WHAT follows is, in brief (well, not so brief), the curious tale of how a handsome black man who can also look an awful lot like a beautiful black woman, except with better legs than most and a beard, happened to end up on the November cover of French Vogue.
The time was summer 2007. The man, who goes by the name Andre J., and who was born Andre Johnson 28 years ago in Newark, and who is a sometime party promoter and former perfume salesclerk at Lord & Taylor and former publicist at Patricia Field’s boutique and current downtown personage (an “It” person, as he was termed in Paper magazine), was running out of his apartment on Thompson Street in the Village for lunch.
It was a hot day. On this particular scorcher, Andre J. had chosen to stay cool in a neon green caftan and gold gladiator sandals. His hair, which, pulled taut, measures 24 inches in length and which he usually wears in a bouffant nimbus that gives him the appearance, as a magazine stylist recently remarked, of “a big Afro-daisy,” was dressed that day in a 1970s Wet & Wild style and covered in a enormous white turban à la Nina Simone.
This was not an unusual grab-a-sandwich ensemble, as Andre J. is quick to point out. “That’s me every day, honey,” Andre J. said on Friday, right before a party at a club called Runway to honor his election to the elite cover girl sorority, Gallic chapter.
“Most people are conditioned to think of a black man looking a certain way,” Andre J. went on. “They only think of the ethnic man in XXX jeans and Timberlands, and here Andre J. comes along with a pair of hot shorts and a caftan or maybe flip-flops or cowboy boots or a high, high heel.” [continue]