It’s an hour till showtime on Sunday, and the backstage space at Yoana Baraschi’s show is crowded with vertically blessed girls from exotic, farflung places.
And yet, one model stands out.
Perched high on a chair, a striking blonde with a soft Aussie twang and cheekbones that protrude like skyscrapers sits patiently as a makeup artist sweeps on shocks of electric red eye shadow.
At 6-foot-2, the green-eyed babe with a 30-inch waist has already chalked up a number of bookings at Fashion Week, modeling women’s wear at shows like Kimberly Ovitz and Nahm. For the past two months, the fashion flock has raved about the 19-year-old’s unique look. “Stunning New Global Catwalk Sensation,” exclaimed Australia’s Herald Sun.
Nineteen-year-old Andrej Pejic has taken the women’s wear runways by storm this NYC Fashion Week — even though he’s a man.
But there’s just one difference between this mannequin and the rest of the gals. This model is a man. Andrej Pejic, who was born in Bosnia and bred in Melbourne, was discovered only last year by European designers, who were bowled over by his incredibly feminine appearance. Now he’s modeling women’s clothes on New York’s catwalks for the very first time.
“[Being cast as a woman] is not something that I feel uncomfortable,” Pejic tells The Post. “Sometimes women’s wear is more fun and less restrictive.”
So far, Pejic is pleased with the reception he’s received in the Big Apple. “I can’t say that I’ve been shunned,” he says. “It’s my first season in New York, so it’s exciting. I’m fairly new to women’s wear, so let’s hope it goes up from here.”
His early popularity is a sign that Pejic is quickly becoming a star, says his New York-based agent, Chris Forberg of DNA models. “It’s pretty rare for a model in their first season in New York to book this many shows,” says Forberg.
According to the blog frockwriter, Pejic is already raking in the same amount for his catwalk appearances as the female models. “On average, girls tend to make anywhere from 35 to 50 percent more than men for runway,” says Olga Liriano, an NYC casting director.
In addition to four women’s shows, Pejic is also booked to walk in five men’s shows this week, including Richard Chai’s — making him the first model, to his agent’s knowledge, to appear in New York fashion shows for both genders.
Designer Baraschi first noticed Pejic in a casting book, loved the “soulful look in his eyes” and hired him for her show.
“When someone is so charismatic, you don’t even ask yourself the reason why you want them,” says Baraschi. “He brought an interesting dimension to the place.”
Along with Lea T, a transgender model who appeared in Givenchy’s campaign last fall, Pejic is a part of a new trend of pretty “femimen” who have seduced the fashion world for the past year.
Wearing a figure-hugging gown, Pejic closed Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture show last month in Paris — an unforgettable moment the model says was the highlight of his career.
He also appears in Marc by Marc Jacobs’ recent campaign and in Gaultier’s spring ads, in which he almost kisses his female model lookalike, Karolina Kurkova.
“She’s fabulous,” Pejic gushes. “And our looks do complement each other.”
“The big models, they don’t want to be best friends with you, but they’re nice,” he adds. “I think they find me interesting.”
The lanky teen knew he looked like a girl from the moment “he came out of the womb and looked in a mirror,” he told The Daily Beast Web site in January. For someone so young, he is uncannily at ease with his fluid identity.In real life, he wears both men’s not to call himself a transvestite.
“I’ve been playing with girls since I was little, so it feels natural,” says Pejic, who today is wearing skinny jeans, a peacoat and a plaid scarf. The child of divorced parents, Pejic, along with his older brother Igor, was raised by his mother and grandmother in a rough neighborhood outside of Melbourne. “My mommy is very supportive. She always has been,” he says.
Growing up surrounded by macho Australian culture, Pejic said he was never the object of harassment. “They find it cute. They’re not judgmental.”
When asked if he has a boyfriend or girlfriend, Pejic answers with a smile: “Umm, no, I am completely single.”
But while Pejic boasts a groundbreaking aesthetic, he says he isn’t setting out to further any agenda other than his own, which is to make money and do what he loves — modeling.
“It’s an industry, and this is my job. It’s not really a political movement,” he says. “I guess the people that use me do that. But yeah, hopefully that does translate into a move into mainstream society.”
Gene Kogan, another agent at DNA, thinks Pejic’s appeal transcends any trends, but he is pushing the envelope. “A guy like Andrej would get work regardless of when he started,” Kogan told nymag.com recently. “In my view, Andrej expedited this shift [to androgynous male models].”
Harper’s Bazaar’s executive editor, Kristina O’Neill, agrees. “There’s a lot of excitement around Andrej,” says O’Neill. “Not only is he beautiful to look at, he’s also nice, and that goes a long way in this business. More than anything, I think his presence proves that beauty isn’t gender-specific.”