The Stunning Transformation Of Euphoria's Hunter Schafer

Correction 8-10-22: An earlier version of this article misstated that Huner Schafer did not audition for Euphoria. This has been corrected to reflect that Schafer did audition for Euphoria. 

Most know Hunter Schafer from "Euphoria," in which she portrays Jules, a transgender girl trying to figure out who she is and how she fits into the world. Interestingly, Schafer has a story similar to Jules'.

Born in 1999 to Mac and Katy Schafer, she grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina with three younger siblings. Schafer had a pretty ordinary childhood that showcased her love for the arts, but from a very young age, she knew she didn't identify as a boy, and she would spend most of her youth discovering her true self.

While Schafer's appearance changed over the years, her love for the arts did not. At 16, she was attending the University of North Carolina School of Arts and was one of the semifinalists for visual art in the U.S. Presidential Scholar Program, according to Harper's Bazaar. She has realized many more dreams since, and showcasing her art is only one of them. Let's have a look at the stunning transformation of Hunter Schafer.

Hunter Schafer always knew who she was

Hunter Schafer has always known exactly who she is. In an interview with North Carolina Public Radio, she revealed that she had always been drawn to femininity. Her mother noticed this when Schafer was 2 years old. She had no interest in the things boys typically adored at that age. Instead of getting excited over the male superheroes, Schafer would be drawn to heroes like Catwoman and Hawkgirl, Schafer's mother recalled.

By the time she was 3 and went to preschool, it was clear that she loved to express herself as a girl. While the boys in her class would pick fireman costumes, she'd put on dresses. She told Teen Vogue that each class member got a turn to pick something from a treasure box at the end of the week, and she once chose a lip gloss ring. She did not really know what it was at the time but loved putting the glittery substance on her lips.

When she was in seventh grade, she plucked up the courage to tell her parents that she was gay. It was the first step she took in discovering who she really was. "Coming out as gay — that set me apart enough for me to think about what else set me apart," she said in the radio interview.

Growing up in a small town taught her valuable lessons

Being a small-town girl, Hunter Schafer used to long for the thrill and opportunities big cities offer, she told i-D. Even as a kid, she had big dreams of what she wanted her life to be like one day.

Even though small-town life was pretty stifling at times, she admitted that it taught her how to be inventive. Shopping at stores like Zara for the latest fashion was a distant dream. "That was a special treat that maybe happened once every three years if we got out of North Carolina!" she told i-D. This inspired her to make do with what she had at her disposal — a girl needs to amp up her wardrobe every now and then, after all — and she used clothes from the local Goodwill to design her own.

At school, she was mostly a loner, spending her time walking the halls and pretending she was starring in a movie while her headphones provided the background music. But being the odd one out is what made her brave. "It takes a little bit of bravery to step out, to be like, okay, I don't look like anybody else around here. I am making the conscious decision to present myself the way I want to today," she told i-D.

She was a contributor for Rookie

As a teenager who often found herself not fitting in, Hunter Schafer spent most of her time in the company of her sketchbook (via Cosmopolitan). She would post some of her drawings on social media but could never have dreamed that Tavi Gevinson, who ran the Rookie website, would notice her work.

It all started when Schafer, who was a huge fan of the website, wished the founder a happy birthday on Instagram. Gevinson noticed Schafer's work and invited her to contribute to the website. Schafer told Harper's Bazaar that being a contributor for Rookie was one of the things that gave her life purpose at the time. Her contributions included comics and style shoots that offered people a peek into high school, love, and friendship.

She still loves to draw and used it as a coping mechanism during the pandemic, she told W Magazine. Some of her drawings also appear in "The Euphoria Books: S1 Boxed Set."

She transitioned when she was 14

"It was in seventh grade that I came to terms with the idea that maybe I wasn't a boy," Hunter Schafer recalled in an interview with North Carolina Public Radio. In eighth grade, she dealt with the crippling anxiety that came along with feeling like she was trapped in the wrong body. As she began going through puberty, she experienced a feeling of "dread and wrongness" that she couldn't quite explain. "It was later in the year and I could start to see peach fuzz on my upper lip... I was just really worried that I was starting to develop these secondary sex characteristics — especially facial hair just terrified me," she explained. Watching shows like "Glee" and talking with people who could explain various LGBT terms to her is what helped Schafer on her journey to discover that she wanted to transition.

When she first started transitioning, she hid it from her parents. Her close friends knew, and they provided her with makeup, like mascara, which Schafer took off before she went home, she told The Times. It was a challenging journey, and eventually, Schafer told her parents, and the transitioning process truly began. In an interview with The New York Times, she revealed that she first had to undergo extensive therapy before she could start hormonal treatment, and for her, it was hard knowing that the final decision was up to the therapist.

She had to navigate her parents' confusion about her transition

Hunter Schafer's parents had a hard time accepting that she identified as a girl. Her mother, Katy, revealed in an interview with North Carolina Public Radio that she had her doubts at first. "I remember saying to Hunter, 'Well just because you're an artist and just because you like pretty things, that doesn't mean you're transgender. It doesn't mean you're a girl.'"

Her father, Mac, found it hard to accept that Hunter's appearance would change. Eventually, Schafer's anxiety is what alerted her parents to the truth. Her mother saw her internal struggle and realized that it was not a phase. "I remember there were lots of tears. It was kind of just this reality of we were going to have to let go of who we thought our kid was going to be," she said in the interview. For Schafer's father, the truth hit home when she asked him if she could wear heels to a fashion show for summer camp. "Inside everything in me was going 'no, no, no,' ... but outside I said, 'Yes, you can.' ... I think that's when everything became real," he said.

In the beginning, Schafer's parents found it a bit challenging to use female pronouns, but thanks to Schafer's friends who did so without batting an eye, her parents started to become more comfortable with it too, and now they don't think twice about it.

She only started feeling like she was truly living after transitioning

Hunter Schafer has a cardboard box full of old journals filled with the thoughts, dreams, and aspirations of her younger self. Some have pages plastered with fashion magazine cutouts. Schafer sees her journals as a sort of biography. She told Harper's Bazaar that many of those pages hold the stories of when she first fell in love, and some of them document her transition journey.

For Schafer, life only really started once she transitioned. "Mostly everything before I transitioned is a blur," she told Harper's Bazaar, admitting that her "Euphoria" co-star Zendaya once remarked that she doesn't talk a lot about her childhood. Schafer says it's simply because she wasn't living it as her authentic self. "It's a little bit sad but also true to say that I feel like the story of my life begins in my late teens, when I was finally living in the world the way I was supposed to," she explained, adding, "When your exterior world and your body and your self are not in line with who you are, you turn inward. And my theory is that I built a really rich inner world until I started feeling like myself in my body."

She was the youngest plaintiff in the 2016 bathroom bill

When House Bill 2, commonly known as "the bathroom bill," was introduced in 2016, there was an outcry from the LGBTQ+ community. After the bill was passed in 2017, Schafer wrote a piece for i-D in which she explained what the bill meant for transgender people like her, recounting her experience as a transgender child who felt more comfortable using the women's restroom but couldn't do so freely. "I was often met with compromises, like being told to use a staff bathroom or the men's room, which was basically a sentence to eternally hold it in," she wrote. "I felt like an outlaw every time I had to pee, as if this natural bodily function were some unforgivable act."

Naturally, when a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Chase Strangio, reached out to Schafer via Facebook to ask if she'd be interested in being a plaintiff in their lawsuit against House Bill 2, she couldn't agree fast enough (via W Magazine). She ended up being the youngest plaintiff and had to go through a rigorous process. Endless depositions and meetings with various lawyers became part of her daily life.

While the process was exhausting, Schafer would do it again without thinking twice. She's well aware that she's lucky to have parents who supported her transition and knows that there are others out there who don't have the support of their families — and those are the people she wants to fight for.

She was a model before starring on TV

Hunter Schafer had many dreams as a kid, but acting wasn't something she seriously considered. When she was in middle school, she started dreaming of working in the fashion industry. And it wasn't just a phase. By the time she was about to finish high school, she was invested in all things fashion and made watching runway shows a priority, she told Marie Claire.

Schafer has always been a go-getter, so when she met a modeling agent on Instagram, she met up with them while in New York City on a college tour. The agency was impressed and signed her quickly afterward.

While she enjoyed working as a model, Schafer had another goal in her sights. Modeling was merely a stepping stone toward the future she wanted to build. She told V Magazine that she initially started doing it so she could earn enough money to eventually make a living from her visual art. Her dream was to attend Central Saint Martins in London; she was accepted but couldn't afford tuition at the time, and modeling was what was going to help her pay for it. She modeled for big names like Dior and Miu Miu and made an appearance in an array of fashion magazines, but didn't make a ton of money. She was about to finally enroll in school when the opportunity came up to audition for "Euphoria" (via Marie Claire).

She was selected for Teen Vogue's 2017 '21 Under 21' list

In 2017, Hunter Schafer was honored with a spot on Teen Vogue's "21 Under 21" list. Her involvement with the lawsuit against the bathroom bill is definitely one of the things that caught the outlet's attention. She used the opportunity to speak out about the bill once again, and to address the struggle transgender students face because of the lack of bathroom accommodation available to them in the public school system. She even quizzed Hillary Clinton on how transgender kids can be made to feel safe in schools and also took the time to address climate change.

While Schafer is often referred to as an activist, she doesn't really see herself as one, she told The New York Times. She doesn't feel like she fits into the mold of what it means to be one, but has felt a little pressure to label herself that way in the past. She uses her platform to speak up for what she believes is right, and even though many see that as a form of activism, Schafer is happy just being an artist who is vocal about her identity and the issues people face.

She actually didn't initially plan to audition for Euphoria

Hunter Schafer never planned on becoming an actress. In a way, the career chose her — and it happened quite unexpectedly. Having worked as a model for a while, Schafer was getting ready to finally go to fashion school like she'd been planning all along, but the universe had other plans.

As Schafer was getting ready to become a student again, she saw a casting call for trans girls on Instagram, she told Entertainment Weekly. What caught Schafer's eye was that no former acting experience was required to audition, which she found a little strange, but she didn't give it much thought after that. Even though she went to school with some actors and had a mild interest in the craft, she didn't have any desire to wholeheartedly pursue acting as a career — at least not yet. She told The New York Times that her modeling agency contacted her a few days later to inform her that she'd been asked to audition for "Euphoria," and Schafer found herself thrown headfirst into the world of television and acting. "It was the weirdest thing — it kept going," she told Entertainment Weekly.

Soon, she found herself acquainted with an acting coach that helped guide her through the audition process, and Schafer started to realize that she loved the script. Before she knew it, she was cast and the rest, as they say, is history.

She had to revisit memories of her own transition for her character on Euphoria

Acting can be a very personal experience, and for Hunter Schafer, portraying Jules was like taking a step back into her past. She told V Magazine that she hadn't really taken the time to reflect on her journey — she was too busy fighting to make it to the other side of her transition. Having to dive into the character of Jules, however, made Schafer look back at her own experiences, and she found that she had to use some of them to portray the character as truthfully as possible. "As we worked through different scenes, I'd have to remember a new detail, to dig up an artifact from within myself, and hold onto that moment for the scene," she said in the interview.

Schafer has a unique perspective when it comes to Jules' character and how she portrays her. She told The Hollywood Reporter that she could understand some of Jules' erratic behavior in the first "Euphoria" episode that might seem confusing to others simply because she's been in Jules' shoes before and knows what it feels like to be in her situation. She told W Magazine that looking back at her own life when she was in high school and all the emotions and challenges that went along with it has been "therapeutic."

She became very close friends with co-star Zendaya

Hunter Schafer first met the rest of the "Euphoria" cast shortly before the show started production in Los Angeles. The cast were all booked into the Standard Hotel and bonded almost instantly, Schafer told Cosmopolitan. She and Zendaya, who plays Rue Bennett on the show, became instant friends.

In an interview with Collider, Schafer revealed that one of the reasons she loves working with Zendaya so much is that both of them love their characters deeply. They have formed a special bond since they started working together and they trust each other, which translates to their characters on screen. Schafer told Entertainment Weekly that Zendaya feels like family and that working with her is incredible. Their special bond might also have something to do with the fact that they went the extra mile to craft the relationship between their characters. "We'd spend three hours just cuddling in bed together as our characters," Schafer told Cosmopolitan, adding, "There are a lot of scenes where Rue and Jules are just in bed talking and holding each other. Shooting that broke down a lot of the physical intimacy barriers."

She became an advocate for the Black Lives Matter Movement

Even though Hunter Schafer doesn't see herself as an activist, she does still use her platform to create awareness of issues like the Black Lives Matter movement, Allure reported. When the movement was gaining momentum, she took to Instagram to share organizations that help Black trans people.

Schafer didn't make a lot of noise on the subject, telling Allure that part of advocating for the rights of Black people is creating awareness on social media or allowing someone to use your platform to educate people on the matter, but there are other, even more impactful actions people like herself can take that aren't exactly something you can post on Instagram. "There's also a way to quietly do your part, and a lot of that has to do with allocating funds to the right people," she told Allure. "It's going to be [about] finding some direct action with your body and interrogating your whiteness. None of that is Instagrammable."

She realized she's not a fan of Method acting

There's no denying that Hunter Schafer is a gifted actress — few people can kick off their acting career with a show like "Euphoria," but Schafer has made it look easy. While many actors tout Method acting as one of the best ways to truly embody a character, Schafer is not a fan of it. She told Harper's Bazaar that she respects the practice but that it's simply not appealing to her. She has a good reason for wanting to steer clear of it too. "I've already spent a lot of my life trying to be someone I'm not," she told the magazine. She continued, saying, "And even if it is my job title, I'm not interested in doing that again for long periods of time."

Schafer prefers to assess her characters' traits and figure out how she can embody them while still living as her authentic self instead of becoming the character for extended periods of time. This tactic has definitely worked well, given Schafer's excellent performance on "Euphoria."

She used one of her childhood poems as inspiration for an episode of Euphoria

When the 2020 pandemic hit, Hunter Schafer's mental health took a dip. She told the Los Angeles Times that the pandemic forced her to take things a little slower and face some of her struggles. During an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Hunter Schafer further discussed her struggles with her mental health during the pandemic (via People).

At the time, she was considering booking herself into a mental hospital for extra support. After spending a couple of hours researching and finding bad reviews for every single institution, she called "Euphoria" writer Sam Levinson, who assured her that no one could possibly enjoy being at a mental hospital so they'd obviously not leave cheery reviews. As Schafer told Collider, the two then exchanged some ideas over the phone. She ended up sharing a poem with him that she wrote after leaving high school, and he asked her to collaborate with him on an episode. The episode ended up exploring Jules' story. "I feel like it really just gave us room to go deeper into her mind and her subconscious and her headspace," Schafer told i-D.

Additionally, it gave her mental health a boost. Co-writing the episode helped her to rise from what she described as "the worst depression I've ever had," adding, "When I say that episode really became a lifeline, I mean it."