"One evening in late July, a fashion model in very short shorts was walking down Lafayette Street when a Âmiddle-aged guy in a baseball cap, pudgy and plodding, stopped dead in his tracks.
â€œHey! Hey, you!â€ he called out in a thick Brooklyn accent, sidling up. â€œAre you a model?â€
The model peered down at him and gamely grinned. â€œI am.â€
â€œYouâ€™re gorgeous.â€ The man whistled through his teeth. â€œShoot! Where are you, you know, illustrated in?â€
â€œOh, different places,â€ the model demurred.
â€œWell, you got my vote,â€ the guy said. â€œMan!â€ He shook his head in amazement and reluctantly continued down the street, completely unaware that the woman he had just encountered was not a woman at all but was in fact Andrej Pejic, a male model who has garnered much attention in the fashion world for his recent success modeling womenâ€™s clothing. That day, in addition to the shorts, Pejic was sporting a lacy black blouse over a black tank top, long blond hair, and smoky eyes. He had just come from a shoot for a Spanish magazine where he had shown to good effect a number of items generally considered to be in womenâ€™s domain: a floor-length wrap dress, a fur coat, a wide-brimmed felt hat, and, toward the end of the day, a rosy lip stain.
â€œWhat color did you use on his lips?â€ one of the women milling about the studio had asked the makeup artist.
â€œItâ€™s sort of a berry,â€ heâ€™d answered, at which point she ducked into the changing room and began dabbing the same shade on her own pout.
And so in moments like the one on Lafayette Street, when Pejic is the object of a clearly heterosexual advance, he does not usually choose to disabuse the potential suitor of his confusion, in part because he knows that the mistake is a fair one. When he first showed up at the Chadwick agency in Melbourne, Australia, the town where he grew up, he was quickly signed and just as quickly told he would be unlikely to find much work in the relatively macho Australian market: He was too beautiful to be an obvious choice for menâ€™s campaigns, but he was not actually a woman. The next year, after Pejic graduated from high school and moved to London, his extreme androgyny made it difficult for him even to secure a British agent. â€œI remember it was raining and horrible,â€ he tells me. â€œI was walking in a street without an umbrellaâ€”it was a really dramatic, kind of movie momentâ€”and I was just like, â€˜Oh my God, I came to London, I spent my momâ€™s money, Iâ€™m not even gonna get an agency.â€™â€‰â€ He giggles in a low register and continues, â€œIt was like ÂMadonna going to Hollywood.â€ At Storm, the fifth agency he visited, owner Sarah Doukasâ€”known for discovering Kate Mossâ€”decided to take a chance on him. â€œWhen I first met ÂAndrej, I didnâ€™t think, What a beautiful boy or girl,â€ Doukas says. â€œI certainly didnâ€™t want to put him in one particular box.â€ The agency posted him not just on the menâ€™s board but also on the womenâ€™s..."