Model Leyna Bloom has appeared at New York Fashion Week for brands like Chromat, LaQuan Smith and Les Blonds. She made history as the first transgender model of color to appear in the pages of vogue India. She has appeared in campaigns for H&M and in series in Cosmopolitan and In abundance.
Bloom also has a powerful social media presence, with more than 120,000 Instagram followers who have consistently helped her personal campaigns go viral, including her quest to become the first trans model to appear in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.
Still, Bloom isn’t signed to any modeling agencies and books her gigs on her own through social media connections and email. She went public with this unfortunate reality on May 20 on Twitter, writing, “No major modeling agency in NY and LA will give me a contract. They said it was too risky and they couldn’t take the risk.
Just like that, another viral campaign was born. Bloom’s tweet has been liked over 25,000 times, and the model said she wasn’t surprised at all.
“[My fans] want to know why I’m not working,” Bloom said in a recent interview. “They see the influence.”
The push comes after years of agencies telling her ‘no’, even laughing in her face after her first move to New York. She returned to those agencies a few years later, with some NYFW success under her belt, and faced similar doubts.
“The comments I’ve been getting are that they’re like, ‘Well, this whole trans thing, we already have someone on board who’s trans,'” Bloom said. “’We just don’t know, it’s a bet. Maybe in six months you can come back.
Despite the success of Bloom — and the record number of trans and non-binary models and models of color at fashion weeks around the world — agencies still weren’t biting. “They feel like it’s a trend, but it’s not,” Bloom said. “They have their token trans models and they don’t let anyone else in.”
So in May, Bloom used the most powerful tool she has: social media. Thanks to the power of fans and followers, agencies are finally reaching out to her.
“A lot of big agencies now send me emails like, ‘Oh my god, can I have a date with you? We’re sorry we didn’t pay attention to you,” Bloom said. “Now they see it’s out there, and it’s because they’re tagged in posts by my fans.”
Bloom now has meetings with several New York agencies on her schedule, but she knows she has to be picky. “I’m trying to understand, what are they saying? Bloom said. “What are they putting on the table?” Are they trying to fetishize me just for the quota? It’s a bet to see if it works for me.
One reason why Bloom is particularly cautious? She’s been signed once before, only to find herself doing the majority of her bookings herself. “If I’m doing this on my own, what’s the point of being part of an agency?” she said. “I was overworked. I was underpaid. I felt like I was being used. I have no choice but to be self-taught.”
Now Bloom is looking for an agency that will work as hard as she does, if not harder.
“For me as a brand, I first show up with what I’ve done on my own and what I’ve achieved,” Bloom said. “These are the brands I’ve worked with without an agency and everything I’ve booked. You need me, and I need you. History is still being made and there’s room for everyone. I want to be that voice model [who] tell people.
With the right management, the possibilities for Bloom would seem endless. She could do bigger shows, book more campaigns, and get bigger paychecks — and still make history, no doubt.
Who will sign it? His fans are waiting for him.