really popular. Then we went to Instagram and that’s where everything really took off.
How did you end up on “France’s Got Talent” in 2016?
France’s Got Talent contacted me about performing. I thought it was a scam at first or that they were just joking with me, but they were really interested in me competing. I found out that one of the casting directors was a fan of my Instagram videos and found me through there to get me on the show.
How was the experience on the show?
I had the opportunity to introduce vape tricking to a large, international audience and that made me super nervous. That was my TV debut and I was there, in France, by myself. I wanted to be at my best to show people that vaping was my profession and truly a new art form. My performance was very challenging to perfect because I had to sync my tricks to a beat. My heart beated like crazy right before the show, but once I stepped on that big X mark on the ground, I naturally stopped focusing on who was watching me and just did what I loved to do. That’s the beauty of performing … the roller coaster of emotions. I got four yes votes from the judges and advanced all the way to the semi-finals.
I enjoyed every minute of that very stressful experience.
What did you do with vape tricking after the show?
I realized I could do vape tricking full-time. For a year and a half following my TV debut, promoting, practicing, and touring became my life and business. Eventually, a sponsor saw the marketing success I was having and offered me a full-time position as a Creative Director managing international branding. I’ve been there [ever] since.
Do you still enjoy vape tricking?
Vape tricking is still very fun for me but I do most of it out of the public spotlight. I still get offers here and there.
What do you think propelled your popularity in the vape trick world?
People see me with sponsorship deals and hundreds of thousands of views on Instagram, and they ask me for a recipe … I tell them that when you approach social media with a magic number in mind — 100K, 200K — and you plan to post new content every day until you get there, it sucks the fun out of what you do.
People are not interested in the next singer or vape tricker. They want something new. I made something special to me and created my own lane. I offered my talent on a platform that no one has seen tricks on, which was national TV outlets. It’s like everyone’s trying to topple down the same brick wall — everyone wants to be the next one to knock down the wall — but there’s a crack in the wall that no one can see because they’re so focused on pushing down this wall. If everyone’s going one way, I gotta go a different way to get through the wall. When something has too much competition and seems too impossible to accomplish, I always take a step back and analyze the situation to find a unique outlet to achieve my goals.
Dr. Dre said that “anybody can get it, [but] the hard part is keeping it.” What do you think about that?
That’s a really true statement. I did find initial exposure and success through social media videos of my vape tricking, but I built a legacy, an international brand and an offline marketing presence. [That presence] let me tour the world and opened more sustainable avenues into business. If I only stayed where I was in social media, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Always move forward and venture into new ways to grow.
Do you have advice for people who want to get into vape tricking?
Look, if you’re [trying to] quit smoking, vape tricking is a great hobby while you’re trying to quit. Nobody should go into vape tricking thinking they can do it for a career. I was just having fun and it somehow got traction. When vape tricking became a job for me, it was a real job. I still had fun, but I’d just advise people to only take it up as a hobby while they kick their addiction to smoking. If you’re in it just to make money and be successful, you’re in it for the wrong reason and that won’t get you anywhere.
What do you think about the sentiment that tricking glorifies vaping? It looks cool and makes people want to try it. While vaping may be a better option than tobacco, it’s not exactly healthy…
Vaping was therapy for me to get off cigarettes. It blasted my career off, yes, but I’m not joking when I say vaping isn’t cool. Vaping is a tool to quit smoking. If you’re not smoking, you shouldn’t vape.
Vape tricks helped me get my mind off of cigarettes. People don’t see that. They think I’m fooling around, but I didn’t do it for shits and giggles. When I started getting into tricks, practicing the newest tricks and making videos daily I realized that I couldn’t remember when my last cigarette was. Tricks helped me forget my mental cravings. I hope people use it for the same reasons.