Model Search

"Talent searches are often fronts for bogus modeling schools." -- Laurel Pallock, Investigator, District Attorney's office, San Francisco

The owner of a Beverly Hills modeling and acting school agreed Wednesday to pay $50,000 in fines for allegedly using misleading advertising to promote his business.
In settling a lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles city attorney's office, James K. Lord also agreed to operate his Beverly Hills Studios according to terms laid out in a court order, a spokesman for the office said.
The city said Lord did advertising that "could mislead the public into believing that his model and talent searches were cost-free casting calls," when he intended to charge fees for the service.
Deputy City Atty. P. Greg Parham said the defendant also misrepresented to potential clients the employment and salary opportunities that would be made available to them.
A complaint from one of Lord's competitors prompted the investigation of Beverly Hills Studios, formerly known as Powers Development Center and John Robert Powers of Beverly Hills, according to the city attorney's office.
As part of the inquiry, undercover investigators from the Consumer Protection Unit posed as participants in Lord's talent searches.
Under the settlement signed Wednesday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Horowitz, Lord must pay $38,000 in civil fines plus $12,000 in other damages.
-- "Beverly Hills Modeling School Owner Agrees to $50,000 in Fines," The Los Angeles Times, February 2, 1995

"Some 'model searches' are simply sales pitches for costly training programs, photography and makeup sessions, workshops and other products or services." -- Erik Joseph, Author, The Glam Scam

"About two years ago, I went to the Hilton in Greenville, North Carolina, to a model search. I was picked to be a model for a company out of Charlotte. I paid for my portfolio and my pictures (which were really expensive), and have not heard from them since. I have called and left messages, but no one will return my calls! Ain't that a crock!" -- Aspiring Model

On April 11, 2001, the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division of North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued the following warning, "When Someone Says You Could Be A Model." It is targeted to North Dakota but the principles and practices of model searches are basically the same in all states.

Modeling agencies and modeling scouts are becoming increasingly active in North Dakota, holding weekend "searches" in the state to bring customers to their fold.

These searches, which usually are run by out-of-state companies, are preceded by a blitz of advertising before the event to drum up every available young man and woman who thinks they have what it takes to walk the high fashion runways.

Although these model searches often cannot be considered "scams," consumers still must be careful by knowing the facts behind a career in modeling.

Virtually all of these model searches come at some financial cost to the participants. The company holding the search wants you to pay it as a clearinghouse between you and the modeling industry.

The "search" held in North Dakota is designed to bring in people who already think they are handsome and beautiful to an event where many, in turn, are "selected" to get more involved--at a cost--with the company later.

The flattery of this selection leads many young men and women to spend hundreds of dollars to pay for a photo session or to buy access to potential jobs the company arranges.

You are seldom "guaranteed" any modeling work; you simply are told you have potential and you will be introduced to modeling scouts or companies seeking models.

This promise, allure, and the appeal to your personal vanity make it much easier for the company to get you to agree to part with your cash to see if you can make a career in the field.

The Federal Trade Commission offers this advice when dealing with modeling pitches:

* Be wary of modeling companies that require you to use a specific photographer. Compare fees and the quality of work of several photographers.

* Be suspicious if a company requires an up-front fee to serve as your agent.

* Be cautious if the company claims to have a special referral relationship with a specific modeling agency. The two could be splitting your fees, or the agency might not be the right one for you.

* Ask yourself if you are getting an honest appraisal of your potential as a model. Do not let flattery take control. How many others got the same offer from the modeling agency? The competition will be steep and the company might be telling everyone they have "potential."

* Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. If you have potential for a model today, you'll have potential a week from now. There's no need to sign anything immediately.

* Be skeptical of claims about high salaries you can earn. Successful models in small markets can earn $75 to $150 an hour, but the work is irregular.

* Ask for names, addresses and phone numbers of models and actors who have used the company's services successfully and recently.

* Get all promises and representations in writing. Otherwise, they are worthless.

* Check out their claims. If an agency says it has placed models in specific jobs, call those companies to verify it.

Call some of the major modeling agencies in New York, Los Angeles or Minneapolis, and ask how they find their models.

Many major agencies have a "new faces" division, where you can send regular snapshots with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and it will tell you if you have the look the agency wants.

Modeling companies aim their pitches at your vanity.

Some recruits do get substantial work from their services; most do not. All end up paying the modeling company for its services, making it the only entity in the transaction that is "guaranteed" paying work.

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division investigates allegations of fraud in the marketplace.

Investigators also mediate individual complaints against businesses.

If you have a consumer problem or question, call the Consumer Protection Division.

The BBB issued the following model search advice:

Before attending any model or talent search, be aware that it is a highly competitive business and there are height and size requirements to model as well as training in acting if you plan to work in any of the major markets: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas; or in international markets such as Milan, Paris, London, Hamburg, Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, and Tokyo.

It is important to know that if an agent is interested in representing you in any of the major markets, you are likely going to be required to relocate.

It is often a good idea to start in a secondary market before trying to move on to one of the major markets. Usually it is helpful to gain experience in these local markets before relocating to a major market. It is a good idea to find a local market with a decent clientele and get an agent.

The agent will recommend a "fashion" photographer for modeling photos or "headshot" photographer for an acting headshot, and how to get the tools you need to get started.

Before signing an agreement, read it carefully and understand what the model or talent agency promises. Ask about its success rate and ask for references. Verify all claims made by the agency and make sure oral promises are included. Make sure to understand all the terms of the agreement beforehand.

Once again, this is a highly competitive field, and only a small percentage make it in the major markets. Problems or complaints about an agent or agency may be referred to the BBB or your state or local consumer protection agency.