- Posted July 27, 2014 by
New York, New York
Mourning The Death of Andrej Pejic, and Accepting the Birth of Andreja
I recently learned the news that Andrej Pejic underwent gender reassignment surgery and is henceforth to be referred to as Andreja. I don’t seek to judge the private decisions of a woman whose right it is to do what will make her happy, but as an appreciator of beauty and art, I can’t help but feel that we have lost one of the most uniquely versatile models of our time.
I still remember the first time I learnt of Andrej Pejic—as a result of the buzz surrounding his modeling of push up bras for Hema. I was so struck by the notion that the woman staring back at me from this Ad was actually a man, that I had to investigate further and look up more of his fashion spreads. What I found was an exquisite variety of human. At once feminine and boyish, vulnerable and rascally, with the softness of his lips and hair juxtaposed against the hardness of his jaw and chest- he was the embodiment of so many contradictions rarely seen together. He was beautiful. That a surgically unaltered man could so easily take the place of a natural born woman on spreads and catwalks was fascinating. Then to change his makeup and clothing, and watch him transform into the very picture of a brooding young man with the same authenticity- it was majic. With even less makeup and clothing, looking at a bare chested Pejic was like staring at a woman and a man all at once. It was this uncontrived ease, this je-ne-sais-quoi of having been born this way that made him an arresting figure to behold. He didn’t have to do anything, he just was. He was mysterious and titillating because he could not be defined or put in a box. His ability to straddle this gender line seamlessly made him a walking rationale for the triviality of gender norms in fashion if not beyond. How ironic then that gender ended up being so important to him.
Today, as Andreja, she is just another transgender model. The mystery is gone, she has defined herself. Like a superhero who gave up her super powers- she has given up the access she once had to traverse all runways as either man or woman, both or neither. Her newly minted curves will make it harder to project the image of a man and her gender reassignment will always render her transgender first, and a woman second in the eyes of fashion houses, if not the masses. Another Hema ad will not create the same type of buzz it once did, because the woman staring back at us, by all external indications is a woman. She gave up what made her unique and settled for being perfectly ordinary. While I lament the loss of Andrej, here’s to hoping Andreja surprises us all.