Hari Nef

Actor, Model, Activist

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Hari Nef Dazed 100
Hari wears silk cupro chain harness dress Calvin Klein Collection, necklace Hari’s ownPhotography Casper Sejersen, styling Elizabeth Fraser-Bell

“I can’t think: I feel humbled and grateful.” When Hari Nef thinks back on the year that was, her brain scrambles. At the end of 2014, readers voted the actress, model and trans activist their number one on the Dazed 100, a moment that served to swell an already loyal fanbase cultivated on Tumblr – Nef’s medium of choice for talking candidly and poetically to a gender-nonconforming community.

“The reader perspective allows for talent to see and understand their impact outside of institutions. That’s a rare gift,” she says. But after a role in season two of Transparent saw Nef swap self-publishing for television, her visibility has taken on new life. “Transparent gave me a career,” she says of the Jill Soloway-created show, in which she played Tante Gittel, a fearless transgender femme in 1930s Berlin. Coming up, she’s excited to collaborate on short film Crush, co-starring Cecilia Corrigan and Alex Karpovsky (Girls).

But wherever her career takes her – like walking for Gucci AW16 – the underground New York fashion community will always be home for Nef, and as she emerges to disrupt the system, so too do the designers who supported her from day one. “My roots in fashion are among young designers who have broken through – Eckhaus Latta, Vejas, Hood By Air,” she says. “Fashion businesses aren’t sustainable unless they grow overground.” The same goes for trans rights, for which the growth in pop-culture visibility last year was only the beginning. “The big issue for 2016 is legislation, legislation, legislation. In many parts of the US, trans folks can be legally denied housing, employment, and healthcare.”

Last month, Nef penned a piece for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter confronting the contradictions of being a marginalised community’s most visible member in characteristically fearless style. “I couldn’t remember when I’d stopped willing to be trans and started wanting to be trans,” she wrote. “If there was a difference, I’d forgotten it.” 

Text Kieran Yates