For a long time now I've followed the career of Australian/Bosnian model Andrej Pejic, check out these links if you've never seen or heard of him before- Guy AND Doll: Man Models Women's Clothes - YouTube Androgynous Model Andrej Pejic - YouTube (sorry the sound is slightly out of sync in this clip) Boy or Girl Model, You Guess - YouTube The last video is interesting because in it the presenter explains how she feels that Andrej isn't going to go down well in Middle America. Given that Andrej already has secured campaigns with almost every major label you can think of (both menswear and womenswear) and from the most Haute to the most workaday, and given that attitudes toward the roles of the sexes and the behaviour men and women are expected to exhibit is a hot topic around here right now, I thought I might open a discussion about Andrej and people's reactions and feelings about him and about androgyny in general. One of the things which is constantly said about Andrej is that he isn't a beautiful boy, he isn't a beautiful girl, he's a beautiful person. Mind you I get the feeling that despite spending a lot of time in front of cameras and in the public eye he isn't yet perfectly comfortable talking about himself (he's only 20 so I suppose that's probably understandable, especially given that he talks about having had some difficulty growing up in becoming comfortable with who he is) and I have a feeling this gives a slightly off impression of his personality in interview. I imagine that those who rave about how beautiful a person he is (and not just physically) are going off more private and 1 on 1 interaction. He has a speech impediment which is another interesting aspect of his whole demeanour and must have also been a hurdle growing up. Apparently he had to have security guards and was really closely guarded during a recent visit to his former home of Serbia, where social attitudes towards those who bend gender aren't all that progressive. What I also find interesting though is that quite apart from the more extreme reactions some people have to him there is a range of more moderate incomprehension and mild discomfort which he seems to provoke among an awful lot of people in societies such as those of North America and Western Europe. I think what this shows is that even now and even in the most culturally permissive societies the rigidity of the assigned roles of the sexes remains to a greater or lesser degree intact and that those who challenge these preconceptions must still face a significant degree of difficulty in being understood and accepted by other people. What's weird about that though is that Andrej works for mainstream and everyday clothing companies as much as for couture houses. This means that marketing execs must be betting on there being an underlying response to his look which they feel has the ability to net them billions of dollars in profit from ordinary everyday people's pockets, and in fact he does. It's as though Andrej's natural ambiguity provokes an equally ambiguous response in cultural and social terms. I think the very questions Andrej raises by merely being himself are the exact reason for his popularity, that is; what is provocatively confronting about him is also extremely beautiful, and by making what might otherwise be off-putting for many people look attractive and glamorous he allows ordinary folk to feel more comfortable about the much less obvious and less distinct things which make them feel alienated at times or like a "weirdo" or a "freak" and makes it seem as though they too could be attractive qualities. What I love about Andrej is the way he is the apotheosis of the uncomfortable and socially awkward, the angel of the conflicted and the peculiar, the perfect king or queen of those who challenge and confront our preconceptions whilst simultaneously attracting us by simply being exquisitely themselves in a world which often crushes people and destroys their lives by demanding that they live a lie or disguise themselves to fit in. I don't know if I personally find Andrej sexually attractive or not, but I know I find him extremely compelling and fascinating. I'm glad Andrej is in the world, and I'm super glad his natural beauty is recognised and that he is successful and celebrated. I hope to goodness that the Fashion industry doesn't just eat him up and spit him out too. I'm also glad that he seems to have conquered the mainstream and that someone like him can be there to make us ask questions about the often highly oppressive social expectations and cultural norms we all tend to simply accept and live with.