(Edit July 2014: This was written when Andreja was going by Andrej and using male pronouns. At the time, it was to the best of my knowledge that she identified as male. Any essay I would write about her today would look very different, though still celebrating how amazing she is.)
Andrej Pejic modelling bras for Hema, and why I think he is just the coolest
Okay, so anyone who has spent any time with me in the past six months or so will know that I’m completely enthralled by Andrej Pejic. I think he’s an absolute genius, and he inspires me in a lot of ways. Firstly, in the obvious sense – he inspires me because of his utterly captivating, otherworldly beauty, the way he challenges boundary after boundary, the way he continues to take everyone’s breath away with every new outfit, every new runway show, every fashion editorial.
But maybe more than that, he inspires me because he just seems so completely serene while he does it all. Obviously I have no idea how he really feels inside – but you get the sense that he’s genuinely just really comfortable with who he is, that he actually doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He just does his own thing, and he does it without being all defensive and “hey fuck you man!” about it. He’s only just turned 20, but there’s something really mature about they way he seems to really know himself.
Anyway. So this week he’s making headlines for one of his latest gigs - modelling push-up bras for Hema lingerie. Which is pure genius, and with Andrej’s sassy, sardonic sense of humour you can just tell he loves the whole idea of it. A lot of the things he says or does, it’s like he’s secretly laughing, and you can just tell he kind of thinks this is a scream. It’s kind of on the same wavelength as the incredibly clever Dermablend concealer ad Rico Genest (better known as Zombie Boy) starred in, and I think it’s very cool.
The images are very demure – we’ve seen Andrej naked with a snake wrapped around his body, and naked and draped in a wedding veil, and writhing in bed with a flower between his legs as Marilyn Monroe, so the angle Hema has taken is suprising. I agree with The Gloss that it’s perhaps kind of refreshing they they didn’t take such an obviously sexy route. Not that I mind seeing Andrej’s nakedness everywhere – the contrasts of his body are striking, and there are some incredible images where it’s been used to beautiful effect, like the ones mentioned above. But it is true that his sexuality is almost being used now to the point of oversaturation, and there’s a real danger of reducing him to just that. Turning him into just another sex object simplifies everything he’s about, and closes off a lot of the possibilities he has opened up and inspired in the fashion world.
Andrej and feminism
Whenever I talk about Andrej, I find that I have to justify my admiration on a number of different fronts. One of them is the feminist angle. My argument about how Andrej’s love of feminine fashion is actually feminist in itself is explained in more detail in my Kill Your Darlings article. Basically, it’s like this scene in The Cement Garden: “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it’s okay to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading- because you think being a girl is degrading.” Andrej clearly doesn’t think there’s anything degrading or shameful about being a girl – and he proves it.
Still, the feminist response to Andrej modelling womenswear has largely been very critical, and I can understand where that argument is coming from. It’s definitely possible that by admiring a man in women’s clothing, we’re creating another ideal of femininity, one that women can never live up to. There have long been arguments that women’s fashion- controlled predominantly by homosexual men- seems more and more to be designed for the bodies of young boys. Like Bowie sings, “Clothes always fit ya…when you’re a boy.” Flat-chested and narrow-hipped as a snake, Pejic is a willowy 6 foot 2 and tiny enough to slip into a women’s size 6. The average Australian woman is closer to 5 foot 4 and size 14.
Fashion has always existed in a kind of alternate universe, where girls are stretched tall and wafer-thin and boys look like they’re about to go and smash a few Olympic records. All models look kind of like beautiful aliens, and that’s definitely problematic on a number of levels. But at least when I look at Andrej, I can clearly separate his beauty from the reality of being a woman. I can admire his body as an exquisite human form, without feeling that I have to somehow compete with him, because he’s not even trying to compete with us – and anyway, it would be impossible. We have different chromosomes; I know his body isn’t something I could emulate just by working harder at it. Even if I was taller, no kind of diet could quite whittle me down to Andrej’s little-boy skinniness. The fact is, I have hips and breasts, and he doesn’t. He wins on that effortlessly.
But looking at it the other way, womanly curves are perhaps the one aspect of beauty that men can never quite emulate either. That’s something we’ll always have that even the prettiest of boys like Andrej can’t. Yeah, maybe he can even fake a nice B-cup with the right undergarments. But you know what? I’m a D, so take that, Andrej. Besides. When it comes down to it, the best part about fashion is its playfulness. Andrej looks amazing as always in these ads, and there’s a clear sense of fun about it all – and maybe that’s all it really is.
My article on Andrej Pejic for Kill Your Darlings is online here. Read it?