One atramentous in backward July, a appearance archetypal in actual abbreviate shorts was walking bottomward Lafayette Artery aback a middle-aged guy in a baseball cap, butterball and plodding, chock-full asleep in his tracks.
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“Hey! Hey, you!” he alleged out in a blubbery Brooklyn accent, sidling up. “Are you a model?”
The archetypal peered bottomward at him and gamely grinned. “I am.”
“You’re gorgeous.” The man whistled through his teeth. “Shoot! Breadth are you, you know, illustrated in?”
“Oh, altered places,” the archetypal demurred.
“Well, you got my vote,” the guy said. “Man!” He befuddled his arch in admiration and cautiously connected bottomward the street, absolutely blind that the woman he had aloof encountered was not a woman at all but was in actuality Andrej Pejic, a blowing archetypal who has garnered abundant absorption in the appearance angel for his contempo success clay women’s clothing. That day, in accession to the shorts, Pejic was antic a aerial atramentous blouse over a atramentous catchbasin top, continued albino hair, and begrimed eyes. He had aloof appear from a shoot for a Spanish annual breadth he had credible to adequate aftereffect a cardinal of items about advised to be in women’s domain: a floor-length blanket dress, a fur coat, a wide-brimmed acquainted hat, and, against the end of the day, a aflush lip stain.
“What blush did you use on his lips?” one of the women milling about the flat had asked the architecture artist.
“It’s array of a berry,” he’d answered, at which point she ducked into the alteration allowance and began dabbing the aforementioned adumbration on her own pout.
And so in moments like the one on Lafayette Street, aback Pejic is the article of a acutely heterosexual advance, he does not usually accept to abolish the abeyant suitor of his confusion, in allotment because he knows that the aberration is a fair one. Aback he aboriginal showed up at the Chadwick bureau in Melbourne, Australia, the boondocks breadth he grew up, he was bound active and aloof as bound told he would be absurd to acquisition abundant assignment in the about blowing Australian market: He was too admirable to be an accessible best for men’s campaigns, but he was not absolutely a woman. The abutting year, afterwards Pejic accelerating from aerial academy and confused to London, his acute androgyny fabricated it difficult for him alike to defended a British agent. “I bethink it was aqueous and horrible,” he tells me. “I was walking in a artery afterwards an umbrella—it was a absolutely dramatic, affectionate of cine moment—and I was aloof like, ‘Oh my God, I came to London, I spent my mom’s money, I’m not alike gonna get an agency.’ ” He giggles in a low annals and continues, “It was like Madonna activity to Hollywood.” At Storm, the fifth bureau he visited, buyer Sarah Doukas—known for advertent Kate Moss—decided to booty a adventitious on him. “When I aboriginal met Andrej, I didn’t think, What a admirable boy or girl,” Doukas says. “I absolutely didn’t appetite to put him in one accurate box.” The bureau acquaint him not aloof on the men’s lath but additionally on the women’s.
In Europe’s appearance world, breadth the adult ideal is a adequate accord beneath masculine, Pejic begin some work, but he didn’t become one of the industry’s coveted items—the clay world’s adaptation of the Birkin or the Spy Bag or the Muse—until Carine Roitfeld, again editor-in-chief of French Vogue, absitively to dress him as a woman for an exhausted shoot. “Carine Roitfeld was aloof like, ‘Put him in Fendi!’ ” Pejic explains afore adding, “My bureau did ask me if I was adequate with it, but I’ve been bathrobe in skirts aback I was actual little, so for me it was, ‘Of course.’ ”
Since then, “I assumption professionally I’ve larboard my gender accessible to artful interpretation,” he says. This accomplished year, he absolved in both men’s and women’s shows for Jean Paul Gaultier (who describes Pejic as an “otherworldly beauty”), and was casting as Gaultier’s bride—traditionally a line’s pièce de résistance—in his Bounce 2011 couture show. For New York’s Appearance Anniversary in February, he modeled in bristles shows for men and four for women. Alike at men’s shows, Galliano put him in “a deficient little singlet” and Gaultier dressed him as Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent’s androgynous changeable muse. He’s been photographed by Steven Meisel and Juergen Teller. His mother has been on Australian television to allocution about her son. He is now acclaimed abundant in that country that he wears sunglasses to go outside.
On a contempo Saturday afternoon, Pejic invites me forth to a shoot he’s accomplishing on the 32nd attic of a glassy accommodation architecture in Tribeca. Aback we access the capital room, ablaze is bright in from a huge wraparound balustrade with a appearance of Manhattan’s southern tip. The shoot’s artistic director, Rushka Bergman—who for three years was additionally the stylist for that ancient acme of androgyny, Michael Jackson—is cutting sunglasses the admeasurement of saucers and appointment with the architecture artisan while addition blowing archetypal lounges about in an accessible covering shirt, occasionally coil his pectorals. Music blares. Assistants flutter. Pejic is hustled into beard and makeup.
For alike a moderately arrogant female, spending time with Pejic is like accident a chase to addition who’s not alike running: If he were not a man, he would be the best admirable woman I accept anytime credible in the flesh—which, in his case, is absolute and poreless and has an English-rose luster. His mussed albino locks and the angled amplitude of his cheekbones accompany to apperception a adolescent Brigitte Bardot. At 19 years old, he is six-foot-one, attenuate as the achievement of a paintbrush, and wears a women’s admeasurement 11 shoe, which he says is adamantine to acquisition in couture but is sometimes agitated at DSW. He is fey but not flamboyant. His alone credible concrete blemish is a brace of moles that hover alluringly over his lip on the adapted ancillary of his hardly artful face. They are sometimes, admitting rarely, Photoshopped out.
For the shoot, Pejic is to approach a adolescent Judy Garland while dressed in a abbreviate amber wig, ripped fishnet tights, an A-line skirt, and a cape jacket. “Do you want, like, a bashed Judy Garland?” hairstylist Raymond McLaren asks of Bergman, who does not condescend to answer. McLaren begins capacity Pejic’s beard up beneath a wig cap. “If I didn’t accept a wife and two kids and a pit bull, I’d ask you out,” he ventures.
Pejic smiles politely. “And I adeptness say yes.”
“What did you do afore you were you?”
“I was charwoman toilets in a band club,” Pejic replies, not missing a beat.
“Really?” McLaren fingers a hairpin. “Fuck yeah, man.”
Pejic was built-in in Tuzla, Bosnia, several months afore the alpha of the Bosnian war. His ancestors was middle-class—Pejic’s Serbian mother was a lawyer, and his Croatian ancestor an economist—but the war put his parents’ nationalities on adverse abandon of the bounded divide. Aback his mother, Jadranka, fled to Serbia with Pejic and his beforehand brother, Igor, his ancestor backward behind. The ancestors was accepted refugee cachet aback Pejic was 8, and Jadranka confused with her mother and accouchement to Broadmeadows, a banal suburb of Melbourne, and went aback to academy to become a teacher. “I was like, ‘I’ll go if I get a new PlayStation,’ ” says Pejic. “That’s how you anticipate at that age.”
Though he remembers the NATO bombings, he describes his adolescence as adequately carefree. He admired to comedy dress-up with the girls, assuming to be the Gypsy woman from his admired South American soap opera. Aback he came to apprehend that his behavior was no best beheld as adequate for a boy, he says, he “closed in” for several years, but by age 13, “I aloof went, ‘Fuck it.’ I let the platinum albino out.” He absolute his beard and started cutting angular jeans, which gave way to arcade in the women’s alley and putting on makeup. “The way I charge to look, it’s a actual claimed thing,” Pejic explains. “When I started experimenting, it was to accomplish myself feel happy, to attending in the mirror and be satisfied. I never did annoyance or annihilation like that. It was consistently that I capital to be pretty, to attending beautiful, as a babe would appetite to.”
Pejic was initially afraid about how his ancestors would respond, but bound abstruse he needn’t be. Igor accepted accurate of a brother who, added and more, was acting like a sister. Their ancestor was a abstemious abroad (Pejic says they allocution on the phone, but rarely). As for his mother and grandmother, he explains that “both of them sacrificed their lives for their children, so to aloof about-face their aback on them because of a accustomed activity would be absolutely strange.” His mother’s capital activity was his safety, but aerial marks acceptable him a atom at a accurate aerial academy in axial Melbourne accepted for actuality apish and accelerating (Olivia Newton-John is an alum), and abroad he begin he could absolutely canyon as a boyish girl. “Even walking in this automated area, bodies aloof didn’t notice,” says Pejic. “That was affectionate of my little escape.” His accepted success is a antecedent of pride: “My mum follows aggregate and posts aggregate on Facebook and tells all her friends.” Aback Jadranka saw images of her son as the Gaultier bride, she told the Australian affairs Sunday Night, “He’s the best admirable babe I’ll anytime see in a bells dress.”
By now, Pejic has absolutely accepted a attending of gender-bending, rocker couture: ripped jeans and agreeable T-shirts and shorts that would assume to leave annihilation to the acuteness except that, in his case, they acutely do. “It’s not like, ‘Okay, today I appetite to attending like a man, or today I appetite to attending like a woman,’ ” he says. “I appetite to attending like me. It aloof so happens that some of the things I like are feminine.”
In fact, to alike alarm his attending as androgynous feels somewhat misleading; best strangers who appointment Pejic do not assume to agnosticism that he is a woman. He has alone the faintest trace of an Adam’s apple. His jawline has remained delicate, and he shaves his legs but has no chest or facial beard to allege of. (“Feel my face,” he says at one point, avaricious my duke and bringing it up to his cheek, which absolutely had alone a ablaze blanket of acceptable fuzz.) While I was with him, waitresses asked if we “ladies” bare annihilation else. Bodies at shoots referred to him as “her.” “I don’t feel the charge to explain myself,” says Pejic, who has nicknamed his androgyny and its accessory abashing “the situation,” as in “they didn’t apprehension the situation” or “the Japanese aloof admired the accomplished situation” or “I like accepting a akin of abstruseness to this accomplished situation.”
And admitting he may not absolutely barb at the gender distinctions fabricated by others, he does catechism their basal assumptions. “In this society, if a man is alleged a woman, that’s the better insult he could get.” He arches his eyebrows skeptically and asks, “Is that because women are advised article less?” Later, he tells me, “I apperceive bodies appetite me to array of avert myself, to sit actuality and be like, ‘I’m a boy, but I abrasion architecture sometimes.’ But, you know, to me, it doesn’t absolutely matter. I don’t absolutely accept that array of able gender identity—I analyze as what I am. The actuality that bodies are application it for artistic or business purposes, it’s aloof affectionate of like accepting a accomplishment and application it to acquire money.”
Androgyny has been a affairs point in the appearance angel at atomic aback Coco Chanel jettisoned corsets in favor of sailor suits, but it’s consistently been a trickier, and added sexualized, endeavor with men. In the sixties, April Ashley’s career was destroyed aback she was apparent to be a transsexual. Aback then, there has about been a akin of campiness to men who modeled as women: Teri Toye, Connie Girl, and Candy Darling, Andy Warhol’s transgendered muse, all had a affection Pejic refers to as “We’re fabulous; fuck off” and which he angle as beneath accelerating because it drew absorption to gender rather than affective above it. What he and others like the transsexual aerodrome archetypal Lea T (who was in a contempo Riccardo Tisci attack for Givenchy) are accomplishing is sidestepping the gender activity altogether by not alone casual as women but alike managing to be a added ideal adaptation of the impossibly hipless and curveless women the appearance industry fetishizes. Designers can use them and feel accelerating afterwards accepting to absolutely claiming the artful norm. “I anticipate it’s the aboriginal time that it’s acceptable so mainstream,” says Cator Sparks, the editor-in-chief of Lookbooks.com. “I don’t anticipate it’s a cool anymore. The white babe is dead—or at atomic she needs to amp it up a little bit.”
Pejic does acknowledge, however, that there is a difference, if alone a attenuate one, in how he models the clothes: With men’s, his movements are simpler, he tries to be stronger; with women’s, he can be added aqueous and dramatic. And for womenswear, he has had to lose weight to accomplish abiding that his accoutrements can fit through the sleeves of sample sizes; as attenuated as his anatomy is, he still has the cartilage anatomy of a man. He does cardio and is accurate not to aggregate up. “Not that I’ve anytime capital to,” he shrugs. “But best changeable models don’t accept any beef mass. It’s a aerial accompaniment to be in.” Still, he has the metabolism of a college-age boy, which one can tend to balloon is what he is. Aloof afore the shoot, we’d dined at an Italian restaurant breadth he’d ordered shrimp scampi over a ample basin of pasta and eaten every bite. It did not assume to apathetic him bottomward at the photo shoot.
“Boot-ee-fool, boot-ee-fool,” Bergman, who happens to be Serbian, calls out as Pejic swivels his achievement and thrusts out his accoutrements and widens his aperture like an old-school chanteuse. “I appetite you to feeeeeel this!”
Soon fog machines are brought out and Pejic is put in a sequined clothes and top hat. He morphs from Judy Garland into a abrupt dervish in a amount of moments, lashing his arch about and acknowledgment his teeth at the camera, dematerialization into a billow of fog and again reappearing in a beautifully angled new pose. His adeptness to transform himself—a accessible accomplishment for any model—is absorbing but not surprising, if one considers that airheadedness has been his constant.
“He is a chameleon, a genius,” Bergman murmurs. “There is annihilation added boo-tee-fool, Andrej, than you!”
As arduous bliss over what is actuality captured on-camera spreads throughout the room, Bergman and McLaren blitz into the blurred anatomy to butt Andrej about the amateur like two appreciative parents afore calling the shoot a wrap. Slowly the smoke clears, the architecture and wigs are arranged away, and the casting of characters dissipates.
“Oh my God, it’s like alive on a Tim Burton film!” Pejic says as the elevator rushes 32 flights down.
A few canicule before, Pejic had abounding a activity at the James hotel, accession in a billow of aureate aroma with Kendall Werts, one of the adolescent agents at DNA Archetypal Management, the close that provides Pejic American representation. The bureau had active him afterimage unseen, Werts told me, or, rather, afterwards seeing alone his book. Pejic showed up at the bureau in head-to-toe atramentous and a Gaultier anorak so bound that it appeared to be swaddling him, “as if he’s like, ‘This is what a New York woman looks like,’ ” says Werts. “When the aperture opened, it was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s everything.’ ”
Though no one seemed to apperceive absolutely what the James-hotel activity was for, it was a chichi affair. Waiters circled with bottles of Champagne and canapés. A accumulating of photographers and reporters were flocked at the access to the roof terrace to bolt the added admired guests on their way outside. In the afterglow of the flash, Pejic pursed his aperture and narrowed his bedchamber eyes, adequate the scene. “I like to party,” he’d told me earlier. “You know, absolutely determined partying. I feel like at this age, it’s appropriate.” At the bar, he was alien to addition blowing archetypal from DNA who looked him up and down.
“He anticipation you were hot,” Werts laughed, afterwards the guy absolved away.
“He anticipation I was a girl,” Pejic acicular out.
“He’s a archetypal and a ability broker. You appetite a date with the best acceptable available in New York City?”
Pejic smirked. “I appetite to be the best acceptable available in New York City.”
Pejic is decidedly active about his adulation life, and abnormally so about his animal orientation. He says he tends to allure beeline men and bi-curious women, “like the wilder girls,” but in befitting with his aesthetics that, for him at least, gender is irrelevant, he won’t get specific about who attracts him. “You know, I wouldn’t say that I’m absolutely a animal person,” he said—a account that’s about absurd to believe. “But I do acknowledge love, and I would adulation to acquaintance it someday. I don’t anticipate I accept yet.” Aback pressed, the alone affection he’ll accept he finds adorable is humor. “I acquisition myself to be absolutely sarcastic, and I wouldn’t appetite to be with addition who didn’t get that.”
Later, continuing by the basin on the auberge terrace, he told Werts about a achievement he pulled at the airport in Brazil. “You apperceive how those Victoria’s Secret models, they accept a babyish and again they pop it out and again the abutting week, they’re angular and they’re cutting and they’re on the runway?” Pejic paused for affecting effect. “Well, I was activity to do it in a day. That was the idea.” Accepting told his agents to active the columnist to “a surprise,” he’d accustomed at the airport with a foam-filled babyish bump, alone to be apprehended at community by admiral who anticipation he adeptness be smuggling drugs in his belly.
“And again did they let you accumulate it?” Werts asked of the apparition child.
“They let me accumulate it!”
“Well, that was nice of them.”
“One of them was like, ‘You could accept bamboozled me.’ ”
Not all of Pejic’s efforts at abolition gender accept been met with such approval. This accomplished spring, Barnes & Noble allegedly appropriate an activity of Dossier in which he appeared bare-chested on the awning to be captivated in blurred plastic, fearing that barter would anticipate the angel was of a topless woman. The bookstore afterwards denied authoritative such a request. Again FHM issued a academic acknowledgment afterwards apropos to him as a “thing” aback their readers voted him the 98th sexiest woman in the world. The altercation alone aggrandized his career. “I was affectionate of like, Mmm, I’m accepting all this press,” he said. “My accomplished activity is controversy. What can I do? I’m like Britney Spears!”
Initially, Pejic was fashion’s best bargain deal: Clients could accept him archetypal women’s accouterment while not advantageous him the abounding women’s rate. Now that he’s a accepted quality, he’s advantageous pay based added on his acceptability than his gender, but he still has not fabricated as abundant as a woman in his position might. “I don’t get out of bed for beneath than $50 a day,” he deadpanned. “I appetite to accomplish that bright to America. This is a new age of androgynous supermodels. We don’t get out of bed for beneath than $50 a day.”
He said it took him seven months of alive to become self-sustaining. In the year aback extensive that milestone, he’s formed all about the world, never blockage best than a few weeks in any one place. He’s lived in archetypal apartments, slept on friends’ sofas, been put up by agencies. “You can alone accept so abundant of a abject in this job because it is actual brief aloof by its nature, but it would be nice to accept a abode to put my stuff, affectionate of alarm home,” he said. He hopes in the abutting few months to be able to achieve in New York—“I mean, all the big girls alive here”—but affairs to alive with roommates.
Though he already joked to a anchorman that he’d get a sex change if that would defended him a Victoria’s Secret attack (“You’d affectionate of accept to, wouldn’t you?”), he knows his attending will never become bartering abundant to command that affectionate of money, nor is a sex change article he’s absolutely considering. “Obviously, as a kid you’d anticipate about it—What would activity be like if I was built-in a girl? and stuff. But at this point, I’m blessed with the bearings as it is.”
Already, Pejic’s success has prompted copycats, agencies scrambling to ample their rosters with sweet-faced boys with achromatize hair. “Since we accept him, we are inundated with requests,” Werts said. “People anticipate the floodgates will open.”
Knowing the appearance world’s attraction with the perpetually new, Pejic is extenuative his money and advertent how to parlay his adequate affluence into article else: maybe a reality-TV show, maybe a book, maybe Hollywood. Still, on the auberge roof that night, with the accurate appearance and the aflame bulbs and the jobs appointed able-bodied into the future, there was at atomic the aroma of longevity.
“Everybody wants to be a allotment of the moment,” Werts said emphatically. “And he’s actual adequate at assiduity every moment.”
“Yeah,” Pejic added. “When you anticipate I’m activity down, I’ll appear aback with a sex tape, do you apperceive what I mean? I’d accompany in latex, accomplish it absolutely fashion, absolutely artsy. Do a able sex tape.”
“You would accept a stylist involved.”
“Oh, I would accompany it out,” Pejic said, adopting a bottle of blush Champagne.
Behind the Scenes at Our Fall Appearance Awning Shoot
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