2 posts tagged "DNA"
You won’t be seeing any more of Andrej Pejic, the androgynous male model who rose to fame in 2010 after Carine Roitfeld had him photographed in womenswear for Paris Vogue. An onslaught of editorials followed (including a shirtless Dossier Journal cover that was essentially banned by Barnes & Noble for fear their customers would think he was a naked woman), and he even walked as the beautiful bride in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring ’11 Couture show (below). But Andrej’s days on the runway are over. However, Andreja’s career is just getting started.
Earlier this year, Andreja underwent sex reassignment surgery (SRS). She always knew she was a woman, but her body, or at least parts of it, didn’t match up. Yesterday, the model trekked from her current Williamsburg digs to LGBT advocacy group GLAAD’s Chelsea headquarters to speak, for the first time, about her transition. Donning a white crop top and embellished Ports 1961 skirt, Pejic, who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but was raised in Melbourne (hence her charming Aussie accent), looked as angelic as ever. “I feel good,” she told me before sitting down. It showed.
You can bet you’ll be seeing quite a bit of Andreja Pejic—she has a role in Sofia Coppola’s forthcoming rendition of The Little Mermaid, and plans for fashion week are already in the works. Here, the six-foot-one stunner (who, it should be noted, has cheekbones that could cut glass) opens up to Style.com about her SRS, the challenges of being a transgender model, and why, at long last, she’s “ready to face the world.”
How do you identify?
I identify as a female.
How did you identify before the sex reassignment surgery?
I figured out who I was very early on—actually, at the age of 13, with the help of the Internet—so I knew that a transition, becoming a woman, was always something I needed to do. But it wasn’t possible at the time, and I put it off, and androgyny became a way of expressing my femininity without having to explain myself to people too much. Especially to my peers [who] couldn’t understand things like “trans” and gender identity. And then obviously the modeling thing came up, and I became this androgynous male model, and that was a big part of my growing up and my self-discovery. But I always kept in mind that, ultimately, my biggest dream was to be a girl. I wasn’t ready to talk about it before in a public way because I was scared that I would not be understood. I didn’t know if people would like me. But now I’m taking that step because I’m a little older—I’m 22—and I think my story can help people. My goal is to give a human face to this struggle, and I feel like I have a responsibility.
You seem to have had a firm understanding of your identity at an early age. Was growing up as a boy difficult?
Gender dysphoria is never an easy thing to live with, mainly because people don’t understand it. For most of my childhood, I knew that I preferred all things feminine, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know that there was an explanation. I didn’t know about the possibilities. And then I went on sort of a boyhood campaign from age 9 to about 13. I tried to be a “normal” boy because I felt like my options were either to be a gay boy or a straight boy. I didn’t feel that I was gay, so I didn’t know that there were any other options until the age of 13, when I went online and discovered that there’s a whole community of trans people out there. There are doctors, there’s medical care, there’s research, and that was an eye-opener for me. From that day on, I knew what I had to do.
Some people write off SRS as a purely cosmetic surgery. Can you speak a little bit about that, and why it’s not the case?
Yeah, a lot of people view it as a plastic procedure, like you go to a surgeon and say, “Oh, I want to be a woman.” It’s so much more complicated than that. You have to get a psychiatric evaluation, which I started at the age of 13. I started seeing psychiatrists, and then I stopped when I started modeling, and I started again about a year and a half ago. But medical attention is crucial for any trans person because it helps you figure out who you are. You go through some really strict testing before you’re even allowed to have the surgery.
Are there any other myths you’d like to debunk? Or is there anything else you want the general public to understand about SRS and transgender people?
I would like them to understand that we are people. We’re human beings, and this is a human life. This is reality for us, and all we ask for is acceptance and validation for what we say that we are. It’s a basic human right.
You’ve legally changed your name from Andrej to Andreja. Why was that important to you?
I added an “a” because it’s not a full transformation —it’s just an evolution. I thought about whether I should change it or not for a while. In the West, Andrej isn’t really a masculine name. But I think [the name change] is something that my mom really wanted because, traditionally, Andrej is a Christian Orthodox name, and in that religion, it’s definitely a male name. So I kept the “j” and added an “a,” which actually becomes a name that I don’t think exists. But I wanted to keep the “j” because that’s me. That’s my name.
How did your modeling agents react when you told them you were having SRS?
It’s been an interesting experience. I had the surgery early this year, and I told my men’s agent at DNA about two weeks before the operation. I just said, “This is what’s happening,” because I didn’t want anything to stop me. I had decided. And then recently, I had a meeting with the women’s [team], and they’ve been very positive about moving from the men’s board to the women’s board, which is amazing. It’s something I guess no one’s ever done.
Weren’t you on both the men’s and women’s boards before the surgery?
Actually, all over the world I was, but not in New York. I guess the American market isn’t as progressive.
How do you feel your transition from an androgynous male model to a female model will impact your career?
I hope everything goes well. [SRS] was a personal decision. 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.
Androgyny and the transgender community seem to be at the center of the cultural and, more specifically, the fashion conversation at the moment. Hood by Air by Shayne Oliver, who enlisted voguers to model at the Fall ’14 show, is a prime example. Where do you think this focus on the transgender community is coming from?
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.
Do you feel the fashion industry has been welcoming and supportive throughout your career?
I got my success very quickly, and the media attention has been pretty positive. People like Jean Paul Gaultier, Carine Roitfeld, and Juergen Teller have been extremely supportive. But my biggest challenge was to not always be pigeonholed, and also to make [androgyny] commercially successful, because when I started, it was such a new thing. Still, there are a lot of roadblocks, particularly when working with cosmetic brands or perfumes or those sort of commercial, corporate things. It’s been more difficult to break into that world than “fashion” because it hasn’t been done before. They don’t have any market research, and people in that world aren’t risk takers. You have to prove to them over and over that you are liked by people, you have a skill, and you can sell a product.
Is landing a beauty campaign something you aspire to do?
It’s a goal for any model! It would be cray cray. But we’ll see. I’m happy to keep doing what I love, and for me it’s like I’m already living the dream.
Have you had any experiences in castings, etc., that have been particularly frustrating?
Oh, yeah, especially in the beginning, when I first moved to London. It was like, I’d walk into the boys’ casting, and they were like, “No…you don’t belong here.” And then at the girls’ casting, they were like, “Why are they sending us boys?” So it took time for everyone to get on board. It wasn’t all sweet sailing.
What do you think the fashion industry can do to further embrace the transgender community?
It would be lovely to live in a world where trans-female models were treated as female models, and trans-male models were treated the same as male models, rather than being a niche commodity. I think that that is the biggest struggle in all this. It’s almost like African-American models back in the nineties. It was like, “Oh, you can do this, but you can’t do that. You can do runway, but no print.” So I think that’s what needs to change.
When I first met you last year, you already seemed like a pretty confident individual. Do you feel more comfortable—or more you— since having the SRS?
I think from my teenage years, when I decided I needed to express my femininity, I was happy with the way I looked. But SRS is kind of the last part—it’s sort of the icing on the cake. It makes me feel freer than ever. Now I can stand naked in front of a mirror and really enjoy my reflection. And those personal moments are important.
But you’ve always been gorgeous. Did you not enjoy your reflection before?
Not fully naked.
I know you’re close with your mom. Has she been supportive throughout this transition?
I came out to my mom at the age of 14. She didn’t understand it at first, but she’s been very supportive since.
Has going through this transition as a public figure been very difficult?
There’s a difference between coming out to your family and close friends, and coming out to the whole world and opening yourself up to judgment. When I was younger, I just wasn’t ready for that. Even now, it’s hard to navigate. I try to concentrate on myself and what I really need, but there are so many other factors that go into it. You have to figure out timing, you have to figure out agencies. Public perception influences that. It’s a lot of pressure, and modeling is a lot of pressure anyway. I think most models have to live up to something, and they struggle with that. So to have that on top of this, there have definitely been difficult moments.
If I may ask, how do you think the SRS will impact your personal and romantic life? Is that something you’re excited about exploring?
Yeah, I’m very happy with this new situation, and I’m happy to keep exploring.
Are you dating anyone?
No, I’m single. I’m open to love, so I’m taking some time off for myself now. I think that’s necessary. We’ll see. But you know, I feel more comfortable than ever, more confident than ever, and I’m ready to face the world.
Style.com contributing editor and party reporter Darrell Hartman circles the city and, occasionally, the globe in the line of duty. In a regular column, he reports on the topics—whatever they may be at whatever given moment—that are stirring the social set.
“Yes, the lad was premature,” goes a line from The Picture of Dorian Gray. “He was gathering his harvest while it was yet spring.”
I doubt I’m the first person who has, upon meeting Dorian Grinspan, thought of Oscar Wilde’s fable about precious youth. This Dorian is real. The 20-year-old founder and editor Out of Order magazine, he’s been sowing his seeds early—and some of the fashion world’s biggest influencers are taking notice.
Grinspan was born in Paris and came to the U.S. to study at Yale. But while an earlier generation might’ve chosen to wait for a diploma before launching into the world, Grinspan didn’t see the point. “I didn’t come [to the U.S.] wanting to do a magazine. I arrived at Yale and I was really, really bored,” he told Women’s Wear Daily. [Full disclosure: this reporter spent four years at Yale, and did not find it boring.] Grinspan will start his senior year in the Fall, majoring in American Studies, but he recently took an apartment in New York, and says that thanks to some Franco-esque schedule jiggering will be spending just three days a week in New Haven.
Youth these days! Grinspan is already a darling of the industry. WWD is only one of several publications to anoint him an up-and-comer, and his biannual is already carried by the likes of Opening Ceremony and Colette, and the second issue, which Grinspan launched last week, boasts the sort of top-shelf contributors of which many start-up outlets dream. Among the photo credits and profile subjects are Larry Clark, Ryan McGinley, and Olivier Theyskens. These are gets worth bragging about, even if Grinspan is modest, or at least PR-savvy, enough not to. “It’s actually funny to see how accessible these people are and how much they want to help,” he told me at last week’s launch party at Fivestory, an uptown boutique. (His fashion-model looks—literally, as in repped by DNA—aren’t the reason, but surely they can’t hurt.) Gus Van Sant, he added, had been “really interested, and we almost shot something,” but the scheduling hadn’t worked out.
Grinspan has plenty more influential supporters, including fellow editors. “Stephen Gan has been amazing to me,” he said. And after meeting Stefano Tonchi at a party in Cannes last year, Grinspan appeared in W this spring. Starting in the fall, he said, he’ll be writing for the magazine’s website. Quick work. For a moment, Grinspan did pay some dues—as an intern for Carine Roitfeld. Among the people met while working there was photographer Michael Avedon, who shot a story for the new issue. (Avedon is just a year older than Grinspan, and the great-grandson of Richard.)
Grinspan holds himself well—and tends to do so in the right company. Cynthia Rowley, who hosted an after-party of sorts for the magazine at her boutique-cum-sweet-shop, Curious, couldn’t exactly remember how she’d first met him. She was pretty sure his boyfriend had interned at her husband’s gallery. In any case, Rowley said, she’d gotten to know him through “the Brant kids.”
How has Grinspan done it, in an industry with fewer and fewer footholds for young talent? “I don’t think there’s a secret. I feel like everything is so circumstantial,” he explained. When pressed, he added, “Both my mom and my dad have a lot of connections in fashion, I guess.” His mother, a graphic designer, got him interested in clothes and style early on. His father, a lawyer, worked “for a long time” with BCBG. And there’s his godmother, Numéro editor–in-chief Babette Djian. “She’s been great,” Grinspan admits. “We go to fashion shows together if we both have an invite. But I would never call her up and say, ‘Please take me to Jean Paul Gaultier!’ That’s not what I want our relationship to be.”
If things keep going the way they’re going, the occasional missing invite won’t be an issue. And why shouldn’t they? Grinspan has a way about him, evident in the manner in which he politely escorted Clark up the stairs at Rowley’s party and posed with him for photos. Clark, like Rowley, couldn’t recall how he and Grinspan had first started talking, but he did remember meeting Grinspan face to face. “He’s very enthusiastic, but not overbearing at all—just a nice young man,” he said. And one more likely to make a splash than all the others.