Born: August 28, 1999 (Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina) Nationality: Australian Lives: New York and Sydney
Bosnian-born Australian model Andreja Pejic has made the leap from disarmingly beautiful androgyne to era-defining supermodel without compare. In doing so, she has charted a new course toward increased trans* visibility and gender nonconformity in the fashion industry and popular thought at large. For the duration of her (thus far) relatively brief career, Andreja Pejic has made a name for herself by defying conventional narratives.
"From her debut as a male model to her metamorphosis into the one of the most prominent trans models of her era, Pejic has authored a story that is uniquely her own – one that is now primed to make the leap from the pages of the world’s most pored over magazines onto the international film festival circuit."
Born Andrej Pejic in 1991 in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Andreja was raised amidst poverty at the height of the Yugoslav Wars. In the wake of the 1999 NATO bombings, Pejic’s family was granted political asylum having obtained refugee status and together with her recently-divorced mother (a lawyer), grandmother and brother (her father, an economist, remained in Europe), an eight-year-old Pejic moved to Broadmeadows, a working class suburb in the north of Melbourne.
Latent gender dysphoria resulted in years of performative masculinity for much of her childhood until, at age 13, Pejic began researching transgender issues online. Desperate to stem the onset of puberty and the physical changes it would entail, Pejic began ordering puberty-blocking hormones from an online pharmacy and seeing a psychiatrist independent of her family before coming out as transgender to her mother at 14. While working behind the register in a Melbourne McDonald’s on New Years Eve 2007, Pejic was approached by Joseph Tenni, an agent from the Sydney-based modelling agency Chadwick’s who saw potential in Pejic’s bone structure and undeniable presence – all of this in spite of the considerable impediment caused by her McDonald’s uniform. After a lengthy vetting period, Pejic contacted Chadwick’s and was signed on the spot to their men’s division. In September that year, Pejic made her runway debut at Melbourne Fashion Festival. Local editorial coverage soon followed before Pejic decamped to London in search of a more receptive market. Deemed too feminine for the menswear market, Pejic visited Storm and met Sarah Doukas – the agent best known for taking a chance on Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne – who signed her to the agency’s men’s and women’s boards.
CREDIT: @andrejapejic on Instagram
It wasn’t until Carine Roitfeld styled Pejic in Fendi womenswear for an editorial shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot in the September issue of Vogue Paris (alongside Givenchy campaign star and Riccardo Tisci’s muse, the trans model Lea T) that Pejic’s ability to traverse the gender binary was fully realised. A Vogue Italia editorial, ‘Venus In Furs’, lensed by Steven Meisel soon followed.
Perhaps more than any other, it is Pejic’s relationship with Jean Paul Gaultier that can be credited with bolstering her meteoric rise. In January 2011, Pejic walked twice for Gaultier’s ‘James Blond’ Autumn/Winter 2011 menswear show: once as a man, then again dressed as a woman. The following week, Pejic made international headlines and fashion history when she walked the designer’s SS11 haute couture runway as his bride in a gown of tiered tulle. Stints on the runway for some of fashion’s most eccentric iconoclasts like Jeremy Scott, Thom Browne and Rick Owens followed, as did a turn as the face of Marc Jacobs’ eponymous diffusion line.
Endorsements from fashion’s establishment – Raf Simons, John Galliano and Jürgen Teller amongst them – did not inoculate Pejic from controversy. The cover of biannual culture publication Dossier Journal featuring a topless Pejic was censored by Barnes & Noble out of fear that she (then still known as Andrej) would be mistaken for a topless woman. That same year, FHM was forced to issue an apology after they referred to Pejic as the 98th sexiest woman in the world, describing her as “a thing” that required “someone pass the bucket”.
In January 2014, Pejic underwent gender confirmation surgery. One month later, she walked for DKNY at New York Fashion Week. In July that year, Pejic came out publicly as having undergone the procedure in a series of interviews detailing the process. Pejic then announced her intention to expound on her transition in an eponymous documentary backed by a Kickstarter funding campaign. The film, tentatively titled Andrej(a), details the process leading up to and following Pejic’s surgery. Pejic has stated that it is her intention to use the film as another platform from which to advocate for increased trans* awareness and visibility.
"Directed by Pejic’s close friend, Eric Miclette, Andrej(a)’s initial launch goal of $40,000 was met with overwhelming enthusiasm and was surpassed by over $20,000 in donations."
In April the following year, Pejic made history again when she became the first transgender model to be profiled in American Vogue. In June, Pejic was named the face of Make Up For Ever, making her one of the first transwomen to land a major cosmetics campaign and the brand’s first trans ambassador (Lea T became the first trans model to receive a Redken contract in 2014).
Along with Lea T, and conversely biologically female models who cross the divide to model menswear (Saskia de Brauw, Casey Leglar) Pejic is considered a pioneer of the shift in fashion toward the dismantling of gender binaries. From nascent beginnings, that influence is now felt in the critically acclaimed collections of Hood By Air, JW Anderson and Alessandro Michele at Gucci, as well as the increasing political and sociocultural awareness of transgender issues. Pejic’s story, it would seem, is only just beginning.
CREDIT: @andrejapejic on Instagram