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Talent Rock, Proscout, etc.

What you say is true!  I have certainly had my share of stupid cattle call conventions (Talent Rock, Proscout), overtly fake talent shows, TFP work that was so amateur my dog could've taken better pictures, and tons of wannabe model/actor websites out there. 

Unfortunately, I continue to run into these idiots like the fake poster on One Model Place that contacted me last week to tell me about this "incredible" fashion show happening this week in London at The London Hilton where I'd receive $2,000 upfront and then another $10,000 after completion of the show if only I'd send $200 US to secure my spot and pay for some crazy insurance fee. They have even been calling my cell still trying to get me to fall for this scam.

My point is, that while there are many "bad apples" out there, for someone like myself who is serious about his career, it only takes one person and/or agency to have faith in me and my abilities and truly follow through on what they promise that they can do for me.  I don't mean to sound cynical but this business makes one very jaded.  I just want you to see where I'm coming from.  I'm very committed to what I'm doing and don't have the time or the interest to waste on things that will get me nowhere.  David C. Miami Beach

Barbizon Modeling School

I used to worked for a Barbizon school and it was my experience there that finally convinced me that it is a total scam. Until then my only experience had been with the classes I took. When you work for the company, however, you see a whole new side.

When I was working as an instructor they refused to pay for ANYTHING. I was required to put on a fashion show and a graduation with NO BUDGET. I was told to get money from the students. I couldn't believe that. My students were already paying $2,000 to attend the school and now they were being told that they would have to pay for the fashion show and graduation as well.

I just couldn't bear to do that to them. I had 75 students who were paying $2,000, and I only got paid $500 per class for six classes. Barbizon was taking in an astounding $150,000 in tuition (for just my class) and paying only $3,000 to me to teach them.

Now, keep in mind that this Barbizon has about 30 classes going at any given time. That makes for $4,500,000 every six months or $9,000,000 per year in tuition. That also means that they are taking advantage of 4,500 students per year.

Now maybe you're thinking that it is worth the $2,000 to get lessons from an experienced instructor. Think again. I was an exception. Most modeling instructors at Barbizon are former students that couldn't make the grade. That's right, they are former students that weren't able to get any work as models - so they teach.

They are told to lie so that the students and parents won't figure out that they are clueless. Also, this particular Barbizon does not even have a complete curriculum to give the instructors so many of the teachers just make up the classes as they go along.

I also worked on the recruiting end of Barbizon (again the recruiters are people who couldn't get real work as models). When I did the recruiting shows, the "talent scouts" would make up jobs that they had done in the industry. They would claim to have walked the runway in Milan, etc. This was all crap. (No model who has ever been successful enough to walk a runway in Milan is going to come back to be a "talent scout" for Barbizon at a Holiday Inn.)

Plus, the recruiters get a bonus for each student that enrolls in their courses - $100 for each student they enroll. So basically, the more students that sign up, the more money they make. So everyone gets "accepted" in to the school. The whole "audition" process is really a sales pitch to get you to pay for the classes. There is no audition - if you can pay, you are in.

I could go on and give more examples, but hopefully, this has already gotten through to the readers. These people do NOT care about the students. It is a total scam. All they want to do is make more money and I am sorry that I didn't see through it faster.


Have you ever anwered an ad like this one?

One day only! No experience necessary. Free interviews at the Barbizon School of (your town).

Chances are, you have been a victim of deceptive business practices by Barbizon International, Inc.

Were you and your child talked into paying a lot of money for modeling classes with promises of work only to find out that all they had to offer were non-paying jobs - and that that was only to shut you up?

Did you pay big money for additional modeling programs lik ebeing taken to New York or Los Angeles to attend model/talent conventions?

Barbizon's deceptive practices were recently exposed on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer after researching one of Barbizon's most lucrative franchies in Washington D.C. - which is no different from virtually any of the thousands of other modeling schools all across the country.

It all starts with a simple ad looking for anyone of any age then leads you into a trap to extract tuition fees from you.

First they make you wait in a room for a while then they whisk you in to see a so-called agent who will then watch you walk on a runway. She will make notes, give you a score then give you a few words of encouragent.

This sets the stage for a salesperson to call you with an interview because you have been selected to be part of their "agency."

You will be told about the Barbizon program and how you need to be groomed for potential modeling jobs.

The sales people are trained to pressure you into siging up and paying in full on the spot. If they run into a tough sell, however, they will try to get half of the program fees - and the sales person, who works on straight commission, will say anything to make the sale.


Model Search America , New York Model Contracts, ProScout, IMTA, Manhattan Model Search

I read many of your comments and my heart breaks for those who question. "Is it worth the fee to attend a modeling convention?"

For a small number of you, it is. But for most of you, it is not. Most of you figure out what it's all about AFTER you've attended a convention, expo, showcase or whatever. So, here's the scoop:

When you first arrive at an open call, you fill out a form to be considered by the "professional" scouts. Well, just so you know, they turn around and sell your names to modeling schools so be prepared to get a phone call or email from someone trying to sell you classes.

Salespeople ("scouts") are trained to select the majority of the attendees of these open calls. If they don't, they get fired.

I never once have heard: "What a great night, we found so many good people." It was always: "What a great night, we had a high number."

They will have you all sit as close together as possible, so it looks like there are less people in the room.

They then give a speech telling you that you can work professionally, and that top agencies WILL be interested in you. They tell you It's not just fashion or pretty people types - but you need an agent.

To meet these agents and to get "discovered," fees of anywhere between $400-$500 are charged to attend an "event" in your region. Add in travel costs, hotel rooms, meals, etc. and it can add up to thousands.

Some companies sell additional classes and photography. To make sure you believe them, they show you videos with discoveries and agents, talking about how everyone on there LOVES the company."

Well, we told them what to say. We exaggerate and lie about our credentials and some of us have no real experience in the business whatsoever.

Agents do attend these events. Why? Because they are paid a lot of money to come: $250-$1,200 - but they don't tell you that.

Potential candidates do get seen but, because they are paid, the agents are told to "call back" a certain number of people whether they are interested in them or not. If the agents do not do that, they are in trouble, too.

They have to create the idea that DOZENS of people are discovered at each and every event. However, some of the agents who attend are not actual "agents." They are assistants to agents or bookers, but are presented to the people as actual "top agents," yet they do not make major decisions as to who is picked up by their agency.

A "call back," by the way, does NOT mean you are discovered. It just means an agency wants to talk to you some more. You know all those people on the videos who say they "got 7, 12, 28" call backs? Many of them DO NOT HAVE REPRESENTATION. (Of course, we conveniently leave this fact out of our speech.) And nobody on those tapes says: "I didn't get any call backs, but this was SO worth it!"

About 5 to 7 people could honestly be selected from every open call I have ever seen. But they pick about a hundred each day....

There are success stories, and the idea behind them is not a scam. Models and actors do need an agent to get work. That is a fact. Agencies are always looking for talent. That is a fact. It is hard to meet agents. That is a fact.

And you can't blame the agencies. Of course they support the concept. They support and attend all of these searches. Why not? They HAVE discovered people - and they get PAID plus it's a party weekend for them!

The problem is not in the idea, but how the idea is sold. At the cost of your dreams. Hey, these companies have bills to pay. And their sales reps make great salaries - about $80,000 per year. There is nothing wrong with making money, but not by capitalizing on people's dreams and misleading them.

Yes, you will get "a chance," but you will be influenced into believing it will be something completely different than what it actually is.

So, your question is: "What can I do to get involved then?" Well, I have one more secret to tell: Anybody who TRULY has what it takes gets a special mark on their paper. If you get that special mark, and you do not register, someone will call you. And guess what? You go for free! (They HAVE TO have success stories, you see.)

So if you really want to know if you have what it takes, go to an open call. If you are "selected," DON'T register. Wait and see if you get that call. If you do, great! If not, go to school and GET AN EDUCATION.

And if you want to go to one of these searches, go! Now that you are just a little more well informed you won't be disappointed if it was not what you were told it would be. Good Luck to all! This is a TOUGH business!


Helen Rogers, IMTA and John Robert Powers Schools

The owners of John Robert Powers Schools have meetings with the IMTA every year as they are the largest group participating in IMTA and John Robert Powers Schools pay a lot of money to keep themselves involved in decisions.

In fact, last year John Robert Powers was going to pull out and IMTA begged them to stay and made a new deal for prices, which is more lucrative for JRP, so they stayed in.

The following claim is substantiated in principle by the Better Business Bureau of New York which noted a modeling agency or talent management group is paid by IMTA to recruit models:

"The fact that John Robert Powers (and other schools) are paid by IMTA is apparently not disclosed to the models, either when they are being recruited, or before they pay, despite the fact the undisclosed payment by IMTA clearly represents a significant conflict of interest and models are unaware or unsuspecting, trusting what they perceive is the unbiased "professional advice" of their agents or model management to spend $5,000 (more if you add extra expenses such as travel)."

It therefore looks as if John Robert Powers and others exploit a conflict of interest in encouraging models to go to conventions even at the risk of the models and their parents losing $$2,000 or more on modeling classes to "prepare" them to attend an IMTA convention - which can cost them another $5,000 to $10,000 in fees and travel expenses.

You would think you would at least have some great photos that can help getting you in to the right agencies - but the sad part is that after spending all that money, none of the students have even a decent head shot or portfolio to show for it.

(Never pay a modeling agency or a modeling school or anyone else but a photographer to do your portfolio and head shots.)


Insider information from another major modeling convention revealed a modeling agency was allowed to set the fees of the convention for the models it represented, thereby able to mark up the price, making a profit beyond a commission for each attendee.

But it is generally agreed that modeling agencies are not supposed to make commission on convention recruiting, only on modeling work and, in fact, is illegal for a model / talent agency to accept such fees or "kickbacks" of any kind in New York, California, Florida and Texas.

A letter dated July 9, 2002, on a modeling agency website was addressed to:

Mrs. Sharon Pfitzinger, Vice President, IMTA - John Robert Powers 711 Old Frontenac Square - St. Louis, MO 63131

Does this mean the Vice President of IMTA is also a leader at John Robert Powers?

Parents of models have been led to believe IMTA was separate from the modeling school, and that their children were specially "selected" to attend the IMTA convention.

Industry critics and consumer protection organizations including the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission warn about modeling agencies who make financially biased recommendations.

Modeling schools and modeling conventions have always been closely associated. Not only John Robert Powers and IMTA, but also Barbizon has worked closely with, and sent aspiring models to IMTA. There are backroom meetings. There are secret business partnerships and fees are being split.

Millie Lewis modeling schools (owner of Millie Lewis is also the owner of Lorren and Macy's Modeling School) and the International Modeling School have worked closely with the AMTC.

Schools and conventions are compatible because they both focus on upfront fees, and both are expensive BUT they both have significant conflicts of interest, which, consumers have reported, were exploited.

When there are such clear conflicts of interest, corresponding consumer complaints, secret financial agreements, high prices, and large amounts of money to be made - despite such low success rates - in an industry with very few laws to protect consumers, consumers need to think carefully before paying for modeling schools and modeling conventions.

It is not surprising modeling conventions are "in bed" with modeling schools. Students at modeling schools are, to use their sales term, "hot leads".

They want to become models, they have already shown they are prepared to pay to become models, and they have already been scouted, and there is a large group of them.

Further, there will continue to be more models or more hot leads at the schools in the future. Therefore modeling schools represent the primary sales target of modeling conventions, who are seeking large groups of aspiring models who have money, and can quickly part with it.

Model school students are basically ripe fruit ready to be picked, er, I mean "selected."

John Robert Powers and Barbizon, the two franchised and most expensive modeling schools, both work with IMTA, the most expensive modeling convention.

IMTA has evidently courted them (their advertising and consumer reports say the schools promoted the convention) and paid them according to "insider stories" on file with the BBB).

IMTA has it easy. They don't have to do the dirty work of scouting for models; the schools do it for them. IMTA obviously wants a large number and reliable flow of aspiring models to attend each of their conventions. (Where else can they find so many well-heeled prospective models?)

With their fee splitting arrangements with modeling schools, they can get exactly what they want. Indeed, the schools represent their most large and most reliable source of revenue.

Pro Scout: 1200 people times $300 equals $360,000

I'm currently a working model and actress who responded to a radio ad a few years back and attended a "free try-out" for Pro Scout which claims to represent modeling agencies throughout the world. 

Gathered in a large hotel banquet room, they had everyone who responded walk up to the tables where they would either hand you a card (which meant you were accepted) or not. Most did not get the card and had to leave while the rest of us sat and listened to a long promotional pitch for their annual convention in Minneapolis which cost $300 at that time. Thinking this was my big chance, I paid it and went. 

Following introductions, and a few motivational speeches containing affirmations like "You can achieve anything you dream", or "I didn't think I could do it, but here I am now!", we were tagged and sent to walk a catwalk before the agents. 

We were all ages, guys, girls, and kids; but mostly young, hopeful girls. When they asked how many seeking representation had been to it before, about twenty raised their hands. 

With a number clipped to our shirts, we then passed the agent's tables holding our modeling pictures for them to view.  It's not voting. They viewed you and wrote down numbers of those who they were interested in. There were approx. 25-30 agencies represented by 1-2 agents each. 

About an hour later they came back to their seats this time on a stage/platform. All of the models either sat or stood at the rear of the room as two people from Pro Scout announced the numbers from each agency over a loud speaker. 

Most of the BIG agencies accepted very few people (less than 10 each) and most of the agents present were from those agencies. Of the 1200 hopefuls there, only about 300 had their numbers called.

If your number WASN'T called, you were just out of luck and asked to leave the hall. The people selected stayed and moved closer to the platform where the agents sat and waited as all the rejects filed out, many of whom were girls that were in tears. 

They spoke to us a bit, and afterwards we filed out to meet with the agents who picked us. I saw two agencies. One was a local one who, like the other, picked almost everyone left standing. 

One of them, The Kimberly Franson Agency, held a meeting a week later for all those accepted by her for which she not only required us to send her $25 to attend but expected everyone there to shoot new photographs with her at a cost of $500.  One mother took her child and left in disgust but the rest of us were mesmerized by the possibilities she was promising. 

To keep your pictures on file she also required $165 for her to "put them on a special card" for her clients to view.  So far she has cost me a lot of time and money and provided me absolutely nothing in return.  

Since my Proscout experience I've met and talked to a few other models who described a similar experience - and none of them had kind words to say.  My opinion is that while it's not as bad as many modeling/talent come-ons, I think the methods they use are unethical and I would not recommend it.  


John Casablancas, John Robert Powers, Barbizon, Models Net International, Creative Talent Management, Pro Images, WISH

"Audition with John Casablancas Representatives," the postcard began, for "Fashion, Commercials, Print, and TV. Bring a photo, & dress casually. Under 18 must be accompanied by a parent."

From what I can tell, just about every young girl in town got one of those cards, which invited the recipient to "audition" on Sunday at 2pm. I've been around the block a few times with these modeling outfits, however, and quickly located the line of near-microscopic print that says, "Training may be suggested to qualified candidates."

There's the rub: they're really selling classes - classes that promise (but never, of course, in writing) entry into a world of excitement, money, and fame. In the end, they rarely deliver more than a worthless diploma.

These outfits fascinate me; I got my first taste of the world of modeling scams in the fall of 1997, when I began following a local woman's three-year battle to get her money back from a company called Pro Images. This past winter I reported on a group called Models Net International and last week I explored a notorious business called the W.I.SH. Shopping Network. Now, on a Sunday in mid-July, I was set to explore the world of John Casablancas.

First, an overview of where John Casablancas fits in the world of modeling (or, to be exact, the dismal underside of modeling); these groups fall into several categories. For instance, Pro Images charges $325 and guarantees four "modeling assignments" within the following year. What you're really buying, however, is advertising space in the voluminous catalogs Pro Images churns out. Along with pictures of hundreds of others, yours is mailed to "clients" who, no doubt, promptly throw them in the trash.

Models Net International charges $249 to take a few photographs and then produce a "mini-portfolio" you can supposedly use to launch a modeling career.

The W.I.S.H. Shopping Network is especially brazen; they collect $289 and deliver, in most cases, absolutely nothing. More precisely, they mail you a cheap item of clothing, you have your picture taken wearing it, you send the picture to W.I.S.H. then you sit back and wait - until it dawns on you that the whole thing is a scam.

And so we come to John Casablancas, which "may suggest training to qualified candidates." I was familiar with this category's modus operandi already, thanks to a young woman who told me about her experience with Creative Talent Management when I was investigating Pro Images. Like John Casablancas, CTM signs up "qualified" candidates for expensive classes in modeling, acting, and whatever else they can sell an impressionable young person.

When the young woman's father read about Pro Images, however, they quickly re-thought the contract they'd just signed with Creative Talent Management, drove back,and demanded their money back. They were lucky, they succeeded.

The Washington Post ran an article on these businesses that includes a list of things to watch out for.

Number One is a warning against agencies that charge a fee (legitimate agencies ask only for a picture, never a fee; based on a photo alone, they'll tell the applicant if they have a chance with them).

Another warning: be wary of agencies that "charge you for their classes before you are eligible for modeling work."

Bingo! Like CTM, John Casablancas - as I know from talking to a former applicant - does just that.


John Robert Powers

Angry former employees and clients say the local John Robert Powers school charged high dollars for a promised ticket to professional modeling and acting careers, but used phony 'talent scouts' and high-pressure sales tactics.

Chere Andre Canaris, also known as Cie, started with John Robert Powers 42 years ago and opened its landmark San Jose location across from Valley Fair, visible from Highway 280.

Beautiful and well preserved, a woman who wears fur-trimmed collars and bright lipstick, Cie Canaris (her first name is pronounced "see") calls everyone "dear" and has a habit of distractedly asking, "Now where was I?" after every interruption. To hear her talk, John Robert Powers is the only modeling and acting school in the business offering customers a square deal.

"Most of them are, to me, scams," she says. "If people want to model, they have to be tall, have small bones, a long neck and good eyes, far apart. In a year we might find three, and that's the truth."

"I think commercial acting is where it is today," she goes on. "Everybody needs actors. And people who take acting, even if they never do any of it at all in the world, it gives them a tremendous sense of confidence.

"But the real work we do here is personal growth," she says, warming to her subject. "We help people put forward a good first impression. If it were just modeling and acting -" she makes a deprecating gesture with a gem-laden hand. "We care about people. I feel this is God's business, and I'm not going to offend Him."

Canaris is convincing, but the agency that nicknames itself "The Star Makers" has some unhappy customers who think that they were deliberately misled by advertisements and salespeople.

Rita Kompelmakher is one. She knew something was wrong when she noticed that everyone at the John Robert Powers "audition" was coming out of the consultation room smiling.

"It didn't seem like anybody was being rejected," says the 14-year-old Lynbrook High School student, who had come seeking a serious acting class. "I thought it was going to be in an audition, but I got the idea that anyone who paid would be 'accepted.' "

The standing-room-only crowd of mostly teenagers and children had come to an event touted as a talent call with a national scout, expecting an evaluation of their talents. But when they were ushered into consultation rooms in small groups, what they got was a sales pitch from a John Robert Powers employee.

If they signed up for classes, they were told, they would learn the skills necessary to succeed in commercial acting. They would learn softer skills, too.

"She said, 'We are going to teach you how to wear makeup, how to take care of your skin, how to eat well,' all this stuff - and I was thinking, 'What does this have to do with anything?' " Rita says.

Rita's a serious girl who knows what she wants. Since she was little she's been passionate about theater - not TV stardom, but drama. In August 1998, Larisa Kompelmakher was feeling concerned about fairness between her children: Rita's brother was playing hockey while Rita's longtime interest in theater languished. So Kompelmakher looked in the Yellow Pages and called John Robert Powers.

"I didn't know very much about this," confesses the elder Kompelmakher, who moved here from Russia 10 years ago. "They tell me, 'We have auditions, we will call you.' So we went."

At the audition, Larisa Kompelmakher says, the two were escorted into an office and pressured to sign Rita up for the classes. Although Rita wanted to study dramatic technique, she decided the classes in acting for the camera "wouldn't be totally useless."

But when Larisa asked if she could wait a couple of days to consult with her husband, Vladimir, who was out of town, the saleswoman told her the offer would expire. If worse came to worst, the saleswoman assured her, she could get her money back.

So Larisa Kompelmakher charged $1,200 to her credit card for 10 acting lessons. Without having seen Rita act, the saleswoman put her in the advanced acting class, because she "seemed determined."

Two days later Rita attended a disappointing class. "All they did was have us stand there and turn our heads," she says. "Everything was on looks, on presentation. I think it was just charm school."

When the Kompelmakhers tried to get their money back, the saleswoman at John Robert Powers told them the $300 registration fee was nonrefundable, but that they would get the rest in the mail. So the Kompelmakhers waited. And waited. And waited. Then sued.

It took over a year, a lawsuit in small claims court, three court appointments at which Cie Canaris failed to show, numerous frustrating phone calls and hundreds of dollars in subpoena and court fees for the Kompelmakhers to get $1,000 back.

Vladimir Kompelmakher is determined to get the rest of his money back. For him the remaining $200 has become a matter of principle. "I cannot believe they can cheat us so badly," he says incredulously. "Do they think they are above the law?"

In publications throughout the South Bay, John Robert Powers runs breathless advertisements about "once in a lifetime" opportunities to be discovered by international talent scouts. In fliers distributed on high school campuses, acting and modeling hopefuls are promised a shot at the big time. Parents get calls at dinner time inviting them and their children to auditions for commercials. Always the instructions are the same: come to the audition.

Ronnie Bogle, a San Jose-based fashion designer, worked at the John Robert Powers San Jose studio as a wardrobe instructor and manager for six months, from October 1998 until this past April. He says he left because he became concerned about his professional reputation. "I was the only one at the company who knew anything about fashion," he says.

Bogle also believed the auditions were little more than setups for the sales staff. "They would run ads for talent scouts, and these people would not be certified in anything," he says. "They didn't know anything about fashion or modeling or any of it. At one point they had actors in there playing the part of international talent scouts."

Bogle, who speaks in a soft southern drawl, deplores the hard-sell technique he witnessed at his workplace. It was not so much the value of the classes - he believes they're worthwhile - as the promises of success that bothered him.

"I've seen parents who can't afford the money for tuition bullied, coaxed, forced to max out their credit cards, whatever, in one sitting because someone at John Robert Powers said their child could be a star," he says.

"I can't tell you what it's like to see a child leave the room then see the salespeople laughing at that child, at his crooked teeth, at his appearance, whatever. It gives the industry I'm trying to get into such a bad rap."

Other employees thought there was something amiss, too.

Cynthia Ward worked at John Robert Powers from July 1998 to January 1999 as a telemarketer. She finally quit, she says, because her paychecks kept coming late and then bouncing. Ward is one of eight former John Robert Powers employees who filed complaints with the Labor Commission this year over payroll disputes. Ward is annoyed about the money - she says the company owes her a paycheck and bank fees - but she also expresses misgivings about what she was asked to do.

"I would tell them to get their child in because we were going to have an audition for modeling and there would be a scout," she says. "Then people would come in and there would be a gal acting like a scout pretending to recognize their kids, and then they would get the salespeople and try to sign them up for classes.

"Basically it was like a scam to me," she says. "I felt so bad when I found out how raggedy tacky it was. I felt guilty, so caught."

The cash flow at the agency sputtered continuously. Another former employee, Kimberly Coyne, also left John Robert Powers after two months because of late and bounced paychecks.

Coyne, who coordinated the classes and assisted Cie Canaris, says payment was on a first-come-first-served basis.

"As soon as I got my checks I left work and ran to the bank. I had to beat the other employees to the bank because I knew how much money was in there. It was terrible."

Shelley Ashworth was a new mother with a toddler son when she answered a John Robert Powers ad seeking photogenic kids. When she went to the agency she was told her son wasn't outgoing enough, but that she could have plenty of work and that she ought to get some photos done. The saleswoman gave her a deal, Ashworth says - $600 for photos, hair, makeup, everything, and began calling her "relentlessly." Finally Ashworth agreed to sign up.

Ashworth says the Powers sales rep promised her the moon. "She said, 'By the time you get your credit card bill, you'll have made enough money to pay it back.' I never heard from them again."

When she went to her photo appointment, the photographer told her she would need to pay an extra $200 for her hair and makeup. "I started thinking, 'Where did the rest of my money go?' "

Ashworth never had the photos done and started calling the saleswoman.

"I demanded my money back and she said, 'Good luck,' " Ashworth recalls. So she sued in small claims court. "I went to the court and said, 'I'm suing John Robert Powers,' and the judge said, 'Where's Cie?' She's well known at the court."

Even after Ashworth won her claim against the agency the money didn't come. In the end, Ashworth paid $100 to have a sheriff take the money out of John Robert Powers' bank account. She could have sued to cover that expense, but she declined. "I learned so much," she says with a rueful laugh.

In 1923 John Robert Powers the man opened a modeling school and agency in New York that named among its graduates Lucille Ball, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Candice Bergen and other luminaries. (As it turns out, none of this was true, but that's another story.)

Then, after the business was franchised in the '50s and Powers, who had established himself as a force in the fashion world, ceded authority over the stores that sprang up across the nation, the star power of The Star Makers waned. Now the only name on the graduate roster anyone recognizes is that of supermodel Niki Taylor.

Canaris knows John Robert Powers San Jose stands accused of luring people in for auditions and then selling them training, and she stands by the ethics of that practice.

"Yes, if they need training, they're damn well going to get it from us," she exclaims. "Because an agent is going to look at them and say, 'Do a monologue for me,' and they won't know how to do it, and that agent will say, 'You're wasting my time.' "

Canaris' position on the authenticity of the "international talent scouts" is unclear. First she responds that, yes, John Robert Powers gets talent scouts "from everywhere." In the next breath she says, "We use our own people now. We don't even use those people anymore."

Questioned about the sales technique of her staff, Canaris paints a scenario much different from the one the Kompelmakhers and others describe.

"They come in and we have a seminar," she says. "We tell them, 'We want you to come in, but if you feel it won't be necessary, then you're excused.' Then we give them a packet and say, 'You take that home and you call us if you're interested.' Is that hard pressure?

Canaris leans forward and narrows her eyes. "I have a $2 million home in Los Altos Hills, I have two Mercedes and an airplane and a ranch. Do you think I give a damn about getting more money?"

Canaris dismisses her detractors as "a bunch of disgruntled employees" and explains her company's failure to pay its employees and grant refunds in a timely manner as a routine risk of doing business.

"Well, these things happen," she says. "I'll tell you what happened. We sold the building across from Valley Fair and gutted this whole place (the Westgate suite). That cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was supposed to be ready in December and it wasn't ready until April."

But former employees report payroll problems before and after that period of time.

Canaris says that during that time she refunded money for hundreds of people who weren't able to attend classes in which they'd enrolled. "I've been in business 42 years. I must be doing something right," she says testily.

John Robert Powers has an "unsatisfactory" rating from the Better Business Bureau, a designation bestowed in the wake of unaddressed complaints. Canaris blames unrealistic expectations and irresponsibility for most of the gripes, noting that "some people don't read an enrollment contract before they sign it."


On Track Modeling aka OTM aka Alpha Model Group - Charlotte, North Carolina

I would like to share my experience with On Track Modeling. We attended a talent search in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003 and my children have not done any work through OTM yet. We paid them over $400 for the comp cards which had all wrong information printed on them. Both my children were devastated. We purchased over 500 cards which came with the website that is no longer in existence. I use to contact On Track Modeling regularly for work but they never had anything and it was almost impossible to reach the so-called agent. Emma - Longview, Texas

On Track Modeling aka OTM aka Alpha Model Group - Charlotte, North Carolina

I have been a client of On Track Modeling / Alpha Modeling Group based out of Philadelphia, PA. I have paid all the money for the photos/comp cards. I was told that I would get bookings faster if I used their photographer, the quality of the photos would be better. They also said that if I went somewhere else another photographer would charge all kinds of outrageous fees for hair and makeup.

What they were saying sounded like it made sense, so I signed up and paid three payments ($183, $268, $268) for the photo shoot, then made another huge payment for the comp cards.

I have not heard from them since they took my last check for the comp cards, that I find out later are horrible shots, and the photographer took them as if he didn't know what he was doing.

February 9, 2004. The photographer was [...] Photography in Philadelphia. Business was conducted at 2 locations - OTM Model Management @ 4190 City Avenue, Suite 528 Philadelphia PA 19131 and then at Alpha Model Group @ One Neshaminy Interplex, Suite 306, Trevose, PA 19503.

I tried to contact the company before, because no one had ever called me after they received my last payment. I still haven't heard from them despite the calls I made. No one ever got back with me when I left messages. Then I just thought I got scammed and I started doing research. I wanted to know what my options are. I feel horrible about this and I am out $1,200.

February 10, 2004. The first check was for $183 and I believe the check was made to OTM. Once I made the payment, they said if I tried to back out of the shoot, I couldn't get my money back. The second payment of $268 was taken at a "workshop." They swiped my debit card there. I have a receipt. Then the last payment of $268 was taken by the photographer.

About four months later someone called and told me that my slides were in and I needed to order 200 comp cards. That was the best deal they said and that is the best way to get me work. That payment was $475.94. I thought that was a lot, but I didn't know. Needless to say I have never heard from them again. That payment was taken at an Alpha Model Group office.

OTM charged me $719 for the photo shoot. I also found out that OTM owns the printer of the comp cards down in South Carolina. They charged $475.94 for the comp cards.

I called and asked the girl that answered the phone. She said she didn't know who owns the print shop and that no one had ever asked that before. She put me on hold, then got back on the phone and said that OTM owns the printer. I asked her what the name of the printer was and she put me on hold again. She got back on and said there wasn't a name, OTM owned it.

February 17, 2004. I called the office again to find out the name of the printer. The girl told me OTM owns the printer and that it is in North Carolina, not South Carolina ). I called back to double check. [The photographer] has a studio, but when I took those comp cards to another agency they said they looked [...] and said I should [...]. His website is [...]. All the girls I was there with, he took the same type of pictures of all of us. The same background, stance and pose.

February 23, 2004. I finally spoke to someone at OTM. The guy who is in charge told me that I can't speak to the printer, that OTM is the printer, and I would only be speaking to someone who works for OTM. In order to get the name, I told him I didn't like my comp cards, and he said I needed to send one to him, so he could take a look and they would print more. I really believe they stole my money from me. They have not once called me since I signed up with them.

February 24, 2004 . I spoke to Bill McMullen who is the New Face Director and handles the comp cards, but he didn't know what to say when I told him I didn't like the comp cards, so he put Jim Riggerio on the phone. I do think it's weird they wouldn't let me speak to the printer. I asked for his name and number three times, and he kept saying, "For what? OTM owns the printer . . . you'll only be speaking to us."

I will call David Ecksmith. I would not have paid all that money if I knew they owned the printer, because they can charge whatever they want. And that's what they did without getting me any work at all!

March 1, 2004 I talked to "David Ecksmith" down in North Carolina. I wasn't sure what to say to him, so I just asked him to give me prices. OTM in PA charged me $475.94 for 200 comp cards. David Ecksmith quoted me a price of $215 for 200 cards. He said the cards are only $1 per card. So OTM overcharged me for the photoshoot and the comp cards. What can I do?

The markup on the photography was: OTM charged me $718, but the photographer said for hair and makeup it was $600 and for no hair and no makeup it was $400. I didn't get my hair done and the makeup girl that did my makeup did a horrible job. So OTM marked up the price by at least $300.

Them they charged me an additional $475 for comp cards. And didn't do anything to find work for me. I would go to the media, but I need to get everything in writing first. I would like to go to the media and warn other people as well as get my money back if I can. I am going to try to get a price list.

March 5, 2004. I called David Ecksmith, but he wasn't in. So I spoke to Sandy (David is her manager). She quoted a different price and also said that they don't send out a list of pricing for the comp cards.

March 10, 2004 The second quote was $215 for 100 comp cards and $375 for 200.

March 24, 2004. So, what can I do? I want my money back, but I would also like to see them stopped from doing this. It's not right what there doing. I saw mothers with their young daughters paying all this money for something they will never get through this so-called modeling agency. The comp cards are hideous and all the girls' photo shoots are the same. Same background, same pose, everything.

March 29, 2004 I called OTM to tell them what I found. I spoke to Jim Riggerio. He is the one I always talk to. He gives me the run around. He told me to speak to Jane Broderson, who is the booking agent as well as the attorney (!) for OTM. I called her but she wasn't there. I also told him I spoke with Ecksmith. He said he was the president of OTM, but he still said I need to talk to Jane. He also said I had a choice when I "chose" to use them. I don't feel I had a choice and I didn't know they were going to jack up the price of the comp cards.


Barbizon Modeling School and Agency

My name is Amber of Long Island, New York.  I recently decided that I wasn't happy with the services of my so called "agency."  During my one weekend a month attendance over the past four months, they have yet to teach me anything I didn't already know and they "mysteriously" changed the date of graduation to after full payment is due which made me think.  I asked one of the teachers how she got her job, and she replied by telling me that she called on a job answering phones or working in the office and they called her a few weeks later and gave her a teaching position.  I consider myself to be a bright student and I researched the history of Barbizon and came up with no red flags but after attending I realized something had to be wrong.... so I decided to do an AOL search specifically on lawsuits and scams and I found my agency.  I guess experience (from anger and frustration) was enough to force myself to do more extensive research until I could prove myself right, and unfortunately I did.  About 40 other young women and girls, along with myself paid $1,995 for these courses and I want justice for us all.  I have notified as many of the girls as I could and I am forming a petition and will be confronting the agency requesting a full refund.  What I would like to know is the names and any further guidelines for these laws against these activities.  We all signed contracts describing the services we would be paying for but I would assume the laws would override the contracts since it is an illegal transaction but it is nice for one to hear feed back when one is feeling hurt, betrayed, and angry. I would appreciate any assistance you could give me and I apologize for taking so much of your time.  I'm pretty sure you are busy people and I am grateful for the information I received from your web page.  thank you very much. Sincerely, Amber B.


John Casablancas School / MTM Agency

John Casablancas is nothing but an over-priced school. They pretend to be an agency so they can convince young girls to fork out thousands of dollars for worthless pictures and training - but they don't teach what you really need to know.

Furthermore, the pictures they provide are mediocre and overpriced and the 'agency' arm of the business (MTM) is a joke. If you are one of the lucky ones you may get hired for some promotional event handing out free samples in a mall or on the street.

What they don't tell you is that putting the name of one of these operations on your resume immediately labels you as an amateur and a wannabe.These places do nothing but prey on the aspirations of the naive and real producers don't go anywhere near places like this.

I have learned through much heartache and rejection that it is not necessary for you to attend a modeling school like Barbizon, John Robert Powers, John Casablancas, Model Search America, ProScout, BAM USA, etc.

All of these organizations have at least one thing in common - they just want your money!

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