Modelling Scams

Modelling scams and how to protect yourself.

The modelling world can be a bewildering and confusing place. There seem to be plenty of opportunities out there, but who can be trusted, and who just wants your money?

The crucial thing to remember is that no reputable modelling agency will charge any money to sign you or to attend castings. Any agency that asks for money upfront is not your friend: back away and keep looking. This is why we always inform our new applicants that MSA Model Management Services do not ask a joining fee to apply. The only cost a new member will pay us for the Assessment & Model Makeover and Shoot.

Scam by makeover studio

Makeover studio scams are where photo studios claim to help aspiring models to build up portfolios, unfortunately these studios do NOT work within the modelling industry and therefore they cannot offer any real training for aspiring models. They are very good at the hard sell and will tell you everything you want to hear in order to make the sale. Also, their photographers/makeup artists are generally students/not professional photographers and their work is unprofessional, un-retouched, NOT industry standard and will not be accepted by REPUTABLE modelling agencies.

Another way these companies work is to have a fake “modelling agency/modelling service” send them to the studio to build a portfolio. See “Scam by non-reputable agency” section.

Modelling services Scam

There are numerous ways in which so-called modelling services go about their scams, one is where aspiring models pay to have their profiles hosted, generally these companies do not have any contacts and aspiring models will not be contacted by any agencies/casting directors.

Another is where they are working with a makeover studio and will send aspiring models to build up their portfolios only for them to be charged large amounts of money. See “Scam by makeover studio” section or “scam by non-reputable agency” section.

Another modelling service scam is where companies pose as a “modelling school” and aspiring models can pay for “training days” where they learn how to walk, pose, given a test shoot and are given “advice” on what they are suitable for. Unfortunately, these companies have nothing to do with the modelling industry and are given no real training or advice. They may also be sold photographs from the studio. Note that beauty pageants are also not modelling

One very familiar scam that has surfaced in South Africa is companies pretending to be TV channels / programs and modelling affiliated companies. They like to come forward as Producers, Photographers and Modelling Agents. The advertise competitions that have no direct relation or input in the professional modelling industry.

Modelling Competition Scam

This scam works by creating a “Modelling Competition” for aspiring models to apply to, the “winners” (everyone is a winner) are invited to their makeover studio for a “free photo-shoot” where they are told they performed brilliantly and then charged very large amounts of money to take the photographs home.

Scam by non-reputable agency

Non-Reputable agency scams are where a “Modelling Agency” charges aspiring model registration fees to join the agency, under the premise that they will be putting them forward for modelling jobs. Unfortunately, a lot of these companies generally don’t actually have any clients, so they won’t be getting any work for those who pay to join them. (Please note that some small, legitimate agencies DO have a small admin fee, this is where a third-party company manages their website and so the agency is charged a fee to add new models. If you are unsure if an agency is reputable please call Modelling South Africa PTY (Ltd) on 011 391-8165 and speak to an advisor who will be able to advise you accordingly)

Another scam they have is working with a Makeover Studio, and send aspiring models for a photo shoot to build their portfolio, only for the model to then be charged very large amounts of money for the photographs. Unfortunately, they are very good at the hard sell, and generally their work is not retouched, not industry standard and will not be accepted by REPUTABLE modelling agencies. See “Scam by makeover studio” section.

The key to avoiding modelling scams is that if they promise you the earth, their ability to deliver on that promise is set at zero. The top agencies are experts in what the medical profession refers to as ‘managing expectations’. If you manage to bag yourself a meeting with one of these agents, they will be extremely guarded in what they can offer you. Because, as you probably have figured out for yourself, there are no promises in the modelling industry: there is no guarantee of success, even if you have that one-in-a-million face. The fashion world is notoriously fickle – what is right one week may be out of vogue the next.

When undertaking research, the internet can prove to be your best friend. However, type ‘modelling ’ into any search engine and you will come up against some of the greatest pitfalls too. If you receive or see any of the following, avoid like the plague:

• Online invites (via Facebook or any chatroom);

The big thing with social media today is not that it is illegal to scout or approach a potential model. The issue is how they do it, what they expect and ask from yo and if there is true reference to them.

These scams are run by individuals who have little or no connection with the legitimate modelling industry. Just keep in mind that as a general rule, the more they promise, the less you’ll receive.

There is currently a booming industry catering to the aspirations of would-be models, and it is something you need to be aware of. You will almost certainly have seen the leaflets stuffed in among the pages of a magazine – a studio will offer you a professional makeover followed by a professional photo-shoot with a professional photographer, all for a moderate fee.

At best, these studios can provide a day of harmless fun, dressing up and a few snaps. At worst, they can be predatory companies preying on the hopes and ambitions of would-be models. If any of these studios offer you ‘professional’ advice (there’s that word again!) in return for you are purchasing a set of photographs, turn them down flat. These firms, whatever they may say, have no clue with the real modelling world.

These makeover studios are in the business of making money, not discovering talent. If you take the plunge and get a set of photographs from the makeover shoot, they will be of no use whatsoever in terms of building a modelling portfolio. If you’re not convinced, refer to Modelling South Africa PTY (Ltd) advice on makeover and portfolio photographs. The difference between a makeover shoot and a fashion portfolio is night and day.

However, in avoiding cons, it is important to know that there are costs that you will be expected to meet:

• Travel expenses to and from castings and shoots, as well as visiting agencies

• Grooming (hair, make-up, skincare, fitness)

• Z-cards (these are a model’s ‘business card’ which you would be expected to take with you on any casting to leave with a client). Some agencies will pay the design and printing costs themselves, but others may charge you a fee.

When starting out a career in modelling, it is important to factor in these expenses. Grooming alone is a continuing expense and, at times, expensive. As a prospective model, you would be expected to take care of yourself as a matter of course. If you end up signing with an agent who thinks that your look needs a radical overhaul, then the agency will foot the bill for any major work (eg: dental procedures) and recoup the costs once you start wowing those clients.

That is the important thing to keep in mind throughout this experience: modelling agencies do not charge upfront, but claw back any outgoings once you start booking jobs. They take a percentage of your total fee, and that is how modelling agencies make their money. When you do well, they do well.

There are other pitfalls waiting out there too –during your internet research, you haven’t failed to notice adverts for modelling scales. Again, they promise much in return for a tidy fee. These businesses, while perfectly legal, offer poor value in terms of relevant experience and knowledge. If you do decide to enroll, be prepared to graduate with a very bad runway walk, and precious little else. For a much smaller investment, you can develop your poise by undertaking Pilates and yoga classes at your local health club. Pilates is particularly good for improving posture (a model must!) and yoga improves flexibility and muscle tone.

Taking up dance classes is also a good way of extending your repertoire in terms of movement – fashion modelling in particular value models that can move dynamically. It also has the added bonus of keeping you fit and being tremendous fun! So in essence, modelling schools aren’t really a necessary pathway to success. Think about the models you admire and google their biographies online: how many of them went to a modelling school ? You’ll be hard pushed to find one.

Finally, and more seriously, if you get to the point where contracts are involved, be wary and read all legal documents before signing anything. Check credits, check client lists, testimonials – check everything. Don’t be afraid to get legal advice before signing anything – any legitimate agent will not be offended by this.

Most importantly, trust your instincts and repeat after me: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.