Model Casting Scam?
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a petite modeling ad I found in Craigslist. I've been somewhat embarrassed and reluctant to admit that I went, but I figured - where else could I air out my most embarrassing moments to a bunch of complete strangers, if not here? Also, I figure some of you may be able to comment on whether my bizarre experience was unique or typical. Somewhat against my own judgment, I stopped by the model agency anyway to have a look - I figured I'd meet some other petite women at the very least, and maybe learn a bit about the industry.
The first thing that was odd was that the office was in Newark, NJ. When I got out, I was surprised at how economically depressed the area seemed for a location of a modeling agency - 99 cent type stores were all over the place. When I got to 744 Broad Street in downtown Newark, the whole situation struck me as...sketchy. The company, supposedly called Models and Talent (or something like that), seemed to be renting a temporary tiny office in another company's office. Aside from one other petite woman who was not conducive to conversation, it was empty of visitors. I guess not many aspiring models go running to New Jersey to get a gig! No surprises there.
The agent came out to 'greet' me. She was probably in her mid-forties and had the look of a more modestly dressed hooker. I'm not kidding here - super tight clothes, too much make-up, and a voice that obviously croaked out 'smoker'. She didn't bother with any pleasantries, but got straight to the point. Somehow, I expected to be visually skewered, but she barely glanced at me.
Pretty much the first thing out of her mouth was that my small hands would be good for cigarette (ugh) and jewelry ads. Ah yes, bigger is, of course, always better. Apparently, small hands make cigarettes and bling look more impressive. Immediately, I wondered why they didn't just use children - but I guess that sort of thing can't really fly. (Just picture it - 'diamonds are forever' ads with gorgeous 30 year old men proposing to...14 year old girls, or Joe Camel lighting up with a horde of giggly, but scantily clad, teenagers.)
She asked me if I had photos. I told her that I didn't. She gave me the "are you an idiot or what" look, and I hastily mentioned that the woman I spoke to on the phone mentioned that it'd be ok - they were looking for new talent after all. At this point, she decided to mention that the company was actually a photo agency that contracts out its models. Kinda like a brothel, I guess. When I hesitantly inquired what companies used its services, the shrew of a woman snapped back that of course she can't disclose the list of clients...ever! Er...ok, sorry to ask where my winsome face (or I guess, hands) will be plastered. Clients are shown a photo set of 'girls' and if I have what it takes, the client will hire me through the agency. How fabulous!!!
I was given the marvelous privilege of plunking down $300 for shots by the agency's photographer. Who happened to be in Manhattan. It was implicitly understood that had I brought photos, I would have to do the same thing anyway. At this point, I was just completely incredulous about the whole thing. I mean, was this a joke? I was given no contract to sign, no paperwork, no nothing. At this point, enough was enough. I asked for a business card, but she had none with her. (Strange and convenient, wasn't it?)
So, this entire thing seemed to be a scam. But maybe I'm wrong about that. If this is how models are treated all the time, what a horrible way to work! I knew that the modeling industry isn't kind, but this was just outright crazy. I can see plenty of young naive girls not asking any questions, and putting down the dough, never to hear from anyone connected to the agency again.
When I told her that I wasn't ready to put down the cash, I could see the moment she wrote me off. Mentioning that they were only doing open calls for another day, she brusquely escorted me out of the office and gestured for the petite blond woman that was waiting. I wonder if blondie had $300 cash on her, ready to be dropped down the rabbit hole.