Despite outrage across the blogosphere, FHM (For Him Magazine) — the UK-based men’s “lifestyle” rag (read: chicks, sex and six-packs) — has yet to submit new profile copy for Andrej Pejic who, earlier this year, was voted number 98 on FHM’s annual 100 Sexiest Women in the World list.
Lest you’re unfamiliar with the controversy, let’s backtrack.
Pejic is the 19-year-old stunner who made his catwalk debut in June 2010 at men’s fashion week in Paris, where his presence — on the runways of Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Raf Simons — elicited goggle-eyed confusion.
“At first everyone thought there must be a blonde girl doing all the men’s shows,” Pejic told The Sydney Morning Herald in November 2010. “They asked Raf Simons if he was doing women’s wear now. They figured it out eventually.”
Indeed. What the fashion world discovered in Pejic — with his tall, angular frame, his glass-cutting cheekbones, his stormy white-hot mane — is a muse able to perform both high-femme and haute-couture masculinity, a gender-bending that ultimately ices out gender binaries altogether.
The timing couldn’t have been better, given the fashion industry’s obsession with androgyny. And the last year has been a whirlwind: immediately following his runway debut, Pejic was cast in a Ziggy Stardust–inspired spread for French Vogue (alongside trans model Lea T, the 2010 face of Givenchy). He was also cherry-picked for high-profile spreads in Italian, Turkish and Australian Vogue, i-D, Photo: France and more. He’s continued to hammer the haute couture runway, igniting both men’s- and women’s-wear catwalks. And he’s the face of two 2011 campaigns: Marc, by Marc Jacobs, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
For the most part, FHM’s list of beautiful women — determined via reader votes — features the usual suspects (Megan Fox, Beyoncé), the kind of hell-yeah-tits-and-ass that allows heterosexual masculinity to believe in its own mythology. The inclusion of Pejic, then, marks a fascinating interruption.
The Pejic profile copy, however — at once homophobic, transphobic, genderphobic and misogynist — quickly set the record “straight”:
“Andrej has been confusing the male gender since he was 14… The professional crossdresser most likely fooled his modelling agency as well… Although his sexual identity is ambiguous, designers are hailing him as the next big thing. We think ‘thing’ is quite accurate… Pass the sick bucket… More troubling is the fact that Andrej is not the only one when it comes to supermodels that are not all they seem. The current face of Givenchy and ‘lady’ locking lips with Kate Moss on the cover of Love magazine is transgender model Lea T, who began life as Leandro. One fashion trend we won’t be following.”
After heavy fire, FHM finally removed the copy and posted this “apology” on May 30:
“Andrej Pejic appears at number 98 in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World 2011. Regrettably the copy accompanying Andrej’s online entry wasn’t subbed prior to going live. Once we realized, we removed it immediately and apologized for any offence it caused.”
In a June 2 interview with news.com.au, Pejic’s manager, Matthew Anderson, nails the issue: “The insecure and negative comments FHM have made about their own readers voting Andrej ‘sexy’ say a lot more about their own issues than what it says about FHM’s readers. If Andrej made the sexiest list, then they should just admit their readers thought a man was attractive and deal with it.”
Pejic hasn’t bothered to give FHM’s phobia the time of day.
Via Twitter, he offered one simple, witty retort: “98?”
As Pejic recently told Polish magazine Viva! Moda: “This no longer bothers me and I feel good about it. I wear both women’s and men’s clothes… I don’t see my look as unusual — that opinion is, according to me, very exaggerated. I felt uncomfortable only when I couldn’t live in accordance with myself, only with a social role that was forced on me.”