“He is a chameleon, a genius,” Bergman murmurs. “There is nothing more boo-tee-fool, Andrej, than you!”
As sheer elation over what is being captured on-camera spreads throughout the room, Bergman and McLaren rush into the foggy frame to grasp Andrej about the shoulders like two proud parents before calling the shoot a wrap. Slowly the smoke clears, the makeup and wigs are packed away, and the cast of characters dissipates.
“Oh my God, it’s like working on a Tim Burton film!” Pejic says as the elevator rushes 32 flights down.
A few days before, Pejic had attended a party at the James hotel, arriving in a cloud of flowery perfume with Kendall Werts, one of the younger agents at DNA Model Management, the firm that provides Pejic American representation. The agency had signed him sight unseen, Werts told me, or, rather, after seeing only his book. Pejic showed up at the agency in head-to-toe black and a Gaultier jacket so tight that it appeared to be swaddling him, “as if he’s like, ‘This is what a New York woman looks like,’ ” says Werts. “When the door opened, it was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s everything.’ ”
Though no one seemed to know exactly what the James-hotel party was for, it was a swanky affair. Waiters circled with bottles of Champagne and canapés. A collection of photographers and reporters were flocked at the entrance to the roof terrace to catch the more esteemed guests on their way outside. In the glow of the flash, Pejic pursed his lips and narrowed his bedroom eyes, enjoying the scene. “I like to party,” he’d told me earlier. “You know, quite hard-core partying. I feel like at this age, it’s appropriate.” At the bar, he was introduced to another male model from DNA who looked him up and down.
“He thought you were hot,” Werts laughed, after the guy walked away.
“My whole life is controversy. What can I do? I’m like Britney Spears!”
“He thought I was a girl,” Pejic pointed out.
“He’s a model and a power broker. You want a date with the most eligible bachelor in New York City?”
Pejic smirked. “I want to be the most eligible bachelor in New York City.”
Pejic is surprisingly cagey about his love life, and especially so about his sexual orientation. He says he tends to attract straight men and bi-curious women, “like the wilder girls,” but in keeping with his philosophy that, for him at least, gender is irrelevant, he won’t get specific about who attracts him. “You know, I wouldn’t say that I’m really a sexual person,” he said—a statement that’s almost impossible to believe. “But I do appreciate love, and I would love to experience it someday. I don’t think I have yet.” When pressed, the only trait he’ll admit he finds alluring is humor. “I find myself to be quite sarcastic, and I wouldn’t want to be with someone who didn’t get that.”
Later, standing by the pool on the hotel terrace, he told Werts about a stunt he pulled at the airport in Brazil. “You know how those Victoria’s Secret models, they have a baby and then they pop it out and then the next week, they’re skinny and they’re shooting and they’re on the runway?” Pejic paused for dramatic effect. “Well, I was going to do it in a day. That was the idea.” Having told his agents to alert the press to “a surprise,” he’d arrived at the airport with a foam-filled baby bump, only to be apprehended at customs by officers who thought he might be smuggling drugs in his belly.
“And then did they let you keep it?” Werts asked of the phantom child.
“They let me keep it!”
“Well, that was nice of them.”
“One of them was like, ‘You could have fooled me.’ ”
“I think that’s kind of genius,” Werts marveled. “I mean, it’s crazy.”
Not all of Pejic’s efforts at subverting gender have been met with such approval. This past spring, Barnes & Noble allegedly required an issue of Dossier in which he appeared bare-chested on the cover to be wrapped in opaque plastic, fearing that customers would think the image was of a topless woman. The bookstore later denied making such a request. Then FHM issued a formal apology after referring to him as a “thing” when their readers voted him the 98th sexiest woman in the world. The controversy only augmented his career. “I was kind of like, Mmm, I’m getting all this press,” he said. “My whole life is controversy. What can I do? I’m like Britney Spears!”
Initially, Pejic was fashion’s best cut-rate deal: Clients could have him model women’s clothing while not paying him the full women’s rate. Now that he’s a known quality, he’s commanding pay based more on his reputation than his gender, but he still has not made as much as a woman in his position might. “I don’t get out of bed for less than $50 a day,” he deadpanned. “I want to make that clear to America. This is a new age of androgynous supermodels. We don’t get out of bed for less than $50 a day.”