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Laurel High grad is the 'Vine King'

"I'm not a fighter. I believe that you get revenge with success," 2016 Laurel High grad and 'Vine King'

When Michael Ofili was in the fourth grade, his classmates nicknamed him "Metro," short for "metrosexual."

"I came in on the second day of school, the worst day, in the meanest high waters," said the 2016 Laurel High School graduate. "That was the first strike."

He had just transferred to Beltsville Academy. The nickname wasn't meant as a compliment, but he didn't do too much about it at the time, he said.

"I'm not a fighter, said the 18-year-old. "I believe that you get revenge with success."

A decade later, Ofili is a social media star and comedian who has been interviewed by national media outlets like Fusion and Seventeen magazine. He earned his fame on the video platform Vine, where the teen is known as "Metroo" and his videos have more than 280,000 followers.

"I said, let me take that nickname and turn it into someone successful," he said.

Ofili has been making short films since the fourth grade, and has always liked acting and making people laugh, he said.

"Knowing that I can use what it is that I'm capable of doing to help someone out when they're having tough times — it's one of those things that I just grew up loving," he said.

He refined his abilities in Robert Giuliani's television production class at Laurel High, Ofili said, and also gained a role model in his teacher.

"I started looking up to him because I realized he has an impeccable work ethic," Ofili said. "After 40 years of teaching, he still takes as much pride in his job as on the first day, and that gives me motivation to go on when I'm feeling complacent, or when I can't come up with ideas."

When Ofili first found out about Vine, which limits video creations to six seconds in length, he wasn't interested, he said.

"I was a very uptight individual," he said. "I didn't believe that I could squish everything I thought I had to offer into six seconds."

Ofili eventually gave Vine a chance and found himself spending hours viewing other people's videos.

"After getting addicted to it I thought, oh, I can do that, or, that can be done differently," he said.

He put what he learned from popular users' videos together with tips from his friends. To create quality Vines, Ofili said, he had to learn how to think shorter and sell specific messages.

"When I got the hang of that, Vine became second nature to me," he said.

At the end of his sophomore year, Ofili started acting in and creating Vines, and a year later, in November 2014, he convinced Giuliani to appear in one of his videos.

"He was like, 'You're going to make me dance? I'm not going to dance,'" Ofili recalled.

The video, which is set in Giuliani's classroom, shows Ofili stuck on the first question of a test. He asks his friend Brandon for help, only to realize that he has already finished his test and is handing it to Giuliani.

"Then Brandon and Mr. G. go ahead and engage in modern-day dances," Ofili said. "Mr. Giuliani didn't really know what was going on. We had the music playing and everyone was dancing."

The video went viral and has since been played more than 25 million times.

"Mr. G's daughters showed him the video and told him the number of hits it had gotten, and I guess he was star-struck," Ofili said. "He was like, put me in your next Vine."

Since then, Ofili's videos, many of which are set at Laurel High and feature Giuliani, have been looped more than 30 million times.

"Usually Viners try to create things at home," Ofili said. "School vines — that's what made me unique."

Ofili is headed to St John's University in New York this fall to study film. He hopes to become an actor, but is planning to study computer engineering in case that doesn't work out.

Ofili said that his Vine presence gives him reassurance.

"Without having to go to auditions, I could make the videos I like making and possibly get discovered or catch an email from one of the big-time producers or Warner Brothers," he said, "and possibly make my way to the movie industry with consistency and hard work."

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