At first glimpse I was impressed by this model’s soft blonde locks, smooth pale skin, impeccable bone structure and strong presence. She is absolutely stunning.
Andrej Pejic, a Bosnian born, 19-year-old rising star is all the rage in the world of high fashion this year. Awarded numerous titles including, Style-maker of the year, model of the year and one of the sexiest women in the world. She deserved each of the titles awarded to her but knowing not anyone is just handed those awards, I did some research.
In addition to being named a notable style maker and one of the sexiest women around, Pejic is also recognized as one of the top 50 male models in the world.
Intrigued by the thought of Pejic, I went on to show as many people as I could. My excitement faltered as the first group stood dumbfounded. They could not believe that the person we were looking at was a man and, understandably so he had extremely feminine features.
Reactions ranged from confused grins which dissolved into frowns, followed by disgusted remarks and laughs masking their discomfort.
They instantly began diagnosing Pejic and accrediting his controversial look to his sexuality—“he must be gay” or “he’s getting a sex change…right?”
Questioning each other as if to justify something they could not make sense of.
Why did it matter to them so much?
Raised in a home of acceptance, always taught to be tolerant before judging something I did not understand, I could not fathom how people I looked up to found it so difficult to grasp the concept of a man modeling as both female and male. A man who is highly respected for embracing his alluring androgynous look. A unique look that pushes the boundaries of current and rigid gender roles.
The concept of androgyny dates back centuries, referring to a person or thing that doesn’t subscribe to a single gender. By obscuring traditional gender roles an androgynous person may reflect both male and female characteristics.
By no means is Pejic the only famous androgynous model in the world; in fact use of gender ambiguous models is increasingly more common nowadays. Pop-culture icons are also known for popularizing androgynous looks; including stars like: Tilda Swinton, Lady Gaga and David Bowie.
Though the fashion industry may be hiring androgynous models solely for aesthetically pleasing reasons, the presence of androgyny in international media challenges reliance on traditional gender roles.
Inability to concretely define Pejic caused frustration among friends, showing me that the roles we deem as separate like male/female or feminine/masculine are becoming increasingly more complex.
As he constantly redefines beauty, Pejic deemphasizes our obsession with this female/male binary.
Gender affiliation is not a black and white phenomenon. Men, women and everyone in between no longer follow a stereotypical set of norms. As we grow to understand and accept that there are grey areas of gender, we learn to be more tolerant and the need to fit into just one category is much less important. As it should be.
Straying away from definitions of gender leads us to see someone for who they are; no labels, no black and white, and less preconceived notions.
The most important thing we can learn from Pejic is to be confident in who we are.
He is respected not only for having confidence in his appealing look, but also because he is true to his inner self. Whether that entails dressing masculine or acting feminine or completely disregarding gender as relevant, he is himself and not afraid to show it off.
The world might be a more interesting place if we all followed Pejic’s example, embrace our inner differences, share them with the world around us and just, “leave gender open to artistic interpretation.”
Hayley is studying journalism, politics and international media at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In between juggling school and various jobs, she makes time to snowboard, travel, write and craft. She surrounds herself with people that motivate and embrace her as she strives to make a difference in anyway she can.