Hari Nef On Being a Successful Transgender Model in the Binary Fashion Industry.
Photography by David Miller-Robinson
I first met model/actress/writer/renaissance lady Hari Nef outside of Up and Down, a New York club where she co-hosted a weekly very popular party, Duh Fridays. She was standing there in a long, shimmering, black dress, looking perfectly disinterested and glamorous; her sharp features and intense eyes make her totally intimidating. But talk to her for about a second and it’s a different story. She’s animated, candid, and a completely open and honest. I sat down with Hari a few weeks ago as she was recovering from her first NYFW, and we discussed fashion, bombshells, and her experience as one of the only open transgender models on the runway.
When did you first start modeling?
I’ve modeled for my friends pretty casually ever since I’d been in New York and met kids that did fashion. But the modelling really kind of picked up after I started transitioning. Then all of a sudden a whole bunch of jobs started opening up and I just kind of went with it because I think it’s really fun. And I totally view it as an extension of other shit that I do.
When you were first modeling, did you model as a woman or a man?
Generally, I was always effeminate. I’ve never modeled as a guy. That was never really in the cards for me. I’m just a lot prettier as a girl.
So what did it feel like, walking your first show for Hood By Air?
I was so excited. I mean I’ve always wanted to walk the runway it’s like a fantasy. I was also really interested to see all of the work that goes into it. It’s not like you just show up and you walk. You have to go to fittings, you have to feel the vibe of the brand. It was really easy for me to feel the vibe of Hood By Air because I know Shayne [Oliver] so well. It felt great. It felt fun. Really exhilarating. And I really liked it. And I would totally do it again.
Hari in Hood By Air s/s 15
Hood By Air’s show featured a greater diversity of models, which I think is part of what made the show so successful. Do you think that’s something that we’re going to see other designers mimicking in the future?
No. I mean this fashion week was actually one of the worst in terms of diversity. I thought maybe this season you would see some more trans girls on the runway. Only other girl I can think of is Isis [King] who walked Betsey Johnson. I’m pretty sure it was only her and me that were the only out trans girls walking the runways. However, there are not-out trans girls that are booking top shows right now. I actually have a close girlfriend who is blowing up right now. And she’s trans. She talks about it, but not in her interviews.
What were your favorite shows for this past NYFW?
Of course, I loved Hood By Air. And I loved Eckhaus Latta who I got the chance to walk for as well. Marc Jacobs was so amazing. I loved the show. The clothes I feel like I need to digest a little bit. But the show was just so cool and scary. Oh, of course. Prabal Gurung. Really elegant and ladylike.
Hari by David Miller-Robinson
I guess the obvious question is, what’s your goal?
I wanna be a movie star. And I wanna write a book. And I wanna write a TV show that I star in. On premium cable. See those are my actress/writer goals. Do I have model goals? I don’t know. With the modeling stuff, I don’t feel comfortable making goals for it because I don’t know if it all ended [this fashion week] or five years from now. Fashion is something that I love. But generally it’s not my work. It’s something that interfaces with my work in a really cool way. And I love clothes. I did a lot of working for trade this fashion week. And you know what, I’m happy cause I want the clothes. It’s like half the reason I even do any of this stuff.
Let’s talk more about the Hood By Air show. What were some of your favorite moments?
My favorite moment of the show was when they sent those five boys out one right after another in the same look. In the black jeans and the leather shirt. They just sent them out like a swarm of bees. I thought that was genius. And I mean of course Boychild with the dog. Shock value that was just amazing. But the nastiest little thing was sending out five looks in a row cause like who’s done that? That’s a moment. Just luxury. You know people focus on the streetwear and the shock value and all that. But it is a luxury brand.
Hari by David Miller-Robinson
Would you say that New York fashion generally lacks risk takers?
Yes. That’s just why I want to work with Hood By Air and Eckhaus Latta who are entering the establishment by making the establishment come to them. And I’m so glad that they’re showing people that can be done. There are only so many ways that I can articulate what conformity means. Most designers want to be a part of the establishment. And they want to have their clothes worn by reputable figures. I get it. Is it interesting? No. Is it helping people? No.
Who are some people you’ve met that are innovating NY fashion?
Mike and Zoe from Eckhaus Latta. They are definitely a part of my New York fashion family. I’ve worked with them a bunch. And they have a lot in common with Shayne, but they’re also totally different. I just love that they’re bringing this kind of warm and fuzzy feeling to fashion that’s very inclusive. They’re at the top of my list.
Hari by David Miller-Robinson
Was there a star struck moment during fashion week?
Hm. I met Omahyra Mota, who’s like my favorite model of all time, at the Galore party. I was more starstruck by her than by like passing Anna Wintour. When you see people that have influenced you, that’s always crazier. It was also cool to connect a bit and work with Prabal Gurung. He really took care of me this fashion week. He dressed me for his show and sat me front row.
Any tips for someone who’s trying to break into the fashion industry?
People ask me this all the time. Try and surround yourself with people that you think are cool. Whose work you really like. Hit them up on email. Ask to intern for them. Ask to assist on their show. Ask to do free labor for them. Go to the party they’re hosting. Sneak into the party they’re hosting. Pop up next to them at their bottle and say hi. Be polite, but also just get yourself there.
Hari in Eckhaus Latta s/s 15
Basic beauty routine?
Drink water, drink water, drink water. I don’t really do much else for beauty. I lather myself in coconut oil once every couple nights. Shave with it too. Water and sleep and coconut oil.
Decade that represents your personal style?
The 1430s. Pre-renaissance, things are still pretty shitty but we’re getting there. The come up.
Sarah Jessica Parker. Sandra Bernhard. Amanda Lepore. I love Kate Upton. I think Saskia de Brauw and Stella Tennant are sexy bombshells. I think my mom is a sexy bombshell.
A mantra that you live by?
Take what is yours.