Yesterday, top model Andrej Pejic met the Queen of England wearing a pencil skirt. Why is that a statement worthy of reporting, you ask? Because hiding underneath that pencil skirt was a piece of male anatomy.
Pejic is one of the few models who has mastered the art of androgyny; with small, symmetrical features, delicate coloring and cheekbones that can cut glass, he has successfully walked in both men and womenswear runway shows, blurring the demarcation between male and female bodies. While not new in the history of art, his presence may lead us to more of an embracement of a post-gendered body.
Hailing from Australia and boggling the minds of many, Pejic was discovered in a McDonald’s by a scout, but he wasn’t sure if said scout realized he was a man. Nevertheless, he soon became immensely popular, rounding the menswear show circuit and modeling for several high-profile designers, as well as starring in several editorials.
His feminine aura did not go unnoticed for long, and he soon began booking womenswear shows, notably causing a great stir when he walked for Jean Paul Gaultier’s S/S 11 Haute Couture show in a slinky, segmented wedding gown that hugged every feminine curve on the young boy.
Pejic’s androgyny has not been entirely accepted, however. His presence half-nude on the cover of the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Dossier Journal induced controversy with mainstream book chains such as Barnes & Noble and the dead-and-buried Borders. Though inches away stood covers of Men’s Health with bare-chested male bodybuilders, Andrej’s shirtless cover was too much to handle for the “family-friendly” stores, prompting them to sell the issue in an opaque plastic slipcase (a la Playboy) at Dossier’s expense.
Pejic’s play on gender, while representing stages of a post-gendered body not yet reached, hardly appears new or novel in the art world. Blurred gender and sexuality has been a common subject of art, harking back to Hellenic works and even eras prior. Representations of Hermaphroditus, the bi-genitaled child of Aphrodite and Hermes, in particular abounded in ancient Greek art. Arguably the most famous example is the Borghese Hermaphroditus, a kind of sculpture rendered in marble depicting the God(dess) as a female nude with male genitalia reclining on a couch.
Other examples abound, such as twentieth-century French artist Claude Cahun, whose self-portraits regularly depicted her in non-gendered drag: bald, gaunt and pasty. Pejic’s relationship to these works and artists not only establishes him in an art historical narrative, but also illustrates his revolutionary status in a world that is largely restricted to normative gender binaries created in culture.
The galvanization of both genders into a single body in pursuit of aestheticization becomes more desirable and less seditionary with its proliferating use, especially in mainstream culture like fashion. Hopefully Pejic’s presence will spark a new trend of androgyny and won’t fizzle out as an outré cult figure. Remember Grace Jones.
Homepage image caption: Andrej Pejic for Oyster Magazine (February 28, 2011)