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Who is Hari Nef? Everything to know about the model and ‘Barbie’ star

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Hari Nef is a tour de force. The model and actress was the first transgender woman signed to IMG Worldwide, the first trans cover girl for Elle magazine in the UK, and has nabbed major roles in movies and TV shows like Barbie, Transparent, The Idol, You, and the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That… But despite Nef’s miles high list of accomplishments, she’s just getting started. Read on for everything you need to know about the actress and model, Hari Nef. 

Who is Hari Nef?

Hari Nef was born (October 21, 1992) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but moved to Newton, Massachusetts with her mother when her parents divorced when she was two years old. 

Nef attended Columbia University, and graduated in May 2015 with a degree in theater. It was during her time at Columbia that she transitioned and started modeling. Always fashion-obsessed, Nef had taken on several internships in the fashion industry, and says she owes her modeling career to the connections she made through those internships. “I knew a lot of photographers from my internships,” she told Columbia Magazine. “When my appearance started to change, they wanted to shoot me.”

She’s since walked runway shows from Eckhaus Latta to Gucci, and has graced the covers of several fashion magazines

Nef also has an impressive acting career to her name. She starred in the 2015 Emmy-winning television series, Transparent, as Tante Gittel. She also had a recurring role as Blythe in You, and in 2022 she nabbed a role in the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That… as Rabbi Jen, a trans rabbi that Charlotte hires to officiate her nonbinary child Rock’s “they-mitzvah.” 

A huge fan of Sex and the City, Nef really wanted a role in the reboot. She texted actress Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda, before auditions even started, and shared her writings on sex and relationships (à la Carrie Bradshaw). The rabbi role was actually created specifically for Nef, so all her hard work paid off!

In 2023, Nef got a recurring role as Talia in the HBO drama series The Idol, and nabbed an iconic role (Doctor Barbie) in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

Barbie was huge for Nef, not just as an actor, but as a trans woman and a member of the queer community. Nef likened her glam and costuming for her character to getting into drag. Speaking to Out she said, “I’m a lover of drag. I’m a lover and admirer from afar of ballroom culture. It felt kind of like a legacy that I could honor onscreen of dolls dolling, dolls dressing up. The category was dot, dot, dot, something different every day. I’ve joked before, it really did feel like Greta Gerwig’s Drag Race.”

Is Hari Nef Trans?

Nef is transgender. Of her transition, Nef has shared that she didn’t want to hide it from the world because that would have meant pausing her life. Speaking to Vogue, she said, “I could have hid in Boston and lived at home for three years, gone through my transition, taken voice lessons to make my voice more feminine, gotten gender reassignment surgery, and spent time to complete my transition before I made my debut in fashion or film, but I didn’t want to wait!” she said. “I wanted to be in the world. I’m not trying to self-aggrandize, but it’s more than a job to me. It is political.”

In the same interview, however, Nef quickly dismissed the idea that her gender identity is the most interesting thing about her, saying that “gender is whatever.” For instance, when speaking to Out about her role in Barbie, she noted that she wasn’t cast as “Trans Barbie” because “Barbies are Barbies, they’re not human. They’re dolls. They don’t have genitalia.”

But the movie still has a message for trans women in the idea of finding one’s beauty in being a human, rather than society’s ideals. “I think as a trans girl, it’s easy to get caught up in big dreams of what you’ll become. And it’s inevitable that you’ll get struck down by external messages and obstacles of what you’ll never be and what you won’t be able to do,” Nef said speaking to Out. “You’re caught constantly between striving for perfection and recoiling from rejection. It’s hard.”

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