Andrej Pejic: Living In Between
Between classic beauty and high fashion grittiness, visual and conceptual, woman and man, exists 21-year-old Andrej Pejic, our cover model and a unique young addition to the streamlined world of fashion. With a stunning ability to blur the lines between genders, Pejic’s male/female transparency shocked the runway into an androgyny trend that is only growing stronger. We caught up with the young Serbian model to speak about his expanding career, the realities of growing up different, and the beauty of being in between.
How did you begin modeling?
I was discovered working at McDonalds. I was a teenager, 16 going on to 17, growing up in a single-parent household, and an agent walked in and gave me his card. At first I thought it was a scam; there was a lot of that going on, so I didn’t take it seriously. But a few days later I looked at the website and it was actually legitimate.
When you were younger did you ever think that you would’ve grown up to be a model?
No, I grew up in an academic household, and my mom made it very clear that the way to transcend our economic situation was to go to school and get a good job. Modeling and acting and things like that always seemed [inaccessible] and more like a luxury than a proper profession.
You paved the way for the whole trend of androgynous, gender-bending models in the fashion industry. Is gender something that is important to you?
Gender shouldn’t be as important as it is. We are all human beings, and of course there are divisions between the sexes, but these days men and women share a lot of the same jobs and duties, and things don’t have to be so separate. I didn’t want to limit myself to a gender boundary. I don’t think about it all the time, if I’m a man or a woman—it’s just me. But growing up, it didn’t feel as free. As a child I was quite feminine—I played with Barbies and expressed a lot of feminine characteristics. As a child you do have that freedom, and people think it’s cute and that you’ll grow out of it, but when you start to become an adolescent, people expect you to act a certain way. You were born a boy, you have to act like a boy. It was then that I was very aware of gender. When I was 14 or 15 I realized that it just wasn’t me, to play football or do the boy stuff, and I wasn’t very good at it either. I just gave up trying to be something I wasn’t.
When you’re modeling it’s obvious that you can project male or female characteristics depending on the shoot. Do you have a way of getting into character?
Modeling isn’t like acting. It’s less complicated, and I know that now because I just shot my first film. You definitely have to exude something and be good at that, but you don’t have to just play a man or woman, you have to be the character. Today is Debbie Harry or Marilyn Monroe. It’s about being able to reference these icons and bring that energy to the shoot.
Many people look up to you not only because of your role in the fashion industry but also because of the influences you have made in the LGBT community, especially for young people. Do you have any advice to those who might not fit into gender constructs?
It doesn’t matter what’s inside your pants, or [to whom] you’re attracted, it’s about what you do and bring to this world. But there are people [who] are in situations that can’t show who they really are and who have to hide it. I, luckily, don’t have to hide. I think it’s important for society as a whole to realize that there are people in between. Obviously, being in Vogue isn’t going to change social thinking, but if I share my story I hope to have an impact—just to have people be more aware.
What does youth mean to you?
I think youth means discovery; freedom, in a way. As you get older things get more complicated.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished acting in my friend’s short film. It’s the first time I’ve acted, but I’m just trying it out. I don’t want to do anything if I’m not good at it. A lot of models eventually try acting, but I don’t want to do that unless it’s something I do well. So we’ll see. I’m also writing a book at the moment. A memoir. I’m about halfway through. Throughout my career I have kept some things to myself, and I think some of my experiences need the context of a book to really be understood. It’s a story from my perspective on my life. I may only be 21, but I have had a lot of things happen to me, and I wanted to tell those stories myself. My agent wanted me to have a ghostwriter, but I needed to write it myself, and I have a background in writing from when I was younger, so it’s actually going really well. It’s therapeutic.
And finally, what is your WILD Wish?
To one day twerk on the moon.