Forget Carol. If any woman has ever looked “flung out of space,” it’s up-and-coming actress and model Hunter Schafer. The 20-year-old has graced runways and red carpets alike, and her character Jules on the HBO runaway hit Euphoria shares a similar otherworldly style, embracing pastels and metallics to resemble an anime character come to life. As Jules' look mimics her bright and adventurous personality, but her willingness to take risks often lands her in difficult situations. Schafer has reportedly collaborated with Euphoria’s costume department to develop her character's unique fashion sense, and that daring spirit has extended to her offstage presence.
On the red carpet, Schafer isn’t one to shy away from pattern and texture. Between lacey, delicate florals and bold neons, the breakout star seems to make herself comfortable in the outlandish, opting for just about anything but a little black dress. Her penchant for lace-up boots and elegant socks makes a compelling case to shake up how we view feminine footwear beyond the understated heel.
However, an overlooked element of the actress' creative output has been her skill in visual art, a prominent feature of her Instagram between press photos and runway appearances. Schafer graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2017 under the visual arts program, and despite her busy schedule, she seems to have kept up with the expressive outlet. Primarily working in acrylic and ink, the creative takes inspiration from the fashion world as well as her own travels and new experiences with celebrity culture. Her linework is freeform, organic, and expressive, with a more sedated use of color than her usual fashion sense. She contributed comics to Rookie Mag during its time, and she regularly shares excerpts from her sketchbook, sometimes with a window into her own observations, insecurities, and musings. The sketchbook pages have a confessional air to them, offering an avenue besides press junkets and interviews for Schafer to share her voice.
On December 2017, before her rise to fame, Schafer posted an autobiographical comic detailing her transition and subsequent “self-impregnation.” The piece is a reminder of her recent dialogue in Episode 7 of Euphoria, “The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed.” In the episode, Jules visits old friends in New York City and declares that she wants to “conquer femininity,” or rather, “fucking obliterate it.” The character accomplishes this by having frequent sexual encounters with men, but Schafer’s own comic implies that self-actualization is the next step beyond one’s initial transition. The actress is quick to point out that she does not speak for every trans experience, acknowledging her privilege in a recent interview stating, “It’s really cool to be here as a trans person but I think it also doesn’t go without saying I’m white and I’m skinny and I pass. Those are all factors, whether we like it or not, that got me here in this place.”
That’s not to say that Schafer doesn’t use her privilege to uplift fellow trans voices in the industry. One of her most prominent drawings featured a portrait of Aaron Philip, a Black trans model with disabilities who recently made her runway debut closing Willie Norris Workshop's first show. Schafer posted the piece for 2018’s Trans Day of Visibility, reflecting on her experience viewing works at the National Portrait Gallery and her wishes that she had seen more trans individuals reflected back at her.
“Its incredibly vital that we make ourselves and our siblings visible, not only for documentary purposes, but so that we can see ourselves void of the gaze of the white/cis/het/able monoculture that curates, taints, and profits off of our image,” Schafer stated in her caption. “(WHILE remaining sensitive to the fact that it is still unsafe for so many trans/gnc people, particularly those of color, to be visible).”
Ever since publicly speaking out against the Bathroom Bill in an essay for i-D, Schafer has become a prominent figure in trans visibility. Although she doesn’t necessarily consider herself an activist, her work across creative spheres often seeks to unravel questions of trans acceptability and gender roles. In one sketchbook feature, Schafer refers to toxic masculinity as a “foundational sickness,” a poison she’s been swallowing since birth. Visual art in particular is yet another way in which marginalized voices can define their own realities, giving their own interpretation to their surroundings. Schafer’s personal sketches not only rail against the public perceptions of trans identity, but they also combat the misconceptions surrounding fame and outward appearance.
As her reach continues to widen, Schafer’s artistic eye will continue to influence her public persona. However, these sketchbook pages indicate that the multihyphenate has kept her own version of a private life, and she can choose whether or not to share it.