Parents are often the victims of modeling scams, perhaps even more often than their kids, the aspiring models.
After all many young aspiring models do not have the money, so they turn to their parents, asking, pleading, begging, and they pay.
Where does it start? There are three main starting points to modeling: 1) parents; 2) children; and, 3) scouts.
1. Parents Initiate Modeling
A parent with a nine-month-old infant has written asking about getting her baby started in modeling. Mothers with two-year-old daughters have also made inquiries.
At such a young age, before a child can speak, before they know what modeling is, or before the thought of becoming a model has ever entered their mind, parents have taken steps to get their kids into modeling.
But parents have also been influential in encouraging their kids to start modeling later on when they are teens. It is not always their teen children who initiate the interest. In fact one girl who went on to become a supermodel at first was not interested in modeling. It was her mother's idea. Esther Cañadas said: "I wanted to be a criminologist; my mom was always telling me that I should be a model."
Aggressive parenting has led mothers to get their kids a fast start into modeling. Brooke Shields' mother was a very aggressive parent, and she was largely responsible for her daughter becoming a child actress and model. Indeed her actions and virtual obsession with her daughter's early years has generated controversy.
2. Children Initiate Modeling
From an early age many girls are interested in modeling. Part of it is natural, an expression of the female spirit, and part of it is the result of outside forces, such as the media.
The media has portrayed the modeling world as glamorous and the ultimate expression and standard of beauty. Girls naturally want to be beautiful and models are depicted as the most beautiful women, and so becoming a model becomes part of The American Dream for many young American girls.
3. Scouts Initiate Modeling
Model scouts have initiated modeling interest when neither the child nor the parents considered modeling.
Apparently this was the case with supermodel Christy Turlington. She had no aspirations to become a model, and nor did her parents have any aspirations for her to become a model. In fact at the beginning they were very reticent.
Problems start when teens and pre-teens who are interested in modeling lack life experience. The thought of a modeling opportunity being a modeling scam has never even crossed their mind. Has your child ever been ripped off through a scam? If they were, did they learn a lesson?
The first thing parents with life experience who have been ripped off and who have heard about modeling scams do is question a modeling opportunity. It is, however, the last thing many kids do. They have no reference point and they can, in fact, become as skeptical of your views and hesitation as you are skeptical and hesistant about the modeling opportunity itself.
Dealing with Disappointment
When you conclude after research that a modeling opportunity is a modeling scam, or it is most likely a scam, your child may conclude you don't really care. It could in fact get quite intense when you appear to be resisting their dream.
An aspiring model's father who concluded a modeling opportunity was a modeling scam -- and refused to pay and let his 11-year-old daughter become part of it -- said afterwards she was upset for a long time: "It took my daughter two months to get over it."
If you would rather not see your child upset or pouting for weeks, one option is to seek out alternative modeling opportunities, so your daughter is not left feeling as if her dream has been ruined forever.
The mother of two aspiring teen models wrote and said: "Your website and your response is greatly appreciated. It saved two parents from shattering the dreams of their teens, who felt that I just did not care. Of course parents are not smart people, so how could I know [...] is a scam. Seeing it in print from you was all that it took. But they are not giving up hope. Now we are headed to an Open Call from [...]."
A father in California had this idea. After turning down a very expensive modeling opportunity, he asked for the names of reputable modeling agencies where he lived: "Could you please give me the names of a few agencies that I can call to offset my children's disappointment that I decided not to follow through...?"
You can do something to show your kids you care about their hopes and dreams. Doing nothing but saying no is not going to help. They need more than that. If you just say no, they will read it as you are the problem; if they see some sign of support, they can see the company is the problem.
Cindy Crawford's father took the day off work to drive her into Chicago to visit modeling agencies. This is how she got started in her modeling career. Her dad was at the center of it, totally involved.
There are kids who really want to become models. But they really don't have the money. So really their only option is to ask mom or dad to pay.
There are also teens who work and have money and they pay for modeling opportunities, but there are many others who cannot afford it.
However, there are also parents who cannot really afford the opportunities, too. Unbelievably, they even consider taking out bank loans, either due to pressure from their child, or because they think the opportunity is legitimate and worth the risk.
It has been reported parents of a family of five children who were not well off took money out of their savings so one of their daughters could attend a very expensive modeling convention. The mother was shocked when she realized she had paid $5,000.
In parts of America where there are virtually no modeling opportunities, and they only come along maybe once a year, kids can place their parents under a lot of pressure. They are made to feel as if it is "now or never," the chance of a lifetime could slip through their hands like sand, unless they act immediately.
A lot of parents are not prepared for this type of pressure; indeed, it sneaks up on them, because many times there is no mention of money until the end of the presentation or "open call," at which point they are asked to make an instant payment or deposit.
They know little about the company, even less about the industry, have no time to find out much about either, and... you get the picture.
On the Defensive
The net effect of The American Dream, the child's passion, the child's lack of life experience, and lack of money, and sometimes the demand for instant money through a deposit, puts parents very much on the defensive.
Instead of someone else having to explain why they should pay, parents feel as if the onus is on them: they must come up with the reasons why they should not pay, and sometimes do so instantly.
Loving Your Children
One reason why parents become the victims of modeling scams is because they would do anything for their kids. Their child really wants something, and they really want their child to be happy, so they give their child what they want.
Using the Kids to get to the Parents
Modeling scams can be designed to leverage the kids' strong interest and thereby increase the pressure on parents.
The parent of two children who were interested in modeling was presented with a modeling opportunity, but turned it down, saying:
The people who run modeling scams know the weakest link many times is the children. They know kids do not have life experience, awareness of modeling scams, and are probably not the ones who are going to pay; so they target their parents.
Most Beautiful Kids
Parents are vulnerable to modeling scams because they believe their kids are beautiful. Many parents feel their children are the most beautiful children in the world. So when along comes a scout who is ready to flatter them, they are easy prey.
"Your daughter is beautiful."
"I couldn't agree with you more."
It is not just kids who get star struck: it happens to the best of parents, too. American culture is so saturated with fame. Celebrity is an obsession. This can make parents more vulnerable to opportunities which can supposedly lead to stardom.
After a mother at a model and talent search was told a casting director rarely made a fuss over prospective talent, and gave compliments, as she had done with her son, the mother was star struck, and the flattery opened her wallet:
Parents have complained in the past about emotional manipulation. Kids are totally excited and their adrenaline is going through the roof. Their self-esteem is boosted sky high. They are told they could be models or they have been selected to model and... translation... "I'm going to be a model!!!"
One mother presented with a modeling opportunity said:
Teens are jerked around. Their emotions go so high so fast and their heart is set on the modeling opportunity, then they can come crashing down, realizing it is a scam, or that their parents are not going to pay.
Your Child's Education
On the TV talk show Dr. Phil, there was an episode where a girl was thinking of dropping out of high school to be a model.
Roshumba Williams, the famous model and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being a Model, appeared on the show to talk her out of it.
By the end of the show, the young aspiring model said she changed her mind, because she realized she needed to get an education.
Ironically, the most educated parents could be most vulnerable to some modeling scams. A model and talent agency president has said, and many others believe, modeling schools are modeling scams.
The same parents who received a good education and tell their kids they need to get an education to get a job are easily led to believe a modeling education is needed to get a modeling job.
But if there is an exception to every rule, and the rule is you need to get an education to get a job, modeling is the exception.
What a model needs to learn can be taught after she is signed with a modeling agency, not before. Moreover, the agency assumes the responsibility of training and they provide the training free.
Unlike colleges in America, there are no industry standards for a modeling education. There are no modeling colleges, there is no standard curriculum, there is no accreditation, so the "diploma" an aspiring model receives from a modeling school means nothing. There is no evidence to suggest a modeling school diploma will help aspiring models get modeling jobs.
While some teens and aspiring models can afford modeling schools, few can afford expensive modeling conventions, and their parents pay, many times living to regret it.
Too often parents blow money they could be saving or have invested for their child's college education on gambling. Not in Las Vegas, but at a modeling convention.
Five thousand dollars or more can be lost instantly at a convention. Parents and their kids leave with nothing to show for it. Saving for a college education, on the other hand, is a good investment. Going to a modeling convention is not an investment, it is a gamble.
Since parents have been victims of modeling scams in the past, and they are often the ones who pay, they need to assume the responsibility to learn about the modeling industry, learn about the company presenting a modeling opportunity, and not buckle under the pressure of their kids' demands.
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