Starstruck? Beware ofTalent Search Scams
TV shows like “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” and“The Voice” might inspire the next Taylor Swift or Randy Travis (you’ll notice that neither of them started out on a talent show), tomorrow’s Chris Evans is probably chiseling his pecs at a gym somewhere, and the “World’s Next Top Model” might be getting her nose straightened at this very moment, but don’t get your hopes up. Every parent thinks their kid is cutest. (Cue the “Toddlers& Tiaras” theme here.) And grandparents are even more filled with pride over everything the little darlings do.
There are talent shows on TV covering everything from dancers to tattoo artists, makeup gurus to home designers. Just being “cute” doesn’t raise too much interest these days. You need to perform. Sitting there looking cute doesn’t have much TV appeal.
The cult of television and cable stardom, reality show fever, and a vague entitlement mentality have convinced a good portion of our culture that untold success and the piles of money that go with popularity is just around the corner in a TV studio. Sorry. Wrong. Not the case. Besides actually requiring talent, real success comes from personal sacrifice and hard work, not some 900-number fed lotto. There’s no guarantee that the winners of those high-profile reality shows will see real stardom, anyway. Quick: Without consulting an online device, tell me who won the fifth Season of“Survivor.” Or “American Idol.” Not everybody who “wins” becomes a star. Where is Adam Lambert now? Or Clay, Fantasia, or….They probably have“careers,” but I hardly think we’d think of them as real icons. Stars. Idols.
So when you see an ad, particularly online, offering to turn you and/or your child into The Next Big Thing – wherever your talent lies – and you’re being asked to front money (for registrations, photos, video shoots or whatever else) to the agency, what makes you think that you’ve been struck by lightning? There are dozens of talent agencies who write good ads and make big claims, but are simply appealing to your ego and the current “everybody is a star” mentality. The con game has grown far beyond the old hustle of the creepy guy hanging out in the mall (although you might find him lurking to this day) in favor of Talent Brokers who have glitzy websites and big up-front fees and very little actual sway with actual producers, scouts,and casting directors. They charge thousands of dollars for consulting and registering young talent, pipe them into a stream of other consultants, and provide little or no guidance and few opportunities.
Are all of the talent searches doomed to failure? No. Go to however many cattle calls you like and sing and dance your little heart out,but drop the pen the minute someone says “Joining our service will cost you….” Sure, there are incidental fees to pay along the way if you’ve committed yourself to a career in the entertainment or modeling industries, but talent scouts are far more concerned with spotting the real deal than where their next check is coming from. A real talent agent might suggest a few studios where he’s had good experiences with other clients, but he won’t demand that you pick a particular photographer. Real agencies have credentials and contracts big enough that you need an attorney to help you review them. They may bind you to several years of service. If you’re successful in getting the attention of a real agent (and even that’s a statistical long shot), you should also note that even the best of them don’t guarantee your success. No one can. Ask whoever played “John Carter” in Disney’s infamous money-sucking bomb.
Becoming a real star – in whatever field – takes hard work,sacrifice and commitment, and success is as much a part of a great manufacturing process that includes personal trainers, agents, assistants and abusive coaches along the way. The days of being discovered at the mall or coffee shop are long gone. Don’t be tricked into thinking it’s an easy ride or that someone with their hand on your wallet has the secret key to the back door of the studio. Nobody does.