Andreja Pejic has been hailed as the ‘first transgender supermodel’ who broke down boundaries, but the road to becoming a muse for designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier wasn’t easy or short.
‘It took me 10 years to get here,’ she tells Australia’s Sunday Telegraph Style magazine today (8 March)
‘And there was never a moment when I didn’t want this.’
Pejic, who was scouted while working at McDonald’s in Melbourne, came out publicly as transgender in July 2014 after having gender reassignment surgery in the US.
‘It was a very, very intense year,’ she says.
‘I achieved my personal dream and completed my transition to be able to live life as a woman. I came out to the world and the press, then started rebranding and planning my comeback.’
Since her runway debut in 2008, Pejic has enjoyed a career which is going from strength to strength. She has walked the runway for Marc Jacobs, appeared on the cover of GQ magazine and has been featured in editorials for Elle and Vogue.
However, she cites legendary gay fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier as the man who helped unlock her potential.
‘I started with his men’s shows,’ she explains.
‘Then did his women’s shows, the couture, the [women’s] campaign. [Gaultier] came along and supported me at the right time when I needed people to understand my aesthetic and what kind of career I could have.’
The 23-year-old model says she was not scared of the operation, but more worried about how the fashion world would react.
‘The physical aspects of the operation did not worry me,’ she says.
‘I was more nervous about coming out to the press and how it would affect my career. I found out that transition was a possibility at the age of 13; every day since then was a waiting period.
‘It took me 10 years to get here and there was never a moment when I didn’t want this. No amount of physical pain would have made a difference to that.’
Pejic was born in what was Bosnia-Herzegovina but fled with her family to Australia in 2000 as refugees. This exeprience was one of the reasons why she was tentative about talking about gender with her mother.
‘It wasn’t easy because I knew she’d already been through so much. I didn’t want to cause trouble and worsen her situation,’ says Pejic.
‘It took her a while to get her head around it. She didn’t really know anything about it; a lot of parents don’t. But she is someone who loves her kids so much, there was nothing that could take away from that.’
Pejic also touched upon the tragedy of Leelah Alcorn, the Ohio teenager who died in suspected suicide after years of being tormented over her gender. When the news of her death came to light in December 2014, her parents were criticized for not supporting her.
‘We’ve seen, with Leelah Alcorn in America, what can go wrong when a parent doesn’t accept a child for who they are,’ says Pejic.
Tragedies such as this has spurred Pejic into creating a KickStarter campaign to make a film about her life. She wants to help raise awareness of transgender issues and make trans youth feel less alone.
‘There are transgender models who don’t tell the world they are trans [for fear of not getting booked]. We have a long way to go,’ she says.
‘But this generation, the way they are seeing gender is so different even from when I was growing up. It’s much more open. There are more categories now; the old-school traditional views are breaking down.’