Written by Efani Allah
Photography by Various
Adonis Bosso was signed by an agency as soon as he walked into the building eight years ago. His career has been ascending steadily since, and Bosso is now experiencing the rare evolution that few models do—becoming a public figure. Born in Ivory Coast and raised in Montreal, the 25-year-old has been based in New York City for the past four years. With representation in every major city in fashion, he has appeared in shows for Public School, Jeremy Scott, Kanye West, and is currently featured in a Dolce & Gabbana campaign. Success aside, Bosso lives a personal life akin to any young man who is finding himself in the world’s most alluring city. Coming from Montreal, a New York winter means nothing to him. He prefers his skateboard to the subway and has lived in more neighborhoods than many New Yorkers have visited.
Bosso has earned the reputation of being one of the most interesting people in fashion. His striking features have garnered him mainstream attention and his professionalism has created outright demand from people wanting to work with him. Outspoken about the realities of race in fashion, Bosso continuously lets his world know that he aims to stand for a greater purpose beyond what he does on the runway and in front of a camera. While possessing a deep appreciation for the beauty of style and craft of presentation, he’s also quick to point out that at the end of the day, it’s fashion, and it’s really not that serious.
What’s your background story and how did you end up here?
I started modeling in Montreal when I was 17. I wasn’t that serious about it until I came to New York for my first fashion week. I ended up quitting school and moving here after that. Since then, it’s been a steady climb with my career, so I can’t complain about anything.
What neighborhood do you live in?
Right now I’m kind of homeless. [Laughs.] I used to live in Bushwick, right by Roberta’s off the Morgan L train stop. I moved out before fashion week this year and have since been crashing with friends. Lately, I’ve been staying in Harlem. It’s pretty cool up there. I’ve bounced around a lot since I moved to New York. I’ve lived in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Alphabet City, too.
How did you get into modeling?
I was dating a girl who was a model and one time I went to her agency to drop off her book, and they signed me on the spot. It wasn’t a very good agency and they closed the following year, but that was the start of it. When I do something, I try to give it my 100 percent. As a model, you can’t really do much to work more or work harder, but I try to do things the right way.
Has it taken you a while to learn the industry and figure out how to be a professional in your work?
I was lucky enough to work with some great photographers who really helped me out because I didn’t know a lot when I started. Like, I didn’t know about models.com or anything, but people showed me where to look in order to learn and get inspired. I’ve had a couple mentors along the way who’ve helped me get this far. At the end of the day, it’s fashion and it isn’t that serious. It’s about making beautiful clothes and making art, but it’s still just business. I’ve always tried to be myself, but to also be open-minded and creative.
What are your ambitions that extend beyond being photographed?
Well, I have an acting background and acted when I was a kid. I was going to go to one of the best acting schools in Montreal, but then the modeling happened. I also studied special care, so I like to take care of people and create peace. I’ve worked with kids with special needs, and I want to be an influence and make an impact that’s stronger than what people can see in visual images.
You’ve spoken about how models are more than just imagery these days. Do you hold a standard for yourself with how your voice and personality are presented to your audience?
At the end of the day, I know that I’m a model of color. Whatever I do might also represent the people I look like. That’s who I represent, so when I work, I try to put out the best image, not just for me and to make my mom proud, but for whomever else I’m representing. I try to look good, but I also want to give a positive image for who I am, who we are, and show a little diversity.
In saying that, do you feel like your personal style is different than how you’re presented in your profession?
Style is your own thing, you know? A friend of mine recently decided to stop modeling because she didn’t want to be seen as not being a real person. People tend to associate beauty with goodness. We tend to forget that what we associate a person with is not necessarily what they are. Sometimes we sell this illusion and this dream that is not necessarily our reality. As models, we’re selling luxury, but we’re not living that life. We’re all individuals and have our own realities, and I do the best with what I have—my education, my background, and what my mom taught me. All of that is what brought me here and made me who I am.
You’re known as a unique character in the fashion world and do your own thing. Do you remove yourself from the fashion scene during your social time and hang out at your own spots with people you don’t work with?
I have my friends and I party and all that, but I’m a big loner. I know people in almost every city I go to, but I’m usually just with one homie or one chick. Yeah, I have good friends in the fashion industry, but a lot of my regular friends have nothing to do with fashion and don’t know anything about it.
Living in New York, do you feel like you need to put time in to develop your own relationship with the city?
New York is such a big city and it eats you up. Like, it’s so big that it’s easy to feel alone. People here are very open to having new relationships, but it’s up to you to make connections and make sure they last. You’re a small fish in a really big ocean.
Do you believe the hype about New York City being a test to see what you’re made of?
New York can be like a trampoline for anything else. Once you get here, you have access to a much bigger world. There’s so much energy and it’s such a powerhouse, so regardless of what you want to do, you can find it. But…you can’t stay in New York for too long. [Laughs.] When you’re young and fresh, you have the energy to stay out all night and go to work in the morning, but as you grow and discover new ambitions, you need to get away from all that.
Without blowing out any of your secret spots, what are some low-key areas of the city you enjoy?
I like to skate around and often I’ll skate from uptown all the way down to Battery Park. I have a secret route through Central Park. There’s an area where you can see the lake and the buildings outside the park, but nobody’s near you. It’s my little secret spot and I’ll go there to read a book or draw. It’s the coolest spot because it takes you away from the city, but you’re still in it.
What’s your favorite museum?
The Brooklyn Museum. I love the entrance of it. Art aside, the building is incredible.
I don’t know. I feel like I’m at that point where I’ve been here long enough and all the bars seem the same. I’m more into underground parties or house parties, rather than just going out to a club.
Do you ever experience those “I’ve made it” moments, realizing that you’re young and successful, and living out your dream in New York City?
I realize now that I’ve accomplished certain things that I never expected. I’ve traveled to places I never imagined I’d go to, but at the same time, I still strive for more. Fashion is a great industry, but it’s just fashion. I’m doing pretty well for myself, but I don’t feel like I’ve “made it,” you know? Being in New York with the ability to anticipate my own future is incredible, but I haven’t reached greatness.
“They made money your god, and made love the enemy,” is the byline on your Instagram profile. Who said that, and what does it mean?
I’m pretty sure I came up with that. It’s about the idea of how it’s not OK to love anymore, and showing your emotions is not a good thing. Like, the general idea today is that you shouldn’t care about stuff, and people are only concerned with how to make money, regardless of if it’s hurting people or hurting the earth. Everything is about money and people don’t think about love anymore. It’s like we’re conditioned to think that love is gonna hurt us, but it’s not.