Sexual freedom after Orthodox life

Although she has created lingerie for the bodies of Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, fashion

Although she has created lingerie for the bodies of Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, fashion mogul Julia Haart was a late bloomer.

“The first orgasm I had was at age 35 — with a vibrator, after 16 years of marriage,” the 50-year-old told The Post. “I never heard of an orgasm, let alone a vibrator.”

Haart’s cluelessness was no fault of her own. Born Talia Leibov, she was raised in a Haredi Jewish Orthodox community in Monsey, New York. She married at 19 and raised four children in the insular upstate enclave.

But eight years ago, she left the “fundamentalist” community, and since then has had a meteoric rise in the fashion industry, going from her own startup shoe line to running Elite World Group — and now she stars in her own Netflix reality series, “My Unorthodox Life,” debuting July 14.

The contrast between her former and current lives couldn’t be more stark. “Where I lived, women were to be rarely seen and never heard. Our lives were governed by a web of modesty laws that required us to not only cover our bodies head-to-toe, but to behave comparatively, as well,” she said. “You grow up thinking you don’t matter at all.”

Before she became a lingerie designer, Julia Haart was born Talia Leibov and part of the ultra-Orthodox community and was married at age 19 (left).
Before she became a lingerie designer, Julia Haart was born Talia Leibov and part of the ultra-Orthodox community and was married at age 19 (left).

After years of sneaking fashion magazines from the local 7-Eleven and watching “Sex and the City” on the sly, in 2013, Haart finally summoned the courage to walk away from her community and her husband of 23 years, whom she said she “barely knew” when marrying him.

“The day came when I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stay for one more second,” she said. “You’re trapped in a life that’s not yours. So it was stay and die, or walk out the door.”

She really did feel like death was the only way out. An old diary entry revealed “ways for me to commit suicide as politely as possible,” she recalled, either by hanging herself or getting her hands on pills or a gun.

“In the end, I decided the easiest way to kill myself would be to starve myself to death,” she said. “That way, people wouldn’t think I killed myself — they would just think I have an eating disorder, so my children would still be able to get shidduchim [matchmaking prospects for marriage].” She weighed 73 pounds the day she left.

Fashion honcho Julia Haart has dressed A-listers, including Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Fashion honcho Julia Haart has dressed A-listers, including Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

Using a nest egg she had saved from selling insurance in her community, Haart moved to New York City, bringing her daughter Miriam, now 21, with her. (At the time, her youngest son Aron, now 15, remained in the community; her son Shlomo, 25, was studying in Israel; and her oldest daughter Batsheva, now 28, was newly married.)

Her initial feeling of intense liberation was weighed down by acute feelings of being an outsider. “It’s so jarring — you feel like you’re an alien, you don’t feel like you belong,” said Haart, who likened her transition to being a “time traveler” who entered a world 300 years into the future.

She married her first husband, Yosef Tendler, whom she "barely knew," at age 19.
She married her first husband, Yosef Tendler, whom she “barely knew,” at age 19.

Growing up with a meager secular education, Haart soaked up as much literature as she could — Euripides, Spinoza, Voltaire — and leaned into a lifelong passion: fashion. “Within a week of leaving my old life behind, I started my own shoe brand. I had never studied fashion or designed a shoe; I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I did have one thing going for me, though: I didn’t realize how absurd and impossible the task I set out for myself was.”

In 2015, a Hong Kong-based board member at La Perla took notice of Haart’s comfy heel designs and brought her in for a potential collaboration, which is when she met the company’s owner Silvio Scaglia. The fiery brunette became creative director of the brand in 2016 and designed Kendall Jenner’s famous thong-baring gown for the 2017 Met Gala. Since divorced from her first husband, she married Scaglia in 2019.

Now, she’s CEO of Elite World Group, a talent media company comprised of 48 global agencies representing more than 5,400 celebrities and models, including Jenner and Irina Shayk.

It’s a dream the once-sheltered Haart never believed could happen. “I’ve been obsessed with fashion for as long as I can remember — which was very problematic in my world,” she said. “Clothing is meant to cover and hide — certainly not to evoke personality, uniqueness or to draw attention, or to show femininity or sexuality. It’s all about disappearing into the background.”

Opening up herself and her kids — all four of whom appear in the reality show — to the constant cameras wasn’t an easy decision for Haart, who lives in a palatial three-story, 10,000-square foot Tribeca apartment. “I said to myself, ‘You have a reason.’ Maybe I can help other women, inspire someone.”

In her former life, Haart said clothing was "meant to cover and hide — certainly not to evoke personality, uniqueness or to draw attention, or to show femininity or sexuality."
In her former life, Haart said clothing was “meant to cover and hide — certainly not to evoke personality, uniqueness or to draw attention, or to show femininity or sexuality.”
Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com

While her children now have mixed levels of religious observance, Haart said she always let them choose their own path. Still, she offers them bedroom advice and has even bought them sex toys.

“The only thing I could do for my children is expose them to the world,” she said, adding that most of her own friends and family members cut her off once she left the Orthodox community. “I’m [considered] a dangerous person — someone you don’t want your children around . . . Of course it hurts.”

Still, she said, “I’m really proud to be a Jew. I have no anger towards the community. I think everyone there is a victim. People innately just want to be good.”