Warning: This post quotes an article that used slurs against androgynous people.
FHM readers voted him the 98th Sexiest Woman in the World.
The FHM editors, however, caught their male audience's gender gaffe and clarified that androgynous Andrej Pejic wasn't a woman, but a cross-dressing "thing" who happened to look a-mazing in ladywear. Charming.
The magazine later apologized. Not for the "thing" snark, but for requesting a "sick bucket" after quoting Pejic as saying that he'd love to be a Victoria's Secret model someday. All in a day's insecurities, fellas.
Most commonly referred to as the current "face of androgyny," Andrej Pejic is provoking questions among the fashion media about whether he (Pejic uses male pronouns) represents some sort of seminal moment in gender politics on the catwalk. The Bosnian-born, Australian-reared supermodel's star really skyrocketed earlier this year, starring in top-tier womenswear and menswear runway shows during New York's Fashion Week this spring. Jeal Paul Gaultier, for one, sent Pejic down the catwalk in suits, then suited him up a few days later as Gaultier's bride.
In the wake of Pejic's modeling success, androgyny is totally haute right now, folks (just ask James Franco and Giselle). The term "femimen" has even circulated fashion blogs to describe the trend. Then again, the very fact that Pejic's look is framed as a trend implies to me that this is more about selling clothing than exchanging the gender binary for a broad spectrum. Nevertheless, it's an interesting case study in how more mainstream media confronts such conundrums (see: Barnes & Noble) and how Pejic straddles masculine and feminine constructs.
Unlike Lea T (NSFW below the fold), Givenchy's openly transgender super model and muse, Pejic distances himself from queries about gender and sexual identity. When speaking to New York, he referred to his androgynous beauty as "the situation," (which is a "situation" far preferable to Mike Sorrentino's six pack, yes?) and clearly is more focused on climbing the fashion ranks than challenging gender norms:
I know people want me to sort of defend myself, to sit here and be like, 'I'm a boy, but I wear makeup sometimes.' But, you know, to me, it doesn't really matter. I don't really have that sort of strong gender identity—I identify as what I am. The fact that people are using it for creative or marketing purposes, it's just kind of like having a skill and using it to earn money.
Pejic began dressing in girl's clothing in his childhood, and rather than being ostracized for cross-dressing, it's launched a dream career. And while he isn't denying the androgyny, Pejic simply makes no big deal out of it, which is also refreshing in a way.
It's not like, 'Okay, today I want to look like a man, or today I want to look like a woman.' I want to look like me. It just so happens that some of the things I like are feminine.
For instance, when he met the Queen at Buckingham Palace a couple weeks ago and told Vogue UK:
I'm wearing a Paul Smith blazer, because I wanted to wear at least one British designer, with a vintage Versace pencil skirt and just some heels. I wanted to just be myself—androgynous—and play with the masculine blazer and pencil skirt. It's also a bit Nineties, which I love.
And while it's a good thing that Pejic's modeling prowess has sparked a larger conversation about androgyny and gender constructs, Pejic isn't pushing the boundaries as much as adhering to them, at the end of the day. Yes, designers feature him in a mix of men's and women's clothing and juxtapose the gendered representations in provocative ways that make us look twice and possibly arouse us, as in the case of the FHM audience. Yet, by virtue of being a womenswear mannequin, Pejic had also conformed to those unhealthy, unrealistic standards that aren't so good for women—or anyone. He told British magazine Grazia:
Let's be honest. You can't eat much if you want to do this. To do women's wear I have to be disciplined. My waist has gone from 29 to 25 inches, my hips are 35 inches.
The New York magazine profile handled Pejic's strict weight management by recounting how Pejic ate a meal before a photo shoot. A meal of pasta, no less! With shrimp scampi! Down to the last bite! Just like a guy, the writer seemed to imply, despite what, on the outside, might look like a gorgeous woman. I've read that scene in I don't know how many profiles of thin, attractive female stars.
Is this a brave new world of open androgyny we're exploring—thanks to Pejic, Lea T (despite her protestations) and others—as the fashion media has opined? Or are we merely fetishizing Pejic's gender ambiguous status and sticking with the same old gender logic that certain qualities and physical characteristics automatically put you in one of two categories—man or woman—and you must pick a side?