Androgynous Modeling

What is androgyny?

Androgyny, in its most basic definition, is possessing qualities and characteristics that are both male and female.

However, in its most flattering form, androgyny is not only appearing to be male and female, but also appearing to be attractive as either gender. This concept, having two models for the price of one, is becoming widely popular in the fashion industry.

Model: Van Burnham; Photographer: Phillip Ritchie; Makeup Artist: Elise

What’s the industry like for androgynous models?

The market for androgynous models is much greater in Europe than in America. However, recently there has been more of a demand in America, primarily in New York. The agency I’m signed with Androgyn Models in the Netherlands, and as the name indicates, they specialize in representing androgynous models. During the initial interview with my agent, I asked a question and found her response quite peculiar, and surprising. I asked, “Are all your models gender ambivalent, and live their lives like I do, as androgynous?”

“No,” she responded, “you are the only one.” I was taken aback by her answer, because to me, modeling as a man, a woman, or androgynous, is me being all of those things. However, I realized from her answer that to most other androgynous models, it’s simply a job… they wash off their makeup, or step out of their suit, and the act is over. In fact, the only other androgynous model I know of who truly feels mixed in genders is Andrej Pejic. I’ve always suspected that his true androgynous personality is what set him apart from the others and allowed him to achieve such great success. I view him as a huge inspiration.

Do you have an advantage modeling as a woman because you have lived as woman?

Yes and no. I feel that if there is, the advantage lies more with the photographer, and less with me. For example, most any androgynous person can convincingly model as the opposite gender in a photograph. However, the photographer may really have to work hard for the capture. In other words, the advantage, if any, is that I understand what being a woman means, and therefore can quickly channel a very womanly presence in a photograph. With that said, I believe the real advantage wouldn’t be so much in taking stills, but rather in doing runway.

What are the challenges?

I often have freelance photographers contact me and ask to do a shoot. However, when I ask them about the concept and what ideas they have in mind, they have no response. It seems a lot of photographers get excited about the idea of shooting an androgynous model, but when it comes time to developing a concept, they are clueless. I also run into the problem of photographers wanting to capture me as an extreme on either gender side. I generally respond by telling them there are millions of women out there who are much more beautiful and pleasing to look at in a bikini than I am. My specialty lies in capturing the ambiguity in gender, not the extremes. In other words, make me look like a woman who is trying to look like a boy, or a boy with a woman’s face… that’s where my strong points are.

Androgyny - model: Van Burnham, photographer: Phillip Ritchie
Model: Van Burnham; Photographer: Phillip Ritchie; Makeup Artist: Elise

Another challenge I run into is one that is both flattering and bothersome. It’s the question of “how feminine does a face or person have to be before their topless photos are considered nudity?” The whole idea really begs a much larger question, “what determines gender?” I’ve run into this problem many times, especially with Facebook. They will pull my photos down and tell me I am posting nudity, despite the fact my caption clearly states I am biologically male. In fact, when Andrej Pejic’s topless photo made the front cover of Dossier, his picture was so controversial that Barnes and Noble placed all of the magazine copies in opaque bags before displaying them.

What are some of your best experiences?

One of my most favorite shoots was with a photographer from MM, Phillip Ritchie. Phillip came up with this brilliant idea to pay homage to Linda Evangelista and other female models who modeled as androgynous. However, his idea was to use a boy who looks like a girl to recreate a similar feel. Phillip gave me a series of photographs to study, told me to draw my own inspiration from the pictures, and together we would create something new. The shoot was a huge success.

Homage to Linda Evangelista - model: Van Burnham, photographer: Phillip Ritchie
Model: Van Burnham; Photographer: Phillip Ritchie; Makeup Artist: Elise

What is the future of androgyny?

In regards to the question I asked earlier “What determines gender,” it was psychotherapist Carl Jung who proposed that every person has both an inner male and female energy. He labeled these as animus (man) and anima (woman), and felt the key to optimizing mental health was embracing both sides. Even Plato had similar ideas, proposing that we were all once an androgynous, blob-like creature. He continued his theory by stating that androgyny is not only the beginning, but is also the end. The latter part of this notion is consistent with my own theory, in which humans evolve into a more androgynous form. I propose that in the future, we will see a large shift towards androgyny, both physically and mentally, especially in regards to the demasculinization of men.

I base this theory on the slow and ongoing demise of social gender norms, constructs and expectations. Also, on my hypothesis that as society becomes more civilized and technologically more advanced, the demand for bigger, stronger men will become less, and the need for independent, empowered women will become greater. Finally, the greatest threat to masculinity will be from overpopulation. I propose that in order to prevent large scale overpopulation, biology will begin producing men with lower levels of testosterone, thus creating a less masculine, less fertile male with a lower desire for sexual activity. In fact, I believe it’s already happening.

Van Burnham

Van Burnham is an androgynous model, pianist and Siamese cat enthusiast based out of Portland, Oregon. Van lives life as both male and female, with no preference to a preferred pronoun. Van holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Ole Miss, and also works as an accountant. Van has been featured on the radio, in many fashion articles and also runs a YouTube channel that receives over 3000 visits a day.

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43 Responses to “Androgynous Modeling”

  1. October 28, 2017 at 2:57 pm, Jodi Michael Horner said:

    So why is confusion being equated with empowerment? “Male and Female He created them.”


  2. August 26, 2016 at 9:33 am, Ignacio Delgado said:

    Soy un androgeno, tengo 23 años, soy tal cual soy ni chico ni chica, no me meto cremas ni maquillaje para aparentar,

    Vivo en naples en busca de modelaje, hablo español e ingles pero no se escribir ingles apenas.


  3. August 26, 2016 at 9:31 am, Ignacio Delgado said:

    I want be a model i am a natural androgynous ! I am not use anything for My self like operación And thats stuff,
    Im like this either im not try be a female ir man not like other.


  4. August 31, 2014 at 5:50 am, Devon Palo said:

    Damn I’d love to try it (being an androgynous model). It is so amazing..


  5. May 09, 2013 at 9:54 am, CJ said:

    A fascinating insight. My own experience has been conventionally male but the more I got involved in the hosiery industry and in photographing models in hosiery the more I began to discover that gender and gender appearance are both continuous scales from one extreme to another and not simple either/or options. Nor are they indeed static within an individual so those near the center of the spectrum can either deliberately or involuntarily go from one side to another.
    Perhaps the hardest thing to grasp, certainly for the conventional heterosexual sat comfortably to one side of the gender spectrum and the same side of the gender appearance spectrum is that sexuality/sexual orientation need have no relation to gender or gender appearance.

    I have shot “male” legs in hosiery and posted them without comment… interestingly they drew some of the most positive comments of all from both men and women who I can only assume believed them to be “female”. If a man can have a feminine face then why not feminine legs too?
    I would love to shoot more androgynous models, I just need the right project.


  6. April 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm, Aurelia Nowak said:

    This is truly incredible.. 🙂


  7. April 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm, richard said:

    wow!! i want to be a androgynous model too..:) i”m 20 years old and have a good looking either male and female look. i’m so interested ,.please help me how to be a androgynous model! where is the agency located??i’m from laguna./.you can leave a message to my email. [email protected] hope for your response.thanks a lot.:))


  8. April 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm, Germaine said:

    U r AWESOME:) I adore your PERSONALITY;-)


  9. April 14, 2013 at 6:23 pm, Sally said:

    This was played around with in the 80s to the point that its now retro, while it may appeal to a certain niche audience or a particular segment of advertising I personally consider it junk because of the political hijack and implications that it creates.

    If you want to be an artist in all purity than dont let controversial subject matter detract from the true skill of your work.


  10. April 14, 2013 at 5:51 pm, Wonderhussy said:

    OMG you are my new hero…I mean heroine….I mean HEROIN! 😀


  11. April 14, 2013 at 8:07 am, boykitten said:

    I am an androgynous individual and use modelling as part of my gender expression. I am biologically female, lived for about 5 years as male, and now occupy somewhere along the lines of feminine androgynous. I tend to model as femme but am signed as a male model and will work anywhere along the gender spectrum. I love making images and doing performances that mix things up and make the audience double take.

    I agree that many photographers have no idea what to do with an androgynous model, especially if they normally work exclusively with female models. I’ve found it easier modelling as androgynous with alternative and fetish photographers who usually work with non-standard models, and really high end photographers who can just work with anyone. I’ve got a list of people as long as my arm to work with as soon as they can “figure out what the **** to do with me!”

    I think that it would be nice for the world to become more androgynous, or at least more equal between genders and more accepting of those without gender. However, I wouldn’t want the world to lose gender. I’ve lived on both sides and I have seen how important gender is to people who define themselves as one gender or another and I think it wouldn’t be right to take that sense of identity away from them.


    • May 29, 2015 at 1:58 am, beyoutipol said:

      I agree. I am inspired by you, boykitten. Now the thing is, I am living in Philippines and androgynous modeling is not of trend here. Now, where do I start my career?


    • August 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm, topumasum said:

      can you tell me where to start? i want to become an androgynous model in uk or europe. i’m south asian so i’m not sure whether anyone will take me.


  12. April 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm, TheLisp said:

    awesome article! i love that androgynous models like Andrej Pejic, Erika Linder and Willy Cartier are hitting the big time!


  13. April 12, 2013 at 6:34 pm, Heinrich B said:

    Good article! Really happy that the modeling industry has a place for androgynous models! But I don’t see the need to imply that masculine men are a lower form of evolution or at the very least going out of “fashion”. And the reason testoterone levels are dropping is due mostly to environmental toxins we are exposed to daily and consume through processed foods. Anyways, my point is, there are both masculine and feminine men out there and that’s awesome!


  14. April 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm, ModelS said:

    I just did an androgyny photo shoot a couple weeks ago. Gotta say, I loved the outcome and so did everyone I shared the shots with. It was truly one of the best shoots I’ve ever done. The photographer was AMAZING.


  15. April 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm, Lafcadio L said:

    When it comes to a lower level of testosterone from males, it seems to me that it has mostly something to do with the air quality and a massive environmental change having an impact on the methylation of the DNA. According to my interest on the subject of gender determination by the biology, I truly believe that the actual record of lower levels of testosterone from males is a consequence of the human pollution (maybe;has to be tested), and not from a regular evolutionnary process as illustrated in the conclusion of the article. How would a lower desire for sexual activity be an answer to overpopulation? I would much rather predict the rise of smaller human beings than a wave of unfertilized males (who will not reproduce; therefore not allowing evolution) (and why are men depicted, described once again as sexualized beings by their biology? and not the women too?) . Instead, I think that what is happening right now is that the society, or at least the sibblings, accept androgynity as a reality instead of perversion of the social norms, allowing men or woman to discover their “real” identity. The article was pretty cool, thank you.


    • April 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm, Lafcadio L said:

      There are comments underneat talking about overpopulation and its impact on the rats from Amanda Hardy. I do not know the details of that study, but it has to do with overpopulation. I strongly believe that humans are most likely affected, just like rats, by the environment, but I doubt that we live in a “over-populated” scenario similar to the rats (we probably have more individual space, food, air, water, et cetera than these rats living in “over-population”). I just mean that we do not meet the same circumstance of events of these rats, and still, it would not explain entirely the rise of ambiguious sexuality in that population of rats, only a correlation (over-population —> homosexuality increases).


  16. April 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm, Nate said:

    Ok, now tell me what are the agencies in NYC that accepts androgynous modeling submissions? Is there an specific agency located in NYC?


  17. April 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm, dilbert7 said:

    Dunno where “dilbert7” came from! Im MM registered – simon15 !!!


  18. April 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm, dilbert7 said:

    yes! this is EXACTLY where I want to go! I am male but deffo feminine in character & enjoy showing of as such but I can also do “macho male”!


  19. April 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm, Roland said:

    And the drums continue to beat until they beat you into submission!


  20. April 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm, Sesu-kun said:

    I am so glad someone finally posted something about us androgynous models on this site. people need to be informed, educated, and enlightened on this genre of person and modeling.


  21. April 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm, Bra Lala said:

    This is quirky and all but I’m more interested
    in a real femme who is always femme non op-pre op TS


  22. April 12, 2013 at 11:48 am, Dave Schofield said:

    Ha,love the comments like: ‘hey you’re not androgynous you just look like a woman’. Ha, pay attention people. Great photos and thoughtful stuff. I hope the modelling helps you find how you want to continue the journey.


  23. April 12, 2013 at 11:18 am, Phil Ramuno said:

    I spent 15-20 minutes talking with Van at a gathering recently and walked away marveling at how nice he is and what a unique talent he has.


  24. April 12, 2013 at 9:31 am, Henry Carmona said:

    Is it androgynous because body parts aren’t visible or because your not supposed to be able to tell male from female?what if you can still tell? BTW it’s obvious to me in every photo.


  25. April 12, 2013 at 9:27 am, ma said:

    Androgynous models don’t look very unattractive IMO. Why anyone would find them attractive is beyond me.


  26. April 12, 2013 at 9:20 am, [email protected] said:

    sorry but that’s a woman… and she looks like one no matter if she wears a suit or a dress. why not look up Andrej Pejic


  27. March 30, 2013 at 11:28 am, e_wack said:

    Check out my androgenous shots, imitating James Dean. 🙂

    Anyone interested in doing an andro. shoot, hit me up! Model# 2452506


  28. March 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm, John Nordstrom said:

    Beautifully written. Yours is clearly an intellect to be reckoned with. Your grammatical constructs, subject matter expertise, and inductive powers of reasoning belay this fact. There is a calm, quiet confidence there – almost cat-like.

    Regarding the demise of social gender norms, might I propose that the patriarchal structure is being replaced by a more matriarchal structure as a result of a reduced need for brute force physical protection and defense of the traditional nuclear family? The result is the same, but it is less a function of technological advances and more a result of the adaptation of less violent societal norms.

    My fear is that with overpopulation in humans, as with rats in a confined area, we will see more bizarre behaviors and extreme deviations from accepted societal norms. Under stress, people will lash out at one-another and physical violence will actually increase. I think we are already seeing this.


  29. March 28, 2013 at 11:27 am, belowradarnw said:

    It is strange that we see these “LOW-T” ads on TV all the time. Maybe, Van’s right. Maybe, we are all homogenizing into one sexless species of hermaphrodites.


  30. March 28, 2013 at 7:33 am, YouAreAnInspiration said:

    Although I agree with 99% of the content. Brilliantly well written, my only disagreement is with the trend toward infertility. The advent of very easily accessible prophylactics and other forms of birth-rate control have more to do with it, than evolution.


    • March 28, 2013 at 8:13 am, Van Burnham said:

      I don’t disagree with you there, I was hinting that we are rather on the cusp of infertility by biology. However, in addition to your argument, it was also medical technology that got us into overpopulation. We can contribute a large part of the population spike simply to the invention of antibiotics, and also to vaccines. Both of these significantly increased human lifespan as well as significantly increased the survival rate of infants and children. There are many other factors that also play into infertility, particularly with food, drugs, etc… However, these factors seem to be far lagging behind the survivability rate that medical technology allows. I am simply suggesting that biology will soon, or is already beginning (as I believe) its own method of population control, and that its method will positively correlate with a more androgynous future.


      • March 28, 2013 at 10:25 am, Marc G said:

        There is twenty times more food available now than ever before in human history. The use of fossil fuels to fertilize and transport food long distances created the population growth. Medicine didn’t do any of that.

        Also, the article is very interesting and positively encouraging from a gender and fashion standpoint. The politics are a bit confused to me though. The notion of less fertile and less libidinous men leading to less children assumes a constant female libido that is markedly lower than that of the male. I have seen no credible biology that has ever proven or even suggested that. That assumption has, as far as I know was born out of patriarchal folklore.


        • March 28, 2013 at 10:42 am, Van Burnham said:

          Absolutely medicine contributed to the population growth. In fact, the 3 main contributors to the population explosion are 1. Increase in food production and distribution (as you stated). 2. Increase in public health (water and sanitation) and 3. Medical technology (antibiotics and vaccines). All three of these factors are common knowledge for anyone who has studied overpopulation. However, you need not argue against me or my point, as all three of these examples are documented in a Yale study on overpopulation (

          Your assumption on my assumption is correct, it was born out of folklore… my own folklore.


      • March 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm, Amanda Hardy said:

        I find your theory about population control interesting as in college, I learned that it has been proven that many animals, when threatened with overpopulation, release a chemical alert in the air which then creates a huge rise in homosexuality, thus preventing further dangers caused by overpopulation. Seeing as we’re suppose to be so much more evolved than animals, I don’t see why our species would not unknowingly or uncontrollably prevent this as well.


      • January 21, 2014 at 8:37 am, Jhing Lazaro said:

        can i be anAndrogynous model like you im born male from philippines


  31. March 27, 2013 at 11:26 pm, Sepia Seven said:

    The article… It is spectacular. I bill myself as androgynous as it is just how my features are. I am actually ftm transgender but my adult life has been spent presenting gender neutral.
    Incredible article thank you for posting.


  32. March 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm, David Jay said:

    Nice article! It’s so cool to know a super model! 🙂


  33. March 27, 2013 at 10:59 am, NYMPH said:

    Incredible. Thank you for sharing.


  34. March 27, 2013 at 10:40 am, Elise said:

    Beautiful and open Van. Very brilliantly though out and explained, I think this will give a lot of people insight in our industry and a better understanding of Androgyny in Fashion and Photography.


  35. March 27, 2013 at 10:35 am, Jenna Chalker said:

    Wow. This was so cool to read. Love your work, Van. 🙂


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