I’m Steffie Harner, software developer, freelance model and entrepreneur based in Tokyo, Japan. In 2017, I co-founded Startup Lady Japan, a community and mentorship service that supports female entrepreneurship in the Tokyo Area.
I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I grew up back and forth between Manila, Philippines and California. I am a dual citizen of the Philippines and the United States. I am technically a first-generation American, but because of my upbringing, I feel culturally somewhere in between Filipino and Filpino-American.
When and how did you get started into modeling?
I did a couple of modeling jobs in the Philippines during my teenage years, but I didn’t quite find my passion for it until I moved to Tokyo. That’s when I began doing conceptual photoshoots with other creatives and artists. I started incorporating dystopian and fantasy themes from animations and anime that influenced me growing up.
I love the freedom in self-expression and storytelling that can be produced through the combination of modeling, photography and post-processing. I love being more involved with the whole creative process ー it’s quite fulfilling.
When and how did you get into software development?
When I was looking for female speakers for Startup Lady Japan events, I came across Yan Fan, CTO of Tokyo-based coding bootcamp called Code Chrysalis. I’d like to think I’m an open minded person, but seeing her broke my subconscious stereotype of what a “software engineer” is. Hearing her story inspired me to try this coding thing out too, and maybe inspire other girls to be curious about technical fields who wouldn’t be otherwise. I haven’t looked back since.
What is your most memorable or unforgettable photoshoot experience so far?
Summer 2018, I was hitting a low in my personal life, feeling disenchanted with modeling and living in Japan. I was ready to give modeling up to pursue a career in tech and was doing my “final” jobs and shoots. That’s around the time I picked up a project with Guillermo Alarcon, known as @future_vizion. He told me as artists, “we evoke emotions, like happiness through creativity.” I had such a positive, encouraging experience with him, I was convinced I could do both if I put in the effort.
Is posing on camera a lot harder than it looks?
With all routines, it gets easier with time and experience. When you first start modeling ー or posing in front of a camera professionalー most people feel pressured to perform as “expected”, don’t know how to let go of the ego, or be okay with trying something new with their bodies or facial expressions. But after each shoot, you learn what positions will get you the look you’re going for, you gain muscle memory, get comfortable with your body, and you can fulfill the role and expression of different characters as a model.
If you could time travel, where would you like to go and witness?
Feudal Japan, right before the Edo period. Albeit violent and chaotic, it would be a stark contrast to the peaceful environment that I live in Tokyo today and would help me appreciate the luxury of living here even more.
Do you believe in any superstition?
I’m not so superstitious per se, however I truly believe in the expectancy theory ー what you think and believe has a strong, direct influence on what manifests into your life. That is why I chose, to my best ability, to be kind and open to everyone I encounter.
What do you not get about the opposite sex?
I often hear this from men (and sometimes women) that “girls are complicated.” Sure, but all humans are complicated and complex. This is not gender-specific. Each human has a depthness and story beyond the superficialities you can collect about another human in an encounter.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions Steffie. One question before we end, how do you define “sexy”?
“Sexy” to me is being ingenuously comfortable with being yourself. Gracefully embracing your best traits, deepest scars, and everything that makes you unique. A true self-love, that encompasses flaws and all, can be stimulating, empowering and refreshing to the observer.
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If you are interested in female leadership or entrepreneurship, check out Startup Lady Japan (www.startuplady.org), to connect with mentors and fellow go-getters. Stay in the loop with upcoming events and meetups on our community page.
Images from Steffie Harner
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