meet hari nef, the american actress leading the transgender revolution

Writer, performance artist and actress Hari Nef has gone from the stage to the Hood by Air catwalk and is holding up a glass to the transgender revolution.

by Billie Brand
29 December 2014, 8:45am

photography michael bailey gates

"I want to be the first trans woman to win an Academy Award," Hari Nef tells i-D. Bold and beautiful, the 22-year-old transgender actress is living her American dream! She's posed on the cover of Frische magazine, walked the catwalk for Hood by Air, performed at Art Basel Miami, acted in a play by Anton Chekov and appeared on the pages of i-D, all whilst studying Drama and Theatre Arts at Columbia University. We catch up with the Manhattan-based it-babe to talk fashion, fantasy and the future of transness!

Tell us something we didn't already know about yourself...
When I was in 7th grade, I had 7,500 friends on MySpace and told people that my name was Hari Hologram...

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A movie star...

What's life like as a transgender creative living in NYC?
It's a double-edged sword. I've started to book more jobs because there's a high demand for #TRANS voices/faces right now. Sometimes it's difficult to escape the fixation on my identity, body. Oftentimes I'm tokenised for the sake of "diversity;" other times, I am put on display alongside other "transgender creatives." I seek collaborators with generous and nuanced perspectives, and when I find them the work is rich. I'm grateful to be living in a city where I am able to live and work authentically. This goes above and beyond transness, but I'm grateful nonetheless.

What first attracted you to acting?
I've been acting since I was five, so it's hard to remember why I first went out for it. All actors want to be loved, as the saying goes. When I was little, I was always searching for affirmation. I didn't live in my body: I projected myself into paintings to be framed, video games to be won. My parents lived in two different cities and my mum was away a lot on business, so I lived in a fantasy world. Maybe acting allowed me to explore my fantasies in greater detail, or to make them more real. I would get so upset when I thought about how Pokémon or Disney Princesses or Harry Potter weren't real. Eventually, my fantasies lead me to womanhood. I knew I wanted to play Lady Macbeth long before I knew I wanted to transition. For the longest time, I told myself that playing male roles was a fabulous challenge for me but the truth is that my acting improved drastically after I insisted on playing female roles exclusively.

How has being transgender influenced the way you express yourself creatively?
Good actors allow themselves to be extremely vulnerable in front of a live audience. To be trans is to be vulnerable; to be trans in public is to be vulnerable in public.

How do you think the fashion industry is responding to the transgender community?
A part of me wants to say that the fashion industry will dabble in transness for as long as transness is lucrative, but perhaps that's cynical. I think transness and fashion go hand-in-hand and actually they always have for me. To be trans is to create yourself in your own image, to insist on something beyond the essentials of your body and circumstance. In a sense, the same goes for being stylish. To be trans however, is often a matter of life and/or death. Fashion will only compliment the trans community insofar as it respects the nuance of trans lives.

What does the future hold for the transgender community?
With any luck: more.

What's been the best thing that happened to you in 2014?
Beginning hormone replacement therapy... and appearing in the i-D Pre-Fall Issue twice.

If you had one wish, what would you ask for?
You forgot to take "more wishes" off the table!

What advice would you give to yourself when you were younger?
You are enough.

What's your new year's resolution?
To be less judgmental, wear a bra more often and to quit smoking (maybe).



Text Billie Brand

Hari Nef