Start Model Consultants
To Whom It May Concern:
I believe that I may have become a victim of a modeling/photography
scam out of Sarasota, FL. My purpose is to ascertain
that I have been, and if I have, to warn other aspiring
It all started innocently enough, by answering an ad
in the paper. In big, bold letters was the question, "HAS
ANYONE EVER TOLD YOU YOU COULD BE A MODEL?"
It went on to explain that there aren't any fees, and
that it wasn't a school. (These claims were also in bold
print.) Call this number... (941) 921-6000 for immediate
Well, I called and was told about an open call at 7:30
on a Wednesday evening. (I brought my father with me,
as it's always a good idea to bring somebody else to
help keep things in perspective.)
We went upstairs to a small, cramped room with dozens
of chairs, where I was directed to fill out a brief questionnaire...
What type of modeling would you prefer? What are your
measurements? What is your address?
Then I was directed to sit with dozens of other hopefuls
(we were jammed in that room like sardines).
At around 7:45 PM, George came in and gave a lengthy
speech about how his wife modelled in NY and still did
up until several years ago, but now she has M.S.
Blah, blah, blah.
He went on to rail about schools and other agencies. "It
is never a good idea to sign any agreement because of
the obvious ramifications."
"Any place wanting an upfront fee should ring warning
bells." (Which is what we all should believe to
be true, right?)
Basically, he did a lecture or a quick review of the
modeling industry and stressed the importance of getting
a comp card.
It is extremely important, he said, it has to be done
by a fashion photographer, and done on location with
a professional hair and makeup artist.
He then went on to show us comp cards (he passed these
around to us hopefuls). He passed around comp cards from
his colleague first. Clearly pitching his cohort.
And then he passed around other comp cards by other
fashion photographers, supposedly from Tampa, which,
in his opinion, weren't any good.
"Everything has to be natural, natural lighting.
Not posed in a studio with a back drop."
And he pitched for his photographer again.
Now, he didn't insist that we use his (who incidentally
is a big-shot photographer in NYC and normally gets $1,500
per day), but he could arrange (nice guy that he is)
for us to use him, because (as luck would have it) he
vacations here in sunny Sarasota, FL.
He repeatedly insisted that we did not have to use his
colleague. But insisted that we use a "fashion photographer" who
shoots on location. At preferably three locations.
He ended it by saying that he has an eye for prospects
and can tell just by observing how people behave in the
audience if they are viable for the modeling industry.
He spoke about how many people come to him looking for
commercial, print, fashion shows for malls, and promotional
work (John Deere) models.
And he also insisted that on these comp cards to never
pose in a swimsuit. His exact words were, "Keep
your clothes on, choose tasteful outfits."
Towards the end of his lecture, he summarized by saying, "Don't
sign anything or pay any upfront money."
And the best way to start up is to have a comp card.
He would help us, or act as a consultant (hence the name)
to get started in the modeling industry by giving us
the top names of agencies and addresses to send our comp
cards to, by holding free workshops, and helping us put
in a good name with people he knew.
He doesn't recommend any photographers other than the
one out of NYC.
He told us the typical cost for a day's worth of shooting
for a comp card is anywhere from $600-$1,500.
(By the way, his colleague can do it for $450, plus
the cost of cards.)
He ended by saying that he would not pick everyone in
the room to "help." He said that he would only
pick about three of us (out of the approx. 26 of us in
Next he dismissed us and shook each one of our hands
and wanted all of us to call him the next day between
10 and 2 (if memory serves correctly).
Well, lucky me, I was one of the three chosen, and he
had my questionnaire right in front of him with my snapshot
(at that very moment).
Now that I was picked, I needed to find a photographer.
Who would I use?
Well, I checked around and a lot of what he said rang
true. I even checked his company on the BBB. He had and
still has a satisfactory record and has been in business
for 30 years (all corroborated in his story).
So I went with his colleague, thinking, "Well,
$450 is better than $700."
So I got my appointment. But instead of paying the photographer,
I paid, (surprise!) S.T.A.R.T. modeling.
I was to pay in three non-refundable increments of $150.
The first $150 was due at my first appointment back at
S.T.A.R.T. models; the second payable at the "free
workshop"; and the third on the day of the shoot
in cash (the first two we paid by check).
All payable to S.T.A.R.T. models.
Fast forwarding to the day of the shoot...
We were herded like cattle into small, make-shift dressing
rooms where the makeup artist was also the hairstylist.
She did not use hairspray of any type, opting for the
natural look, I suppose.
The photographer rushed us in and out for our different
My on-location shots? They were outside of the agency's
building in a crowded parking lot, using a palm tree
for a backdrop.
I should also mention that this company moved twice.
They were in Pine Park Plaza, but had recently moved
to Coral Cove Plaza, supposedly to give them more room
just in time for the shoot.
My shoot was in the summer. I just now received my comp
cards, about five months later.
And they moved back to the old location at Pine Park
Plaza, just in time for me to pick up my cards, I guess.
And all this "help" they were supposed to
give? I received 50 comp cards ($60), my slides, a portfolio
book ($37), internet posting ($84), a computer-generated
manual on "Becoming a Model," with, as promised,
a complete listing (or is it?) for agencies in FL (approx.
60 agencies listed) and other selected states.
He led all of us to believe that he would help us, he
had connections, etc., etc.
If he were to help me, why wouldn't they have kept some
of my composite cards? I received all 50 of them, and
all of my slides, including those that were used for
my comp card.
According to them, when I need more cards, I am to contact
My apologies for the length of this letter. I hope it
is of some benefit to any aspiring models out there.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Please do extensive checking.
I thought we were careful enough.
P.S. The web address for S.T.A.R.T. is: www.startmodels.com
In describing the nature of this company's business,
the BBB said: "Model consulting agency. Help them
get to composition cards and list of agencies to send
cards to. Provide manual regarding modeling industry.
No costs or fees required."
What is a "model consulting agency"? Either
they are a model/talent agency or they are not. What
is a consulting agency? Are they trying to sound like
a model/talent agency?
Do they have a Florida talent agency license? According
to the online state database, they don't. Now that we
know they are not a licensed talent agency, which relegates
them to relative insignificance, look at what they do.
The first thing they say is they help people get comp
cards. Hello? You should not get comp cards unless and
until you get representation from an model/talent agency.
Comp cards are used for marketing. The agency has to
market you. They have to approve of the comp cards. Therefore
getting comp cards before you get representation, and
without the approval of an agency, could be a total waste
The second thing they claim to do is get a list of agencies
to send cards to. What? Are they passing out phone books?
Lists? What do they offer that you cannot get yourself
easily? Is that "consulting"?
The third thing is to provide a modeling industry manual.
Is that it? Has this company been getting models comp
cards before they get representation, handing out lists
they could get on their own, and passing out manuals
worse than books they could buy in a store for the last
If they have been in business for 30 years, and they
are so experienced and knowledgeable to the point of
being experts, why are they not a licensed talent agency?
In a state like Florida where a talent agency license
is required, the further aspiring models get away from
a licensed agency, the more flaky it gets.
The NYC fashion photographer requirement line is overused
and ridiculous. And false. In the past, it has been used
to promote photographers and persuade aspiring models
to pay for expensive photos.
You mentioned you had to pay $84 to be on their website.
That's expensive and a waste of money, not only because
you probably won't make that much from work through their
website, but also because it does not cost them $84 to
put your picture online.
Even though you did get something out of your money,
unlike others, who, for example, never got the comp cards
they paid for, this whole "model consulting agency" thing
sounds half-hearted, half-baked, unimaginative, disconnected,
unaccountable, unnecessary, and expensive.