If You've Got The
Look, Look Out!
Information on this page adapted from the Federal Trade Commission's
What could be more flattering?
Someone approaches you at the mall and says, "You
could be a model. You've got the 'look' we're
after. Here's my card. Give me a call to set
up an appointment." People have always said you're
good looking. Now, visions of glamour, travel
and money flash before your eyes.
It's true that some successful models have
been discovered in everyday places like malls,
boutiques, clubs, and airports. But the vast
majority of would-be models knock on door
after agency door before work comes their way.
It's All an Act
If and when you make that follow-up appointment,
you'll probably find yourself in an office
filled with lots of other model and actor hopefuls.
Then the spiel starts. What you thought was
a job interview with a talent agency turns
into a high-pressure sales pitch for modeling
or acting classes, or for "screen tests" or "photo
shoots" that can range in price from several
hundred to several thousand dollars.
Man, woman, or child — it makes no
difference to bogus model and talent scouts.
Often, these scouts are after one thing — your
money — and will say just about anything
to get it. But what they say isn't always what
What They Say vs. What They Mean
Unscrupulous model and talent scouts have their acts down pat.
Listen carefully to read between their lines.
- "We're scouting for people with your 'look' to model and
I need to sign up as many people as possible. My commission depends
- "Your deposit is totally refundable."
Your deposit is refundable only if you meet very strict refund conditions.
- "You must be specially selected for our program. Our talent
experts will carefully evaluate your chances at success in the
field and will only accept a few people into our program."
We take almost everyone.
- "There's a guaranteed refund if you're not accepted into
Everyone's accepted into the program. Forget the refund.
- "You can't afford our fees? No problem. You can work them
off with the high-paying jobs we'll get you."
We demand payment, whether or not you get work.
- "Commissions from our clients are our major source of income."
Our income comes from the fees we charge you.
To break into the business, you — the talent — need professional
photos. There are two types of standard photographs — a "head shot" and
a "composite card."
- The typical marketing tool for an actor, experienced or not, the head shot
usually is an 8" x 10" black and white photo of the face, with your resume
printed on the back.
- A "comp card," the typical marketing tool for the experienced model or
the wannabe, usually features several shots on the same sheet, showing off
the talent in different attire or settings.
Agencies and schools offer separate and distinct services. Make sure you
know the difference.
- Modeling (or talent) agencies secure employment for experienced
models and actors. Some agents require that you sign up exclusively with
them; others may allow you to register with them as well as with other agencies
- Modeling and acting schools claim to provide instruction — for
a fee — in poise, posture, diction, skin care, make-up application,
the proper walk, and more. Modeling schools do not necessarily act as agents
or find work for you — after you take their classes, you may be on
- Steer clear of modeling companies that require you to use a specific photographer.
Compare fees and the work quality of several photographers.
- Be suspicious if a company requires an up-front fee to serve as your agent.
- Be cautious if the school has a special referral relationship with a specific
modeling agency. The two could be splitting your fees, or the agency may
not be suited to your needs.
Avoiding a Model Rip-Off
- Ask yourself, "why me?" Don't let your emotions — and the company's
flattery — take control. Think carefully and critically about how you
were approached: if it was in a crowded mall, think how many others also
may have been approached.
- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Never sign a document without reading
and understanding it first. In fact, ask for a blank copy of the contract
to take home and review with someone you trust. If the company refuses, walk
- Be leery of companies that only accept payment in cash or by money order.
Read it as a strong signal that the company is more interested in your money
than your career.
- Be wary of claims about high salaries. Successful models in small markets
can earn $75 to $150 an hour, but the work is irregular.
- Ask for the names, addresses and phone numbers of models and actors who
have secured successful work — recently — based on the company's
- Check out client claims. If an agency says it has placed models and actors
in specific jobs, contact the companies to verify that they've hired models
and actors from the agency.
- Be skeptical of local companies claiming to be the "biggest" agency or
a "major player" in the industry, especially if you live in a smaller city
- Realize that different parts of the country have different needs. For example,
New York is recognized for fashion modeling; the Washington/Baltimore area
is known for industrial or training films.
- Ask if the company/school is licensed or bonded, if that's required by
your state. Verify this information with the appropriate authorities, such
as your local consumer protection agency or state Attorney General. Make
sure the license is current.
- Ask your local Better Business Bureau, consumer protection agency and state
Attorney General if there are any unresolved consumer complaints on file
about the company.
- Get everything in writing, including any promises that have been made orally.
- Keep copies of all important papers, such as your contract and company
literature, in a safe place.
You've Got the Cutest Little Baby Face
A special word to parents of infants and toddlers
Think your child is model material? Bogus talents
scouts do. And they'll gladly set up a professional photo shoot to
allegedly help you get modeling and acting jobs for your tyke. Of
course, they don't tell you that the market for infant models and
actors is very small. What's more, because an infant's looks change
quickly, the photos become outdated. In truth, few infants are marketed
with professional photos. Legitimate agents, advertising agencies,
casting directors and producers generally ask for casual snapshots
of infants that have been taken by family members or friends.
Where to Complain
If you've think you've been scammed by a bogus model or talent scout, contact
your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General, or Better Business
Bureau. They're in your local directory assistance.