In July, international runway darling Andreja Pejic came out as transgender following her sex reassignment surgery. Now, she has announced a Kickstarter for Andrej(a), a documentary that will share her story with the world. The documentary will be a collaboration with filmmaker Eric Miclette, Pejic’s longtime friend who was one of the first people she told about her surgery. Miclette has footage from the past two years of Pejic’s career, but the real work of the documentary has just begun, as they hope to chronicle the impact Pejic’s sex reassignment surgery has on her career in an industry that formerly embraced her androgyny.
Pejic occupies a place unlike that of any other transgender model. While there have been others—from April Ashley and Tula in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s to Teri Toye and Connie Fleming in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s—none transitioned in the middle of their careers, and some never even openly acknowledged a transgender identity.
Pejic entered the international spotlight as a male model. Her Kickstarter explains, “…as her fame skyrocketed, the pressures to remain a boy grew right along with it…if she wanted to remain a success, she had to remain a boy. Her agents said it. The press said it. The world expected it. Most importantly, her family relied on it.”
Pejic’s family immigrated to Australia as political refugees from war-torn Serbia. She told People, “I always dreamt of being a girl. One of my earliest memories is spinning around in my mom’s skirt trying to look like a ballerina.” But by the age of nine, she learned to conform to social pressures. “I kept my dreams and my imagination to myself and became pretty good at acting as a boy,” she said. “But I was hiding who I was.”
In high school, she began taking puberty blockers. Her goal was to finish high school as Andrej, to transition, and then to live the rest of her life as a woman, never looking back at her male past.
But her plan was sidetracked when, while working at McDonalds on New Year’s Eve in 2007, she was scouted by a modeling agency that noted her resemblance to Jessica Hart. Pejic agreed to model because she realized it was a way she would eventually be able to pay for her transition.
She modeled for both men and women’s clothing lines. Sometimes a designer hired her to model for both. This was the case with Jean Paul Gaultier, who placed Pejic in his men’s show and as his finale (a prestigious position known as the mariée, or bride) for his women’s haute couture show. Her career skyrocketed, supported by edgy, rebellious designers who clamored for her gender-bending look.
This is why, following news of Pejic’s transition, the New York Times wondered if the fashion world would accept her as a woman. Pejic said, “There are agents that would tell me: ‘Don’t ever do it. Don’t transition. You’ll lose everything.”
She has decided not to let the past hamper her future. Pejic said, “Now I’m at a point where I know my past doesn’t make me any less of a woman today. I can be proud of it. I don’t have to bury it.” She agrees with the New York Times that her career will have to change with her decision to transition. “It’s definitely a different strategy now than it was before. I want to go for something more classic. To show the world I can be approachable, and not have them think of me as an alien creature. I want to show that I have the skill like any other female model, and I’m asking for the same equal treatment and equal respect as any other female model.”
When she told Miclette she was going to have sexual reassignment surgery, he convinced her that her experiences were important and should be filmed. He told her, “Your story is so unique. It has the potential to reach so many and to help millions of young people around the world.” Since that conversation, she has sold a memoir to Penguin Books, and her Kickstarter, which closes October 10, has already secured more than 100 backers. On her Kickstarter, Pejic says, “I hope that by sharing my humanity, pain, tears, laughter, joy, and biggest struggles on film, it will shed light on what it means to live as a transgender individual.”