Performance Artist Hari Nef on Prada, Dick Pics, and Giant Burritos


Performance Artist Hari Nef on Prada, Dick Pics, and Giant Burritos


Hari Nef sits cross-legged on a bench in New York City’s Financial District, blissfully smoking a joint while wearing a gauzy sundress that bares a now clean-shaven chest. “I care so much more about fashion celebrities and random-ass people than I ever have about actual celebrities,” they (Hari’s preferred gender pronoun) say with a shrug. “Except Paris Hilton. She took celebrity and ran with it. She became queen of the new millennium.”

Remarkably intelligent, bursting with personality, and eager to push boundaries, Nef is a modern-day It Girl, New Yorker profile waiting to happen. Since moving to New York in 2011, Hari has worked hard to establish themself as a jacques of all trades — performance artist, Columbia University theatre student, writer, full-time fashion intern, and International Party Girl — all before turning 21.

Things got pretty hilarious when we sat down with Nef — and no thought was left uncensored. What follows is a conversation about dick pics, Prada, why opinions matter and more.

Wait, you don’t have a passcode on your iPhone?

Why not?
I don’t know! [laughs] It would be so pesky every time I wanted to get into my phone. I keep my phone really close to my body at all times.

Where do you keep it on your body?
Most of the time I’m just holding it in my hand! I literally walk around outside with no bag or anything — just holding my wallet and phone in my right hand.

I didn’t really prepare for this interview.
That’s good.

What are you in the mood to eat right now?
I am in the mood to eat something light, fresh, and healthy.

That’s really good for your personal brand. You wanna live in Manhattan, you wanna eat kale, you wanna wear a VIP wristband like you’re doing right now.
[laughs] The thing is, I like to eat so much. I eat so much food. I grew up across two households that had really obsessive relationships with food, so I just have to eat a lot. It’s part of my life! A) I have to eat a lot and B) I have to look good on a regular basis for #mycareer, so I balance it out by eating really healthy foods. I’m trying to lose weight right now, actually.

Are you a slut for food?
I’m a total slut for food! My ideal night alone—this is what I do during the school year on Thursday nights when classes end—I go home, light up a huge bowl, and then there’s this restaurant near school called Taqueria y Fonda La Mexicana—

Um, that was absurdly good Spanish pronunciation!
I did really well in Spanish in high school and  took one semester at Columbia University. So yeah, I call up Taqueria y Fonda La Mexicano and order —this is what it’s called on the menu—a “Giant Burrito.” I eat this huge burrito in the dark in my room watching HBO GO or Downton Abbey.

A year from today, where do you see yourself?
I recently became comfortable with calling myself an “artist.” That’s all new to me. In a year, I would love to be performing in galleries instead of nightclubs.

Interesting. Do you identify as a club kid anymore?
I don’t identify as a club kid. That word has too much history, plus I don’t go out enough to be a club kid. I respect people whose medium is nightlife. That is a valid thing. It’s just not my medium.

What do you think of models-turned-DJs?
That’s Amber Mugabe!

Who is Amber Mugabe?
Amber Mugabe originated in a text conversation between me and my friend Brandon, whose name is teacakes on Tumblr. We’ve never met in real life, but we talk almost every day. We talk about our lives, but we also talk about fashion, art, and music. We always connected on that. So one day, we were texting back and forth, trying to figure out who the ideal model/artist/It Girl would be. We were always so fixated on those girls. Amber Mugabe emerged out of that. She was kind of like a megazord of all these different women we grew up idolizing — the ones we had read about in $20 fashion magazines from Borders. We just kept texting, talking about her, trying to bring her to life.

What does she look like?
She’s 5’7” and thin.

Where is your favorite place to carry?
My living room. That’s Point A carry. Point B was my favorite carry of all time, which is when I went to the Altuzarra show during New York Fashion week in a Jean Paul Gaultier black strapless dress with a little black clutch and all my chest hair out—I had chest hair at that point. I was standing behind Kate Bosworth.

Kate Bosworth is 5’7” and thin.
She’s 5’7” and thin! Altuzarra is this really prestigious show, but it’s not a huge business so the show is very intimate. I was standing with all these fashion people. I was that “weird drag queen” at the high fashion show. People who look like that never go to those things. You never see them. I felt deliciously out of place, but also very much in-place.

You have the best Tumblr. What’s the strangest message you’ve ever received?
I have gotten some pretty weird ones. I just can’t remember them all. This might be really boring of me, but I am still freaked out by unsolicited dick pics from people I don’t know. It happened really recently with a kid who would message me trying really weirdly and forcibly to talk about fashion with me.

Like: “Look at my dick! Let’s talk about Miuccia Prada.”
No, he never talked about dick ever! He’s one of those Internet people that probably digs you a lot and forces himself on you and I had always held him off at a distance. He was always pretty innocent, kept it pretty topical. And then one day he just randomly sends me these two pics of him—three! I liked him so much better after that.

Have you ever sent mean, anonymous messages?
Oh, absolutely. I used to get really bent out of shape by people on Tumblr whose style I really admired and whose blogging voice I really related to, if they were indifferent or mean to me. This only happened with one person. I just became so obsessed with hating this kid on Tumblr. I would talk shit about him to other Tumblr users. I would read his blog a lot. And I sent him some really shady, well-written anonymous messages about how he has a lot of potential but just squanders it because he’s such a brat—like, giving him compliments but being like, “you’re too much of a fuck!” I really went off on him! I think after that I was like, “Wow, that was really extra,” so I don’t really send anonymous messages anymore.

Who is your number one favorite model?
My number one favorite model is without a doubt Kristen McMenamy because there are no lengths to which she won’t go to create not only “good” photos, but disturbing photos, interesting photos. She goes further out on a limb than any other model working today still.

Her daughter Lily is cool.
Lily is amazing. A lot of people on the Internet, and a lot of fashion people have talked so much shit about Lily and have called her “ugly” and I’ve always defended her. Last night, I was hanging out with all my sisters from the house of Chez Deep, and they follow fashion but they’re not cued-in to all these models or whatever. We’re going through the American Vogue September issue super stoned and we get to Lily McMenamy in that Marc Jacobs ad and Colin Self—this amazing contemporary artist and performer whom I look up to very much—places a finger on Lily’s face and says, “that is the best face I have seen in this entire magazine so far.” Lily appeals to insiders…people who get it!

The guy in the elevator earlier noticeably looked you up and down. Not a dirty look, just weird. Do you ever get comments from people because of how you dress?
If people are being mean, it always hurts and it never won’t hurt. The initial moment always stings, but then I’m always able to think about it pretty objectively. I remember where my head was at and where my level of open heartedness was at when I would do that to other people, and that’s a shitty place to be. It’s a really insecure place to be. It’s like, if you care about that, then what do you care about?

No, it’s different! Care about sports. Don’t care about what other people are wearing, or how they’re expressing themselves. Sometimes I get mad about it, but when it comes to comments on the street I’ve often reversed situations just by being funny. And I get about seven times as many complements about the way I look from random people as I do insults.

Is there anything you don’t have an opinion on?
I have a lot of opinions.

You’re too smart not to care!
Well, everything has consequences! And even it doesn’t have consequences, it exists…so other people have to deal with it, so it has consequences. Nothing doesn’t exist!

To see/watch/read more of Hari’s work, click HERE and vote for them in DIS Magazine’s #DIScrit #89plus international art student contest.