If you don’t know who Hari Nef is, where have you been? Hari Nef is a 25-year-old Jewish actress, model, and writer who made waves from the moment she was the first transgender model to ever sign with IMG Models in 2015.
Here are 18 things to know about this multi-talented star:
1. Nef was born in Philadelphia to a Jewish family. She moved to the Boston suburbs with her mom when she was 5 years old, after her parents divorced. Of her childhood, she said she grew up “a weird, chubby, popular and artsy” Jewish kid; “I was this overachieving, over-programmed public school student, but I was also a rebellious teenager doing drugs, sneaking off with boys and lying to my mom.”
2. She started school at Columbia University in 2011 and graduated in 2015 with a degree in theater. At Columbia, she began transitioning. She explained, “That was one of the most powerful experiences. Finding my new voice and my new body and a new set of roles to play, which felt so much more authentic. I always joke that I’m a better actress than I am a male actor.”
3. Her parents have been supportive of her transition. Her dad, David, told Philly.com, “We encouraged her to do whatever made her happy. I’m not going to say it’s been easy, but I felt strongly that I love my kid. I loved my kid as a boy and I love my daughter.”
4. Her first Instagram post is from all the way back in March 2013:
She was discovered by a photographer on Instagram in March 2014 (a year later), and that jump-started her modeling career.
5. In a profile in Dazed in the summer of 2015, she was dubbed “the trans fashion muse of our generation.”
6. In June 2015, Vogue profiled Nef. “Nef is the first to say that being trans is not the most interesting thing about her, that ‘gender is whatever.’ But as a trans woman who spends so many of her days in front of cameras, her consciousness of her gender has a more steady glow.” Here’s her for Vogue two years later:
7. The decade she believes best represents her personal style is “the 1430s. Pre-renaissance, things are still pretty shitty but we’re getting there. The come up.”
8. In her first big role, Nef played Gittel, a transgender woman in Berlin during the Weimar era, on Jill Soloway’s Amazon Prime show Transparent.
9. She took her mom to the Emmys in 2017 (awwww):
10. This video she did for Teen Vogue is great: 7 Things You Should Never Ask a Trans (or Gender Non-Conforming) Person.
11. She’s good friends with Troye Sivan. The friendship of our dreams.
12. “It was accidental, being an activist,” Nef told The Guardian in November 2016. “But I am outspoken. I am not passive [about] the injustice that I’ve seen.”
13. She wants people to be less focused on her identiy: “My identity will always inform my experience and shape my perception. But I am an unremarkable person. The more we fixate on it the less we, as a community, [will] feel normal and safe in our day-to-day lives. I just want to grab a meal and, you know, go on a date.”
dear journalists and also everyone:
would you introduce viola davis as a "black actress?"
would you introduce kristen stewart as a "gay actress?"
would you introduce millicent simmonds as a "deaf actress?"
no? okay, cool: so please stop introducing me as a "trans actress"
— hari nef (@harinef) September 14, 2018
14. She stars in Assassination Nation, her first major film role. This film is a “war on toxic masculinity,” basically “Extremely blunt social satire about sexism and social media, mixed with small-town-gone-mad horror and high-school drama.”
15. She also has a recurring role in You, a TV psychological thriller on Lifetime (now streaming on Netflix), as Blythe. Nef Instagrammed, “blythe is queen bee of the mfa lit program; her father’s a diplomat; her essay about that time she and her mom had bulimia at the same time in italy was published in “the believer” to widespread acclaim; she wears vintage exclusively (because, you know, the environment) and uses $180 facial serum. here she is in a victorian house frock. why? all will be revealed this season on #youonlifetime tune in for the spiral.”
16. She called Lena Dunham her “sister witch shrink mentor and side piece.”
17. While she’s focusing on acting now, she credits the fashion industry with giving her a platform for success. “I will always count fashion as the industry that was first to welcome me and embrace what I could do. Just because I’m focusing on acting implies in no way that I’m trying to distance myself from fashion; I’m just expanding the vocabulary that I use to do pretty much the same thing that I’ve always done. I look at it like almost doing the same thing, just in different languages.”
18. The mantra she lives by? “Take what is yours.”