Feb 28, 2011 12:00AM

Oyster #91: Andrej Pejic

Excerpts from our feature on Melbourne model Andrej Pejic.

Androgyny is a buzzword that has been embraced by the fashion pack for as long as we can remember, but the recent appearance of transgender models on international runways has kicked gender bending into overdrive. In the nineties, supermodels Omahyra Mota and Kristen McMenamy made their mark with their masculine look. A decade later couture sensations Iris Strubegger and Hannelore Knuts stepped into fill their shoes. Compelling and confrontational, the gender dichotomy has never failed to push a few buttons but the archetypal tomboys and biker bitches of the past were nothing like the androgynes of the new era.

Riccardo Tisci, creative director of fashion titan Givenchy, changed all the rules when he chose to feature his transsexual personal assistant, Lea T, as the star of the brand's Fall Winter 2010 campaign. The brooding Brazilian's gothic aristocracy embodied the Givenchy aesthetic, and Tisci single-handedly created a new transgender perception of beauty. Word was out femme males were in.

This reverse role-play of the sexes has now created a niche for effeminate male models. The buzz is palpable, and Melbourne model Andrej Pejic is at the centre of the hysteria

In Oyster #91, Renee Warne asked the epicene beauty how all this twisted transgender attention sits with his own perceptions of sexuality. Here is an excerpt of the interview, along with images including those that were previously unpublished.

Renee: What was your reaction when first approached to play a role in women's fashion?
Andrej: It was expected, almost inevitable. I remember the first time. I had just finished with L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, and Geoffrey J. Finch, the designer for Antipodium, asked me if I'd open his show in Sydney. I of course had no qualms, and the experience was unreal.

Has your success in women's shows and editorial had an effect on your bookings in menswear?
Well, my success in women's editorial has definitely had a positive impact on my career overall. There are levels of high fashion that male models never really reach; to be in Vogue can only mean good things. 

You have played a key role in bringing about positivity for, and acceptance of, transsexuals. How do you feel about being tasked with being a poster boy for the transgender movement?
I'm not really keen on the idea of being a poster boy for anything. I think it makes for a very limited existence. However, bringing awareness to an often isolated, misperceived and mistreated minority is something I'm very happy to do. Other models have spoken out about feeling displaced and isolated as a result of their appearance.

Is this something you have struggled with?
I think you may be referring to Lea T. She has stated this, however it isn't her appearance that is the isolating factor she is a beautiful girl rather it is the backward perception many people have of transgender individuals. This, however, is the fault of our governments and ruling circles, which are not even interested in such issues. Religious stigma and the media also play very negative roles. I personally feel very accepted in the fashion industry, [as well as] by my family and friends; however I'm aware that there are many who disapprove of the way I am, and at times I do find this saddening.

Your success as part of this movement has seen you travel around the world, working with some of the highest profile talents in the industry. How has your experience affected your perceptions of beauty and sexuality?
I admit that working in this industry has changed my perception of beauty. People I once thought were the most beautiful seem less so, and people who would have seemed strange to me before seem the most beautiful. However, all the great human achievements have resulted from intelligence and creativity, not physical appearance, so the amount of importance I place on beauty hasn't changed. When it comes to sexuality... well, I've learned that it's never straightforward, but at the end of the day it's a job, not a whole new identity.

Words by Renee Warne.
Photography: Jez Smith @ Vivien's Creative
Hair: Gavin Anesbury @ RP Represents using ghd
Make-up: Natasha Severino @ The Artist Group using M.A.C Cosmetics
Make-up Assistant: Peter Beard
Fashion: Kelvin Harries @ The Artist Group
Model: Andrej Pejic @ Chadwick

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