Andreja Pejic poses for Patrick Demarchelier in the May issue of Vogue. Photo: @andrejapejic/Instagram
If only the magazine knew how good its timing would be. Diane Sawyer’s hugely anticipated interview with Bruce Jenner airs this Friday, and America is talking about gender in a way it never has before. The May issue takes a wider look into “Trans America” and talks about the new “frontier in gender politics,“ one that embraces models — and people — of all identities. Vogue might not be the place you’d expect to find this sort of thing, but fashion’s actually been at the forefront of breaking down gender norms. From Lea T, Riccardo Tisci’s muse of over five years, to respected brands like Hood by Air and Selfridges’ Agender campaign, the industry has happily embraced change in this particular department.
Pejic in particular shot to fame in recent years, modeling as both a man and a woman before undergoing gender confirmation surgery last year. The 23-year-old stunner, born in Bosnia-Herzegovina and raised in Australia, is no stranger to the fashion world, having first made waves in a 2010 spread for Paris _Vogu_e and on the runway for the likes of Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier, wearing women’s clothes.
But while the world of high fashion may generally have embraced Pejic, her road has not been without setbacks. Dressing as a woman was one thing, becoming one another. “There was definitely a lot of ‘Oh, you’re going to lose what’s special about you. You’re not going to be interesting anymore. There are loads of pretty girls out there,’” Pejic tells Vogue of the reactions her transition garnered among those with whom she’d worked closely.
Doubters aside, her career is on fire. In addition to the Vogue story, Pejic will walk the runway for Giles Deacon as a woman later this year, and has also landed a campaign for the brand Make Up For Ever, the first trans model to score a major cosmetics contract. And while she questioned transitioning so publicly, ultimately the model knew it was her only choice. “Being known to the whole world with this transition, I thought, ‘Who is ever going to love me? How am I going to have a relationship with a man if all of this is public?’… Then I got to a place where I was like, ‘I’m successful and happy with what I’ve achieved. There’s nothing I should be ashamed of. You can take it or leave it.’”
The model posted the above image to Instagram with a moving caption:
If at the beginning of my career in the modelling industry or half way through it or even this time last year you told me that I would end up having a 4 page feature in AMERICAN VOGUE I would have probably told you ‘oh I dunno about that! That might be a bit difficult to achieve in the near future.’ In fact I was told by various people many times over that the chances of me ending up on these pages were slim to none. So you can only imagine what I’m feeling right now! Thank you #AnnaWintour,#TonneGoodman, #PatrickDemarchelier and#HelenaSuric for making history and having me be part of it but even more importantly for representing a whole social minority and an often forgotten community of women in such an important publication and opening doors for the rest of the fashion industry to do so!
Alice Gregory, who wrote the article for Vogue, notes that Pejic’s moment is indicative of something larger at play in American culture today, with transgender actresses like Laverne Cox hitting the mainstream and the aforementioned Jenner moment. Meanwhile, in the fashion world, gender-bending trends are bigger than ever, with a number of design houses casting women in menswear runway shows or vice versa.
While pop culture may be shifting, Gregory cautions that there’s still a long way to go, pointing to one study that notes: “Ninety percent of trans people said they have dealt with discrimination at work and almost 20 percent reported being denied a place to live. Forty-one percent have attempted suicide.”
If transitioning is now truly “on trend,” hopefully true compassion for the 700,000-some transgender Americans is next.