“Euphoria” actress Hunter Schafer speaks to school community at GSA-organized assembly

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Melody Tang

Model and actress Hunter Schafer talks with Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA) club leaders Felicity Phelan ’21, Helen Graham ’21 and Anneliese Ardizzone ’21 about her personal experiences, professionally modeling and acting on HBO’s award-winning TV show “Euphoria”.

Melody Tang

Actress, artist and model Hunter Schafer virtually spoke to students about her career experiences at Community Flex Time on May 14.

Schafer most recently played Jules Vaughn on HBO’s Emmy Award-winning drama “Euphoria”, where she co-wrote and co-produced a special episode centered around Vaughn. Previously, Schafer modeled full-time for brands such as Calvin Klein, Dior, Marc Jacobs and Versace, going on to feature on the cover pages of magazines of Dazed, Porter, V and Allure.

The event consisted of a Q&A with Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA) club co-leaders Felicity Phelan ’21, Helen Graham ’21 and Anneliese Ardizzone ’21 asking Schafer community-submitted questions.

Schafer spoke about her start in the modeling industry

Schafer said she began her career in modeling when she graduated from high school and did not intend on pursuing acting; however working with “Euphoria” director Sam Levinson allowed her to explore the new field.

“They had every [transgender] model working in New York audition for [the character of Jules],” Schafer said. “I was like ‘Okay, I’ll give it a shot. Every other [transgender] girl I know is auditioning for this, so why not? And then it just snowballed. It was terrifying because I genuinely had no idea what I was doing. I think the only reason it really did snowball and end up becoming what it has become is the way they cast you, for you. The way [“Euphoria” director Sam Levinson] works is he looks for actors who have some pretty deep parallels to his characters.”

Schafer said while representation in modeling and mainstream media has improved recently, the overall movement towards equality has not been ideal.

“Any sort of progression of inclusion [has] the whitest and the thinnest, and the most passing [models] are getting the first opportunities, and then we start seeing some more inclusion [after] people get criticized for that [lack of diversity],” Schafer said. “The process is a bit [of a] painstaking process, just as far as including everyone in the image of [transgender] people that represents the entire community. And then with Hollywood and TV, there’s still a lot that I would still like to see regarding [transgender] people and the depiction of [transgender] people.”

Schafer then gave advice about mental health

Schafer said it is important to learn how to move on and grow from encounters one faces rather than letting them build up.

“That’s something “Euphoria” has taught me and [Levinson] who’s taught me how to act from the ground up,” Schafer said. “It’s really similar to acting in a lot of ways because at least for me, a more emotionally charged scene is pinpointing a moment or feeling or a memory or something which your brain [does] by default. By how we’ve been socialized, we’ll do everything we can to push it back down without you even knowing it.”

Students said they appreciated Schafer’s message to the community

Phelan said the goal in organizing the event was to expose students to figures they would not normally get a chance to interact with.

“We felt like [because Schafer] is a [transgender] person, and she’s bringing something in terms of representation talking about [transgender] issues,” Phelan said. “She’s also an actress and a model and she’s involved in the fashion world. That’s very cool and relevant for kids who have interests aligning with those things.[Schafer is] a brand speaker who’s involved in the art world and has that sort of broad appeal and is relevant to young people”.

Jamie Kim-Worthington ’22 said listening to Schafer speak to the school was inspiring to him.

“As a transgender person, Schafer is a huge inspiration to me,” Kim-Worthington said. “It was great to hear her talk about experiences specific to queer and [transgender] youth and to listen to her Q&A. I definitely came out of this assembly with a deeper understanding of [transgender] representation in media and Schafer’s experiences. It was amazing having her speak and I look forward to future queer and [transgender] speakers at Harvard-Westlake.”