Country of origin: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Andreja was born as “Andrej Pejic” to a Croatian father and Serbian mother in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina; left in the 90’s with her family from the war ravaged country eventually settling in Melbourne Australia. At the Paris men’s shows in June (2010), the then 19-year- old Andreja became the symbol for fashion androgyny.
In January 2011, Andreja walked for Jean Paul Gaultier in his men’s show and for the January 2011 couture show, eventually appearing in the Spring/Summer 2011 JPG campaign with Karolina Kurkova. The same season, Andreja appeared in the Marc by Marc Jacobs campaign. Named one of OUT Magazine’s 100 Most Compelling People of 2011. In early 2014, Andreja underwent sex reassignment surgery and came out publicly in July 2014 as a transgender woman, which marked her transition from an androgynous model to a female model.
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One Saturday afternoon in February, finally inside and away from the clamor of New York Fashion Week, Andreja Pejic sinks into a velvet settee in the hushed lobby of the Bowery Hotel. Three nearby tourists turn their heads, openly staring at the platinum-haired model—as if the sight of a girl so laughably beautiful was why they’d come to the city in the first place. I’ve caught Pejic just hours before she departs for London, where she’ll appear in Giles Deacon’s fall 2015 show. She’s walked dozens and dozens of runways in her career, but this will be her first as a fully transitioned woman. “I prefer doing shoots,” Pejic, 23, admits in an unplaceable accent. “I get a little stressed with runway. I wasn’t given that much training in the beginning. I was just thrown in with the girls, and the designer was like, ‘Put these heels on.’ ”
Born Andrej Pejic in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, just months before the start of the Bosnian War, she fled to a refugee camp outside Belgrade with her recently divorced mother, grandmother, and brother. After the NATO-led bombing began in 1999, they emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where Pejic would return from school and, to avoid bullying, try to train herself out of the feminine styles of speech, gait, and gesture that came naturally to her. In a sense, Pejic, who is six feet one and wears a size 11 shoe, has been modeling since she was a small child.
“I wanted to stop puberty in its early tracks,” she tells me. “I was worried about my feet being too big, my hands being too big, my jawline being too strong.” She still recalls the relief she felt on her first fashion job. Surrounded by similarly proportioned models, she told herself, “Every girl in fashion is exactly the same. I don’t need to worry!”