In 1990, Anohni moved to Manhattan to attend the Experimental Theatre Wing of New York University, and founded the performance collective Blacklips with creative partner Johanna Constantine. She spent the next several years singing in after-hours bars and clubs using pre-recorded cassettes as self-accompaniment as well as writing and directing late night theatre productions.
Anohni is transgender and uses feminine pronouns. In an interview with Flavorwire in November 2014 she stated "My closest friends and family use feminine pronouns for me. I have not mandated the press do one thing or another... In my personal life I prefer ‘she’. I think words are important. To call a person by their chosen gender is to honor their spirit, their life and contribution. ‘He’ is an invisible pronoun for me, it negates me."