Photo: Alan Winslow
"Most people in fashion assume I'm a girl," Stav Strashko begins slowly, "and then they hear my voice!" The model lets out a deep, throaty laugh—as if to prove his point—and I realize that yeah, when I first met Strashko this weekend, I thought he was a her.
"It's cool," the Ukraine-born, Israel-bred model assures me. "I really don't care. Many of my friends address me as 'she.' Sometimes, I address myself as a 'she' too. I swear, I really don't care—you can call me whatever you're comfortable with."

Photo: Alan Winslow
Okay. So here's what we'll call Strashko for now: New York Fashion Week's breakout runway star. And we'd use that term regardless of gender. With his sun-kissed blonde hair, razor-sharp cheekbones, and backstage vibes, the barely-legal Strashko is booking major runway shows (like DKNY and Thom Browne) and getting called into some serious castings (our lips are sealed, but think "fashion dream job"). But how does a nice Jewish boy from Tel Aviv end up in the go-see racket?
"Since I was really small, I was always interested in doing something like modeling or acting, or both," he explains. "Maybe singing. I always had that vision in my mind of being a performer. But I never really tried to make it happen. Then I was discovered on the street when I was 16 by an Israeli stylist, and it all started happening from there."

Photo: Alan Winslow
He signed with One Models—the agency of Iman, Karolina Kurkova, and fellow Israeli Bar Refaeli—and hopped on a plane. Soon, The New York Times name-checked him in a piece on transgender model Andreja Pejic. "I've never met her," Strashko says, "but I think she's gorgeous! I think she's done a great job for people like us in the industry, and of course I love her work." (Like Pejic, Strashko is a natural blonde; unlike her, he identifies as male and has not undergone sexual reassignment surgery.)

Photo: Alan Winslow
"I'm going to London next," Strashko says. "And then hopefully Milan and Paris. I want to do everything, you know? But I understand that I have to work more than a regular model. Even though I have something unique that not all the girls or the male models have, some clients aren't open-minded enough to take someone like me. I guess some of them are afraid to take me because they think people will assume immediately that the designer wants to make 'a statement.' I hope I can overcome that, and I can see that this industry—it's already getting more open to the idea, you know, that I'm not 'a statement.' I'm a person!"

Photo: Alan Winslow
"Like, I was at this casting for [insert major industry player here]. He didn't know I was a guy. He called me in because he liked my pictures, that's all. But when I started speaking, he said with this big smile, 'Oh, I know your secret.' I'm like, 'What secret? That I'm a guy?! That's not a secret! I'll tell anyone!'"

Photo: Alan Winslow
Fair enough. But surely Strashko has a hair care secret—his tresses are too second-day-blowout to be a coincidence. "It's just common sense," he says. "A few years ago on a shoot, it was treated very badly and given a terrible cut. Since then, I was like, 'Nobody can cut or dye my hair, but me.' I refuse to put any chemicals into it; I won't dye it. And I think you have to use good products. After I have shows where they put too many products in my hair, I put masques in it—otherwise it gets dry," he says, a smile spreading across his pouty lips. "And it gets shitty!"
As for surviving the street style scrum outside every show, Strashko is practical: "In real life, I like 'regular' clothes. Huge T-shirts, baggy pants, you know. I don't do tight jeans. I like them ripped and loose—you know, boyfriend jeans."

Photo: Alan Winslow