Fernando Casablancas has always been a performer. Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, he’d tell his parents, “I want to be a TV-er.” At 17, Casablancas—who identifies as non-binary and refers to himself both as “he” and “they”—moved to New York City to study at Parsons School of Design. Shortly after, he started modeling for brands such as Chrome Hearts, Tommy Hilfiger, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Now, at age 24, he has finally become a “TV-er.”

Casablancas is one of the stars in Freeform’s debut reality-TV series, The Come Up. It follows him and his five castmates as they navigate post-pandemic Manhattan and try to make it as photographers, actors, and fashion designers. They all converge at fabulous parties.

“Downtown is the hub where all the artistic vanguards meet,” Casablancas says from a creative retreat. “What’s inspiring about the scene right now is how many shifts constantly happen.” These days, he hangs out around Dimes Square, a buzzy neighborhood between the Lower East Side and Chinatown where skaters and artists meet for espresso martinis.

Casablancas is the half-brother of Julian, the lead singer of the Strokes, and the son of John, the founder of Elite Model Management, which has represented Adriana Lima, Gisele Bündchen, and Alessandra Ambrosio.

“What’s inspiring about the [downtown] scene right now is how many shifts constantly happen.”

Despite Casablancas’s creative family, the conservatism of Catholic Brazil made his teenage years tough. “I felt very alienated and excluded, or shunned just for being who I was,” he says. Shortly after his dad died in 2013, when Casablancas was 17, he came out as queer to his mother.

Later that year, he moved to Manhattan for college. “I had to find my people, those who are like me, who left their home to discover who they are,” he says. After days spent in classrooms, Casablancas would hit nightclubs. “I would go out, and I would dress up like crazy—I would do drag.”

He transferred from Parsons to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study experimental theater, and his fluid, androgynous aesthetic began to garner attention on social media. While he insists his career has nothing to do with his father, who died years before he began modeling, Casablancas knows his dad has a storied legacy. “My father was this example of macho alpha. When people meet me, they feel this sense of disruption because I embody feminine energy.”

Last summer, Casablancas married the supermodel Jordan Barrett—in Ibiza, in a boho ceremony where Kate Moss served as the ring bearer. The couple has since broken up, and now Casablancas is single and living in the East Village. He hangs out with models, D.J.’s, and the new generation of queer kids who moved to Manhattan during the pandemic.

His TV debut won’t stop his other creative projects. “Fernando isn’t just one venue—it’s all of these venues in one,” he says. “It’s the beauty of being queer; it all blends together.”

The Come Up is available for streaming on Hulu

Elena Clavarino is an Associate Editor for AIR MAIL