Coolest Person in the Room: Tara Raani
Story by Andrew Nguyen / Photography by Diego Villagra Motta / Styling by Angelina CantúJan 26, 2024
Popularity is relative, especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our series Coolest Person in the Room, we pinpoint all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Tara Raani — the NYC-based actor and model you need to know.
What came first, modeling or acting?
I actually started acting and writing from a really young age. And I had always wanted to model but I was like, I don't know how to get into it. And then when I moved to New York, I was at this high-end fashion boutique, and I was just window shopping in the store. The store manager was like, “Are you a model?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And he was like, “Oh, cool. We have this casting this weekend. You should come.” So I went to the casting, and I booked it. Then I was like, wait I could really do this. So modeling is definitely part of my artistry and part of me being a performer. It goes hand-in-hand with acting.
How do the two go hand-in-hand?
I'd like to think it makes me really confident on set and confident in myself and just being in front of the camera. I always treat every modeling job like it's an acting job. Putting on an outfit, you're selling a vibe, like you are a character. You're not yourself. So I kind of treat it like acting training. But modeling really popped off this past season, whereas I had my big break in acting like two years ago.
Top and skirt: Vasicella, Shoes: Eva Zhao, Rings: Eli Burch
Did you do the full fashion month circuit for the first time last season?
I did a semi-exclusive with Burberry, who I had been working with since July, and I opened their show in London. I basically sat in the atelier for the six weeks prior to the show while they were building all the looks to a few of their muses — me and these two other girls. It was such a great way to start my season. I never really thought I would open a show. Then I did Milan and Paris. This season will actually be my first in New York.
Which city was your favorite?
Probably Paris, because you finally get to sit in one place. It's the longest because there's the most number of shows. Burberry was my favorite show because I've been working with them for so long, but London felt short because literally from the Burberry show I had to get in a car to go to Milan. I didn't go to any parties. I didn't do anything. The way I was whisked away, I didn't even take pictures outside the show. I literally was whisked into a car to the airport to get to castings in Milan. And then from Milan, after I did the Gucci show, was the same thing where I literally came off the runway, checked my phone and my agents were like, “Actually are not going to Paris tomorrow. You're leaving right now. Here's your flight.” And I was like so whisked away, once again, to Paris, which was nice because it’s the last city. I'm not getting whisked away anywhere. I'm here to walk and to play.
That sounds like one big blur.
I’m still processing that season, but I journal every day. It felt like time was moving at an insane pace. I feel like I lived 10 years in the span of two months. I read back all of my journals and went through my camera roll over winter break, which was kind of like, okay, this happened. I was literally living out of a suitcase running around Europe, never knowing what my next day would look like.
Are you a nightlife person at all?
I want to be so bad. I'm so sexy and fun. But I went out one time between August and December. I didn't get to go to a single after party for any of the shows I was in because the schedule was just so crazy. I was just like, damn.
Fashion parties usually aren’t that fun anyway.
Exactly. Do I want to go and get all dressed up just to not have fun? No. That one time I went out was just with my friends. Where we went was random, and we got fucked up.
Are you formally trained as an actor?
I actually took my first acting class after my first season of Grown-ish because I finally had money and time. I was a nationally ranked speech person in high school and humorous and dramatic, so that was where I really learned. Our coach really just held us gay kids and made us feel really at home and safe and also was just a really good acting coach. That was my training ground. And then in college, I ran our satire news show, which was a combination of sketch comedy and improv. Then after college I was doing web series and indie films. I started really auditioning for stuff after college. Grown-ish, I actually found as an open call, which I applied for and got.
Were you just driven by ambition and pure belief in yourself then?
Yeah, like this is crazy to say. Actually, no, this isn't crazy to say. I've always known I'm really good. And I just needed an opportunity to be in a professional setting.
During the pandemic, my friend who got a master’s in acting gave me auditioning lessons, and in exchange, I gave her writing lessons. So we basically did a skill-share every week for almost a year, and that really helped me. Acting and auditioning are really different forms of acting. I was like, I'm not worried about once I'm on set. I just don't know how to get on a big set. So that was really helpful just learning how to audition from someone who knew. Auditioning is really fun. Some people hate it, which is so fair, but I really like it.
Why do people hate it?
It's the rejection. And you generally have like a 48-hour period to memorize and send the scenes. It's a lot of pressure. You don't get the time to really marinate in the material, which is hard but also is so fun. I get to just test out this little character. A lot of the time, people in both modeling and acting talk about rejection, which really gets to them, but I don't really feel rejection. Maybe it's because I have an Asian mom.
And she was okay with you wanting to act?
I studied computer science and film in college because I was like, I need to have a trade. I don't want to be broke and gay, because I don't know how that's gonna turn out for me. So I studied both and worked. Before, my money job was in CS as a programmer.
Are you still writing?
I am! I actually just finished a short film that I'm gonna make this year. Writing and directing is the long game, but I knew that if I prioritized being talent first, it would match the path I chose. Some people pick the writing path and go to the writer's room or do the assistant thing. I’m way too sexy to do that.
Jacket: Versace, Dress: Priscavera, Belt: Diesel, Shoes: 424, Earrings and ring: Erin Fader
Photography: Diego Villagra Motta
Styling: Angelina Cantú
Styling assistant: Heidi Cannon
Makeup: Amelia Jackie
Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Managing editor: Matt Wille
Fashion editor: Andrew Nguyen
Editorial producer: Angelina Cantú