My greatest obsession as of late has been the work and sheer existence of supermodel Hari Nef. The 23-year-old was the first transgender woman to be signed to IMG Models, and has collaborated with a ton of major fashion publications and brands like Vogue and Selfridges. However, her achievements do not end there. Besides being an all-around rad chick oozing with cool, Nef uses her platform as a public figure to advocate for trans and gender nonconforming people, within and outside of the industry. IMO, she sets a perfect example for body positivity for queer individuals.
Nef intelligently and earnestly creates visibility for trans voices through multiple interviews with publications like Fashionista and podcasts like Lena Dunham's "Women Of The Hour," as well as essays for sites like Vice's i-D . Her strong and at times blunt voice on Twitter continuously sheds light on trans issues as well, as she expresses the day to day frustrations of being a trans woman in the sartorial world.
Most recently, Nef showed off her acting chops in Season 2 of the Emmy Award-winning show Transparent, adding a heart-wrenching and incredibly beautiful character to the cast (which was previously criticized for having cisgender people play transgender roles).
Her voice in the world, especially in fashion and in the modeling industry at large, is of utmost importance for those who yearn to see more faces like their own represented in media. Here are just some of the ways that Nef has advocated for body positivity so far.
1. She Chose To Transition Publicly
In an interview with Vogue, Nef discussed her choice to go ahead with pursuing her modeling career despite being mid-transition.
“I could have hid in Boston and lived at home for three years,” she said, “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!”
Her choice was rooted in a desire to raise awareness and visibility of trans people in fashion. She told Vogue, “I’m not trying to self-aggrandize, but it’s more than a job to me. It is political.”
2. She Embraces Nudity
In Transparent's latest season, Nef plays a young woman living in 1930s Berlin who is closely associated with the queer community through a gender-progressive scientific institute. Right before a particularly heart-wrenching scene, Nef is traipsing about in an open robe, exposing her chest to a group of transphobic Nazis, save for the cute pasties over her nipples. If that's not one of the most badass and body pos moments we've seen on TV in a while, then I don't know what is.
Additionally, Nef makes it a point to try to de-stigmatize nudity as an inherently sexual thing, as she expressed in a very important tweet.
3. Starring In A Super Trans-Inclusive Fashion Campaign
Hari Nef was featured beside model Valentine De Hingh in & Other Stories' Autumn/Winter '15 campaign. Not only were all the models in the shoot trans, but so was everyone on the production team; and all were celebrating both the beauty and talent of transgender individuals. It was a huge win for the intersection of trans visibility and body positivity.
4. She's Not Afraid To Get Silly
Although her Twitter and Instagram are both full of drop dead gorgeous selfies, Nef also seems to take pleasure in being goofy on and off set. She demonstrates a confidence and comfort in her own skin that her fans (trans and cis alike) can feel truly inspired by.
5. She Openly Discusses The Ways In Which Trans & Gender Nonconforming Bodies Are Largely Perceived
Nef was featured in the "Love And Sex" episode of Dunham's Women Of The Hour podcast, in which she spoke candidly about the ways in which trans bodies are perceived by the media and our patriarchal, cisnormative society.
"Trans people before gender confirmation surgery, those are non-binary bodies," she told Dunham. "You don’t learn how to fetishize those bodies out in the open. Trans porn is the number one fastest growing porn industry and the trans body has been being consumed in private in America for years and years and years by many, many people. But this is something very important and the core of violence against trans-women: Men don’t understand that their attraction to trans women is a valid attraction."
Despite these obstacles, Nef comfortably discussed her own sexual body, and how she confidently navigates sexual encounters (specifically with people who seem as though they've never been with a trans woman). "People want to be sexy and go along with it but sometimes they just freak out," she added. "It’s a fascinating negotiation."
6. She Redefines Beauty In Fashion And Modeling
Nef is one of the few fashion models in the biz who is openly trans... and that's nothing short of a big deal. Our society's strict beauty expectations are often whitewashed and ciswashed. However, Nef's very existence helps to dismantle some of that, as her presence in fashion ads and campaigns is inarguably helpful for trans youth navigating similar identity-related experiences. Seeing reflections of themselves in the media they consume will undoubtedly help more people come that much closer to fulfilled body positivity.
7. She Wants You To Know That Trans Is Beautiful
Like her acquaintance and colleague Laverne Cox, sending the message that trans bodies are beautiful is of utmost importance to Nef. Nef told Dazed, "Trans folks are way too strong, beautiful, intelligent, and powerful to stay unseen and unpaid for much longer."
Personally, I cannot wait to see what else Nef has in store for us when it comes to body positivity's direct link to queer, and specifically trans, visibility.
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