Andrej Pejic for Nathan Paul SS12-13 Collection by Rodger Cummins
He’s Got the Look
by Janice Breen Burns (smh.com.au)
The boy from Broady Andrej Pejic knows it’s all just marketing but is happy to be used to promote tolerance along the way.
IT HAS been two crazy, momentous years since Bosnian-born Broadmeadows teen Andrej Pejic left his mother and set off to try his luck as a fashion model. Now he’s all of 20, and a bona fide global sensation.
Pejic is fashion’s most famous ”femiman”, its girly boy, an intriguing, at times enraging, controversy on two long, lovely legs.
Yesterday, the snake-hipped beauty with the ratty mass of pale girly curls, interrupted a rare visit home to pose in the grungy cool of Richmond’s Mexicali Rose restaurant for local swimsuit brand Nathan Paul.
”I’ve grown up a lot in these two years,” he confided. ”I’ve become more independent. I’ve expanded my horizons.” Between shots of boardshorts for boys and maillots cut high over the hip and skimpy for girls (he nonchalantly swapped from one to another and back again), he talked about his strange and fabulous life.
”I think I’m a reflection of a cultural phenomenon,” he said carefully. ‘‘It’s marketing, but there’s a plus: people use me to send a message of tolerance and to explore different types of beauty and self-expression.”
Pejic’s beautiful face is a confusing ingredient in campaigns by some of fashion’s most powerful global brands: Marc Jacobs, Raf Simons, Vogue magazines, even a global perfume campaign he shot recently for a launch in August.
His infamous appearance as a bride in a sheer, rippling goddess gown for Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris last year whipped up controversy.
But the Boy from Broady confused the masses even more cruelly when he appeared ”topless” on the cover of New York’s Dossier magazine. Stockists in the US demanded the magazine be sold in an opaque plastic sleeve, making Pejic possibly the first man in history to have his nipples censored.
”I wasn’t complaining, that got me a lot of press,” he says. ”But, an artistic image, even of a woman’s body, I don’t think should be censored.”
His mum, Jadranka, a former lawyer, now relief teacher, sits quietly nearby. She sees him so little these days, it’s enough just to be close while he’s working: ”I miss my baby,” she says.
Her insights into the remarkable young man now twisting and pouting for a photographer, his flat creamy belly exposed in a knotted Nathan Paul T-shirt and tight swim briefs, are refreshingly simple. ”Andrej was such a good kid, what every parent wants: quiet, a good student, homework on time …”
The Pejics migrated to Australia from a Bosnian Serb refugee camp when Andrej was eight, and his brother Igor, 10. While he learned English and acclimatised to life at Broadmeadows West primary, his mother remembers Andrej was shy and kept his predilection for dolls and girly things to himself.
”I did try to be more boyish,” he remembers. ”I tried to play sport, talk less.” There was little or no bullying at school. ”I was happy. I was in a loving home, allowed to do all the girly things I wanted.”
His mother remembers a kind of epiphany when her son shifted from Broadmeadows to University High School. There his feminine side was not only tolerated but celebrated.
”All of a sudden, Andrej exploded!” Mrs Pejic hoots at the memory. ”Andrej wanted pink hair, Andrej wanted makeup, Andrej wanted to go out …” Pejic remembers it, too: ”I said ‘f—- it’, and started expressing the way I felt. I got more friends if anything, became more popular. I think people are more attracted to you when you’re confident, more yourself. You shine more and people want to touch the light.”
Pejic says his loneliness and homesickness is subsiding. ”In this industry it’s easy to meet people,” he says. ”Now I have a lot of friends: models, make-up artists, designers.”
Fashion is also notorious for sycophants and fakes. He has ways of weeding these out of his peer group. ”There are a lot of inflated egos,” he laughs. ”But, if you become like that then that’s the sort of people you attract. I’m still very approachable. I want to have all kinds of people in my life, not just the cool fashion crowd.”