This NY Times Magazine article descripes Andre Pejic as ‘the prettiest boy in the world’. He is undoubtedly very pretty. But aren’t a lot of boys these days?
The real focus of the article is on how an openly cross-dressing androgynous man has been able to secure high profile modelling work for both men and women’s fashion.
‘At Storm, the fifth agency he visited, owner Sarah Doukas—known for discovering Kate Moss—decided to take a chance on him. “When I first met Andrej, I didn’t think, What a beautiful boy or girl,” Doukas says. “I certainly didn’t want to put him in one particular box.” The agency posted him not just on the men’s board but also on the women’s’.
In many ways, this is a comment, not on his androgyny itself, but on the fashion industry, and how hung up it has been about gender roles and the separation between ‘men’ and women’ in clothes/fashion.
‘In Europe’s fashion world, where the masculine ideal is a good deal less masculine, Pejic found some work, but he didn’t become one of the industry’s coveted items—the modeling world’s version of the Birkin or the Spy Bag or the Muse—until Carine Roitfeld, then editor-in-chief of French Vogue, decided to dress him as a woman for an editorial shoot. “Carine Roitfeld was just like, ‘Put him in Fendi!’ ” Pejic explains before adding, “My agency did ask me if I was comfortable with it, but I’ve been dressing in skirts since I was very little, so for me it was, ‘Of course.’ ’
I like the way the journalist contrasts the European ‘masculine ideal’ with that of, in this example, Australia, where Pejic could not get work at all. But what is a ‘masculine ideal’? Most men’s fashion involves pretty boys dressing up, wearing make-up, worrying about their weight, strutting their stuff on the catwalk. And many male models are skinny – not the traditional ‘masculine’ muscle look. I think it is interesting to consider why Pejic could not just be a male model like all the other pretty male models.
I suspect it is to do with ‘gender presentation’. Things like wearing long hair, women’s shoes, colourful (as opposed to skin tone) make up. These things signify ‘femininity’ to our eyes. And, Pejic’s comfort with straddling the gender binary probably made many model agencies distinctly uncomfortable.
‘Since then, “I guess professionally I’ve left my gender open to artistic interpretation,” he says. This past year, he walked in both men’s and women’s shows for Jean Paul Gaultier (who describes Pejic as an “otherworldly beauty”), and was cast as Gaultier’s bride—traditionally a line’s pièce de résistance—in his Spring 2011 couture show.’
“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.”
But the journalist went overboard on how beautiful the model is:
‘For even a moderately vain female, spending time with Pejic is like losing a race to someone who’s not even running: If he were not a man, he would be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in the flesh’. Can’t he be the most beautiful man s/he has ever seen in the flesh?
I think Pejic is just honest about what most if not all young men dream of: the desire to be considered beautiful as a girl would do.
“The way I need to look, it’s a very personal thing,” Pejic explains. “When I started experimenting, it was to make myself feel happy, to look in the mirror and be satisfied. I never did drag or anything like that. It was always that I wanted to be pretty, to look beautiful, as a girl would want to.”
Previously, Pejic posed topless for a magazine and it was banned (or covered up) by Barnes and Noble bookstores. The argument being that magazines featuring topless women are not considered suitable for their shops.
As I said at the time, this tickled me, because
‘in some ways, muscled up pecs look more like women’s breasts than a skinny androgyne’s ones.’ And Aaron Schock’s bazookas look more like Barbara Windsor than Brad Pitt!
For me, the notable thing about all the fuss around Pejic, is how the concept of ‘androgyny’ is really quite quaint and out moded in this postmodern, Metrosexy world. As Mark Simpson pointed out recently, if ‘macho’ figures such as Shane Warne are starting to become obsessed with being beautiful, and matching their glamorous girlfriends, wax for wax, pluck for pluck, accessory for accessory, shouldn’t we reconsider what our sense of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ mean?
And again, quoting the man that saw all this coming, long before Andre Pejic got his first booking at Storm, probably when he was prancing round his mum’s bedroom in a skirt as a young child:
It’s Transexy Time!