Euphoria’s biggest breakout stars Barbie Ferreira and Hunter Schafer reject the ‘activist’ labels they’ve been given

Both fashion models, spokeswomen, “activists” and actors, Barbie Ferreira and Hunter Schafer have had different journeys, but share similar experiences and views on how quick people are to thrust them into a specific role.

“In modelling and fashion, there’s this thing where everyone’s an activist or people put that label on people. That’s a lot of pressure and I think it’s not used correctly a lot of the time. People simply being themselves and having a political opinion doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an activist,” Ferreira says.

Ferreira is best known for being a champion of the body positivity movement. She first made waves in the fashion world when unretouched images of her for Aerie (American Eagle’s lingerie brand) went viral. This led her to being named one of Time Magazine’s “30 Most Influential Teens” and she’s since modelled for Teen Vogue, Nylon and Grazia as well as Adidas, Asos, Forever 21 and H&M, to name a few.

“I think that pressure that people view me or Hunter as someone who’s a spokesperson for people – not one person could ever do that! Real diversity and the real inclusivity would be an array of stories from these people,” she adds.

“Not one person can represent the entire community,” Schafer says, nodding in agreement.

“There’s so many experiences and stories that still need to be told and portrayed in so many forms of media.”

20-year-old international fashion model Schafer is frequently referred to as an LGBT rights activist. She’s open about her identity as a transgender woman on social media and through her art. Three years ago in high school, she protested in her home state against North Carolina’s House Bill 2, also known as the “bathroom bill”, forcing individuals to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. She’s also modelled for the likes of Miu Miu, Versace, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Dior.

In Euphoria, Schafer and Ferreira play Jules and Kat respectively. Based on an original Israeli series, the show centres around 17 year old Rue (Zendaya), a drug addict out of rehab who befriends and develops a crush on new girl, Jules. Meanwhile Kat is trying to navigate teen life. She’s yet to encounter her first sexual experience and is soon lured into a troubling online world.

The script and premise immediately appealed to both actors, because diversity isn’t what defines their characters’ narrative.

“One of my favourite things about this show is that while it’s representing multiple different identities and backgrounds, it’s not about that,” Schafer explains.

“The characters are allowed to be multi-dimensional and while their identities or backgrounds may influence them to act a certain way or make certain decisions – that’s not their arc. I think that’s something that a lot of communities who are underrepresented crave: a sense of normalcy and being able to have storylines that are just as, if not more complex than communities who are represented. So while it may not be about that, it does feel constructive,” she says.

“I think that’s really special about this show. Nothing is sensationalised in that way where it’s like, oh, let’s jab in that we’re diverse a thousand times!” Ferreira adds.

While Ferreira has a few acting roles up her sleeve, including a guest role on Sarah Jessica Parker’s Divorce, for both, this is a first major venture into acting. The transition from modelling to TV has been helpful in some ways, but mostly, it’s a new and welcomed change.

“I think we both are comfortable in front of cameras! That helps a lot in that respect,” Schafer laughs.

“In modelling you don’t really have to bare your soul in the same way. This was so much more collaborative.”

“It is very different, modelling and acting,” Ferreira jumps in.

“You’re literally a walking clothes hanger in modelling. I like doing something that people can really see in front of the camera, so this is a good dream to go from that to this because I’m already comfortable! I brought a lot of me six years ago into this role. I feel like a lot of young people are struggling with feeling like they’re worthy because of their body. I’m very blessed that my first role could be something I could bring a lot of my own experiences so directly into.”