First Person

Transgender actress/model Hari Nef’s time has arrived

With a role in ‘Transparent” and a contract with IMG, the 23-year-old from Newton is making her mark.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

It started at Charles River Creative Arts Program. I went there until I was 15. I had a counselor named Faith Soloway. Faith is [Transparent creator] Jill Soloway’s sister. Jill and I started following each other on social media. She e-mailed and said, “I’m in New York for a gala and my date dropped out.” We hit it off. She said, “I’m going to put you on the show.”

My character sheds light on the previous generation of Pfeffermans. It’s a bit of queer and trans history. There were trans women living in Berlin at that time, a whole community of them. We see the seeds of what the family has come to be through my character. Jill based [Tanta Gittel] on me. She saw me as this glam chick. She kind of imagined what I’d be in 1933.


Sometimes the people you collaborate with say or do things that are insensitive to you as a trans person or they get your pronouns wrong. This was a transpositive, transformative set. There were trans people driving my golf cart to set, trans people collaborating on every aspect of the project: directors, producers, actors, personal assistants. That allowed me to do my best work.

I can’t believe that people are seeing me in this way that I never had the bravery to see myself as in the past. My body isn’t inherently problematic or ugly or masculine or feminine. It’s not the bodies you see on billboards. I try not to compare myself to other models. I just have to do my own thing.

People ask me when I started. There wasn’t a set point. You make small changes and make more changes, and eventually you hit the milestones of the pronouns. It was roughly two years ago that I let the word “trans” into my life. I’ve found something that feels better than anything has felt before. I’m not saying you have to choose something. It comforts me to choose something.


JOINING THE FAMILY All episodes of the second season of Transparent, featuring Hari Nef in a recurring role as Tanta Gittel, are now streaming on Amazon Prime.