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The story of pandemic makeover may be well-worn territory at this point, but the idea that physical transformation can offer a sense of control amid lingering uncertainties has lost none of its luster. “With having been confined for two years, and everyone having a terrible or really boring time, people are looking for a change,” says Nicola Clarke, the legendary London hair colorist who has become something of a master at reinvented with bleach and developer while keeping Kate Moss’ roots in check.
Still, a recent call from Hari Nef was a bit outside of Clarke’s usual scope, not least because of the military-level planning it took to get the model and actor into her Fitzrovia living room. Currently in the UK filming Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach Barbie, a classic toy-centric live-action film, which marks her big-budget studio debut, Nef needed all the big-budget clearance to change her long brunette locks halfway through filming. But with a wig on set as a witness – and a handful of reference photos celebrating Karen Elson’s first flowering as the Meisel muse of the 90s – arrangements were made for a fiery red new beginning via a drastic pageboy bob and blunt bangs in the most wanted hair color of the season.
On a recent afternoon at an east London photo studio, Nef recounts the long lifting and lightening process that allowed Clarke to administer the color, which was interpreted by everyone, from Kendall Jenner to FKA Twigs, as fashion’s unstoppable Y2K revival rages on. “This hair transformation is kind of a drastic offering I could make to my own body and my own look right now,” Nef says of the coppery cinnamon gloss Clarke customized for her. Surely, I ask, this kind of process involved signals a long-term commitment? Nef hesitates. “I’ll keep him as long as he looks like me,” the 29-year-old smiled. “I don’t have a diary”
Nef never really had an agenda. Initially honing her acting skills as a theater major at Columbia University in New York, she became something of an It girl for her eclectic style that mixed vintage Helmut Lang and Eckhaus Latta with lots of deconstructed sportswear. by Hood by Air. In 2015, Nef was hosting club nights and appearing regularly at fashion parties when she was signed by IMG, making her the first transgender model to be represented globally by the talent agency; in the same week, she was cast in the second season of Joey Soloway Transparent, having been discovered by Soloway’s brother years before when he was a teenager at an arts camp. “I went from graduation to the Emmys in four months,” Nef recalled of the mind-blowing experience, which was punctuated by a Gucci runway turn the following year. “The question was: what happens after that?”
Nef moved to Hollywood, but her acting career drifted. “I had to figure out some things and make my life successful. I had tried so many looks, groups of friends, hair colors and pronouns,” she says. “I wanted to put some distance between me and the chrysalis.” While starring in 2018’s Assassination Nation, Sam Levinson’s MeadowEuphoria high school action comedy, failed to provide the traction promised by its spirited Sundance escape, TV show appearances You and in Ondi Timoner’s biopic, Mapplethorpe, followed. Just as the pandemic hit in 2020, Nef returned to New York, where she made a decision to put her friends and family first, which she credits to her newfound self-control. “It made me so healthy and happy that I think it somehow shows up in the audition tapes,” she says. After starring as the editor of Carrie’s book in the sex and the city reboot, a part was written specifically for Nef to play charming Rabbi Jen, who memorably orchestrates an “ils mitzvah” for Charlotte’s non-binary child. “It was just the dream beyond the dream,” says Nef, who is a fully paid academic from the SATC universe. (She later quotes one of Carrie’s thoughts on Mr. Big’s ex Natasha to describe her current co-star Margot Robbie: “Some women are just better!”)
“I saw Hari’s audition tape for Barbie and just freaked out,” Gerwig says. “I ran into the producer’s office with a computer and pressed play and said, ‘That’s it. It’s our movie. She had a sparkle of joy, playfulness and clever humor, which was exactly the tone. Knowing but not sarcastic, dynamic but not insipid. Working on the project was enlightening for Nef, not only because of her admiration for Gerwig, whom she describes as an important architect of what we now call the “complex female persona”, but because of the personal nature of the subject. . “Barbies were provided to me voluntarily by a mother who understood me,” she says, recalling the pivotal role hyper-feminized dolls played for her growing up as a queer child in the suburbs. from Boston. “But I still knew when we were at Toys ‘R’ Us that I was doing something a little weird,” she continues, describing the historically regressive perceptions around the genre that are only now beginning to meet Nef where she has. always summer. “It’s like the company is finally catching up,” suggests Lena Dunham, a close friend of Nef for most of the past decade. (Also in the pipeline for Nef is a role on Levinson’s highly anticipated A24 and HBO show. idol, whose hair she keeps.)