Hari Nef
Ungano & Agriodimas—Getty Images

Overnight Success Made Her a New Star For the Trans Community

Home: New York City

Age: She turns 24 on Oct. 21

Profession: Model and actress

How you know her: She walks the runway for big labels like Gucci and H&M and had a breakout role as a Pfefferman family ancestor on Jill Soloway’s Transparent.

What’s new: She hints at an upcoming short-film project helmed by another female director. “The women I have worked with are able to see a person with a point of view rather than a diversity check box,” Nef says.

How do you introduce yourself to a stranger?

I’m pretty shy, so there’s nothing I really lead with. I moved here five years ago as a theater major at Columbia University, and I don’t feel like myself anywhere else. If my narrative has to be a New York one, I’m OK with that.

How did you break into fashion so fast?

I did a theater internship, and it was awful, so I tried fashion, first at VFiles and then with Jennifer Venditti, the casting director. She needed me during Fashion Week, but I was helping my friends who were designers with their shows on the side, and she could tell I was distracted, so she fired me. She probably thought I had All About Eve’d her. I also worked for Fabien Baron, the creative director, where I was known as the intern who always fell asleep at her desk. It was right around when I started hormone-replacement therapy, and I was sleepy for the first six months.

That’s when designers started asking you to model?

I felt vulnerable about my body, so I had to kick my coping mechanisms into high gear and ask myself, “Are you going to be this sad little trans girl and miss out on all this stuff because you don’t like the way your body looks, or are you going to see where it goes?” It was just about me having this instinct, not understanding what my role was or why I was put on the planet. I followed the scent of something that smelled sweet until suddenly all these things fell into place.

Did you learn anything that might be useful later in life?

Drink water, eat vegetables, get some sleep. When you have an opportunity, or when you are invited to come up to bat, the only thing to think is that what you’ve got is what they want.

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