By Bobby Webster
I’ve always considered myself a bit of a radical person, considering my conservative Catholic upbringing. From making shocking statements to fashion-forward choices, I’ve strived to live like I was part of a movement (or a few, considering my age) that pushed boundaries. College was a blur of fashion mishaps and late nights of sexual exploration, and Blur’s ode to sexual revolution in “Girls and Boys” provided the perfect soundtrack. Now that I am a bit older, I find myself a little more conventional, but I dont consider myself conservative by any means. I do wonder what Damon Albarn might say about foreshadowing the direction fashion seems to be taking, where new gender barriers continue to be broken on a daily basis.
Take Serb stunner Andrej Pejic, who seems to be at the forefront of this new movement of extreme androgyny in fashion. Born in Bosnia, his mother felt very uncomfortable in the war-torn country and decided to relocate to Australia for her family’s safety. Always playing in his mother’s closet, Andrej began modeling in 2008, and quickly caught the attention of Stephen Meisel and the godfather of controversial fashion himself, Jean-Paul Gaultier, who subsequently booked him for both the male and female Paris shows. His stardom quickly shot skywards, and soon, he was also the face of Marc by Marc Jacobs and on the covers of New York Magazine and Dossier. The male model has begun to command women’s fees too.
I’ll admit, when I first saw Andrej, I wondered about his sexuality, of which he has been especially private. When asked to clarify his gender, he simply states that he wishes to be neither a boy nor a girl, but “a butterfly.” When asked about his sexuality, he changes the subject and becomes even more enigmatic.
I imagine it must be difficult breaking gender barriers in an industry where cattiness and vanity seem to be the norm, so I called friend and transsexual goddess Sophia Lamar to ask her opinion of what is occurring in fashion. Sophia, who has modeled for years for Mario Testino, Terry Richardson, David Lachapelle and also has the honor of being the first transsexual model in American Vogue had this to say, ”It’s nothing new, fashion is about fantasy, and there have been transsexual models for quite some time…….only now people are beginning to notice and become relatively comfortable with it.”
We discussed Teri Toye, whose inspired severe bangs in millions of girls everywhere. Teri moved to New York from Iowa in 1981, and quickly caught the eye of Karl Lagerfeld, Gaultier, and Stephen Sprouse. She also had the distinction of being the first openly transsexual model, and for the majority of the eighties, she was America’s darling. She seemed to vanish in the late eighties, but has resurfaced lately, looking as fabulous as ever. In interviews she seems humbled when told she paved the way for current models Andrej and Isis King of America’s Next Top Model.
Teri, and additionally Greer Lankton, Lauren Foster, and Bond girl Caroline Cossey made an impact during the MTV era, and then bowed out of public view, getting married and turning to a life of less in the spotlight. Twenty years later, a new breed is putting its best heel forward. Is America and the fashion world ready to accept these new blurred gender-lines? I hope and believe so. They inspire me to get up, dress in something completely chic and fabulous, and go conquer the world every day. The only question is: will it be in a skirt or pants?
Bobby Webster and partner Judson Harmon’s new adventure in fashion ODD is coming soon…