Geek Girl: Is Harriet Manners Based on a Real Fashion Model?

Netflix’s ‘Geek Girl’ follows the story of a teenager named Harriet Manners, whose life takes a turn when she is scouted by a modeling agency and discovers that a whole new world has been opened to her. It is a great thing for Harriet, who has always been treated as an outcast in school and wanted to find someplace she could fit in. As promising as her career in modeling sounds, she soon discovers that things are not that simple. As the story progresses, Harriet learns many lessons about life, the most important being the ability to love oneself. The show presents a very realistic side of being a teenager, especially in the context of exploring one’s identity and sense of belonging, and that’s because the story and the character are rooted in reality.

Harriet Manners is Loosely Based on the Author of Geek Girl

The Netflix series adapts Holly Smale’s book ‘Geek Girl.’ The author revealed that Harriet’s character is entirely original and is, on many levels, different from herself. She said that the teen protagonist traversed her own unique path once the story started unfolding on the page, and yet, there are parts of Harriet and her story that were pulled right from Smale’s life.

When writing about Harriet’s teen struggles, Smale tapped into her own memories as a teenager and the struggles that she went through, especially in context with the bullying and feeling of not fitting in with her peers. Like her character, Smale had always felt that she was a bit different from her classmates, which had turned her into an outcast at school. She was no stranger to cruelty from fellow students and went through a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from anxiety and loneliness to moments of love and happiness. When it came to writing about Harriet’s journey, the author dressed the “emotional skeleton [of her experience] with the clothes of fiction.”

Another thing that connects Smale and Harriet is that the author also had a brief stint in modeling, and it was one of the reasons why she started writing the book in the first place. She revealed that she had been working on an adult novel at the time and was advised by her friend to write something light to let her creative juices flow. Naturally, her experience in modeling came up as the natural choice, and once Smale started writing, she couldn’t stop.

A lot of what happens to Harriet in the books is directly pulled from Smale’s life, though it is decorated with a layer of fiction or has been told in a chronology different from when it happened to Smale in real life. Harriet being scouted by the modeling agency and brought into the world of modeling is quite similar to how things had unfolded for Smale in real life. Moreover, the author revealed that she would often get into scrapes with other models or people at her workplace as she met all sorts of people there, and that fed a lot into what happened to Harriet in the book. The author also mentioned that several bullying scenes in the book are also plucked from the real events that happened to her or someone else around her.

Smale revealed that, like Harriet, she desired to be able to fit in, which made her go into modeling. She had hoped that the exposure would help her figure out how to be more normal and likable, something she had always struggled with at school. But soon enough, she realized that she would remain “geeky,” no matter if she was at school or modeling for some brand. Making Harriet in her own image allowed Smale to process a lot of things from her younger years, and one of the most important things to come out of it was the revelation that her character, and hence, Smale herself, was on the autism spectrum. It put a lot of things in perspective for Smale.

Another thing that Smale wanted to highlight through Harriet was that geeks are not limited to school or a certain profession. She wanted to challenge the stereotype that a person can either be smart or beautiful, especially in the modeling industry. Having worked in the industry and worked with so many people over the years, Smale could testify that, like any other industry, modeling constituted of multifaceted people, and a lot of the models are geeky, especially the young ones who are still in the process of figuring out who they really are.

At the end of the day, Smale says that Harriet is her own person. Despite the similarities between them, the character feels more like a daughter to the author rather than a mirror image of herself. There are several differences between them, but at their core, they are quite similar people, and that is what makes the story so resonant to the audience, who find Harriet very grounded and real, even though she is a fictional character.

Read More: Netflix’s Geek Girl: Is the Show Based on a Book?