In the last three years, would-be models have researched agencies with the BBB more than half a million times. Unfortunately, BBB also received more than 2,000 complaints from people who feel they were misled by an agency into paying large upfront fees—often for headshots and portfolios—and received little or no modeling or acting work in return.
“Modeling can be a great way to supplement your income, but signing up with a deceptive talent agency can be a waste of time and money or, in the worst case scenario, put you in physical danger,” said Alison Southwick, BBB spokesperson. “Even if the agency tells you that you have ‘the look’, always take the time to do your research and don’t fall for empty promises.”
Common complaints to BBB about talent and modeling agencies often come from would-be models or parents who think their kids have star potential. Typically, they are told they need to pay upfront fees—such as for headshots—after which the agency will start finding them work. Complainants report that despite paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in various upfront fees, the agency found them few, if any, jobs.
In an extreme example of a modeling agency opportunity gone horribly wrong, the BBB in Louisville has received complaints from local men who paid hundreds of dollars in upfront fees—or became indebted for these fees—to Models Today in exchange for the promise of landing modeling jobs. Instead, the young men stated that the owner, Russell Claxon, took shirtless photos of them in a park and never set them up with any jobs. Several complaints to BBB made reference to solicitation for prostitution or inappropriate sexual propositions and one victim told a local newscast that he was prostituted out by Claxon.
Before signing up with a modeling or talent agency:
- Do your research – Always check the company out with your Better Business Bureau. Some states may require a talent agency or modeling school to be licensed and bonded; confirm the company meets those requirements if applicable.
- Beware of big promises and high pressure sales pitches – In the modeling world, income is never guaranteed and jobs can be sporadic. Consider it a red flag if the sales pitch promises a lot of jobs and big earnings or uses high pressure tactics to get you to sign up without thinking it through first.
- Read the fine print and get everything in writing – Take your time and read the agreement or contract carefully, paying close attention to details regarding refunds and your recourse if you are dissatisfied. Make sure that all verbal promises are in the agreement.
- Get references – Ask for references from other satisfied clients who have a similar background and qualifications.
- Complain if you’ve been ripped off – If you feel you’ve been misled by a talent or modeling agency, file a complaint with your BBB, State Attorney General and the FTC.
For more advice on finding businesses and services you can trust, go to http://www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.