And then he was a she
Andrej Pejic is now officially Andreja Pejic.
In a series of exclusive interviews with US media outlets Entertainment Tonight, Style.com and People magazine on Thursday, Pejic, who is now 22, revealed that she underwent sex reassignment surgery earlier in the year and has now legally changed her name to Andreja.
According to Pejic’s Sydney-based mother agent Joseph Tenni, ET was first cab off the rank with its interview.
Pejic told ET:
"One of my earliest memories was spinning around in my mom's skirt, trying to be a ballerina. It was at the age of 13 when I discovered what trans means and what gender identity means and what sexuality means, and I knew that this was something I always had to do. I thought that transition was the only way for me to live at 100percent”.ET reported that the “fashion industry has fully embraced her as a trans-gender woman”.
In fact, Tenni told Frockwriter, beyond Pejic’s various international agents, noone else knew about the sex reassignment surgery until Thursday and Pejic has kept an extremely low profile since the operation. The procedure was conducted at a hospital in Arizona in late January according to Tenni [potentially Dr Toby Meltzer, who is regarded as a sex reassignment surgery pioneer - although Tenni said he was unaware of the name of the hospital].
According to Tenni, beyond working on various personal projects, such as Pejic's jewellery line, the only professional job Pejic has done in the interim was the DKNY Fall/Winter 2014/2015 womenswear show at New York Fashion Week on February 9 – approximately one week after the surgery, he said.
Pejic first rose to international prominence at the Spring/Summer 2011 menswear shows in Paris in June 2010, walking in the John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier shows.
In January 2011, she made global headlines when Gaultier themed his “James Blond” Fall/Winter 2011/2012 menswear collection around her, sending her down his runway twice, dressed first as a man and later as a woman.
A week later, Pejic and Gaultier would make fashion history together, when Gaultier sent Pejic out as a bride to close his Spring/Summer 2011 haute couture show.
Pejic has now been removed from the mens’ boards at all her agencies and will no longer be available for menswear bookings.
Having come to global attention by flirting with androgyny and keeping the media guessing – many erroneously referring to Pejic from the beginning as "transsexual" – it remains to be seen just what kind of impact this news will have on Pejic’s fashion career.
Frockwriter wishes Pejic all the best on this next stage of her extraordinary journey – a journey that this blog has charted like that of no other model.
“Honestly she’s still the same amazing model she’s always been, so from that perspective it doesn’t mean a whole lot” said Tenni. “It’s just an indication that she’s ready to talk about her journey. But in terms of how we manage her and the kind of jobs and the kind of clients that she’s been working for, it’s business as usual. It's just a new facet of her career. It’s been quite a while since she’s done anything for menswear. The direction was always feminine stuff. From my perspective and the agency’s perspective, we’re very happy that she’s happy”.
Pejic’s brave revelation follows three days after Barack Obama signed an historic executive order barring discrimination against LGBT federal contractors and amended a separate executive order to enhance workplace protections for transgender employees of the US government.
And it follows a fortnight after Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender actor to receive an Emmy nomination, for her role as Sophia Burset in the Nextflix prison dramedy Orange Is The New Black.
“I hope everything goes well - [sex reassignment surgery] was a personal decision” Pejic told Style.com. “I took this step, and I said to myself, 'My career is just going to have to fall into place around it'. So I hope that I can continue my success. I think I’ve shown that I have skills as a model and those skills don’t just go away. I’ve had experience. I’ve been around the block.
“The trend of androgyny and the exploration of trans beauty started around 2010 and that’s when Lea T and I both started [modeling]. Everyone was kind of saying, 'Oh, it’s just a trend, it’s going to go away' and it hasn’t. I think that’s because it represents a social layer of people who feel that they don’t want to conform to traditional forms of gender—who feel traditional forms of gender are outdated. That social base feeds the trend and it feeds the exploration in fashion”.
Pejic's mother, Jadranka Savic, told Frockwriter that although the family knew that Pejic would probably undergo the operation at some point in her life, Savic was not told until it was a fait accompli, when she flew to New York for a visit in April.
Pejic's brother Igor travelled to the US to be on hand in January, but they decided not to tell Savic, because they thought it might upset her too much she said.
The news came as a bit of a shock.
"I was crying for hours, I was laughing and crying and smiling and joking, I was totally, totally out of my mind" she told Frockwriter. "I’m the mother, I wanted to be there in that special crucial moment of life for my child, to be with her, to look after her. So I missed that. But I was happy because she was happy. She is glowing. She’s even more beautiful. The whole aura around her, oh my gosh, even in the morning without makeup, she’s an angel. I look at her and think, 'Did I give birth to that beauty?'
"I was crying because she went through that very, very difficult time without me" said Savic, adding that she "messes up" every now and then and calls Andreja Andrej.
"I was laughing because it was a big relief for me. And plus I knew how important that was for her and I’m happy that everything was done properly and that she she can enjoy her life now. Her life wasn’t easy. Noone’s life is easy in that situation. And it's a beautiful message, it's a powerful message for all the people in the same situation".
COVER IMAGE: MERT & MARCUS FOR VOGUE PARIS