Millie Lewis AMTC
(American Modeling and Talent Convention)


To Whom It May Concern:

My daughter has been working with an agent in Lilburn, GA, and he is promoting the Millie Lewis AMTC convention, and I am wondering how legitimate it is, and if it a good opportunity for my daughter to break into modeling?

Thank you,

G.D.


G.,

Modeling conventions, many people argue, are neither the cheapest nor the best way to "break into modeling."

They can get results, and they do. The problem is the advertising and marketing of the conventions typically does not add the most ethical disclaimer.

They will probably use a disclaimer to say they cannot guarantee work, and applicants should not expect to become supermodels, but wouldn't the best disclaimer be a statement of their success rate saying what percentage of aspiring models find representation with reputable agencies?

There are watered-down statistics, sometimes, like the number of "call backs." Call backs are signs of interest which may or may not be sincere. (They require neither commitment nor expense, and they can be faked. Agents can be paid to fake them.)

Millie Lewis has been around for a long time and it is apparently a legitimate business to the degree real agents or real agencies show up at conventions to scout talent, compared with other searches or conventions which are attended by the agency receptionist.

The president of Millie Lewis has written a defence of the company.

Millie Lewis has been criticised for having an extreme focus on making money, one observer noted: "They haven't missed a trick at how to make a buck."

If you are looking for a good opportunity to help your daughter break into modeling or be discovered, consider phoning the big agencies in New York.

Elite, one mother reported, asked how tall her daughter was, and said she could send a picture.

One of the best pieces of advice from someone who works at Blackwood-Steele in New York was: "Any intermediary is usually a waste of money. Do it yourself works just fine."

You may want to find out which agencies are going to attend the convention and then send them a snapshot before your daughter goes. If they want to see her, then it might make more sense to attend the convention.

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Dear Modeling Scams,

I am surprised that you would include a letter from someone who has never been to our event. Have you called any of the modeling or talent scouts listed on our website to see what they think of the Millie Lewis Convention? They have no reason to be biased or lie. They have no financial interest in our company.

When you imply that our successes had little to do with our event, that is a complete misassertion. How do you think these hundreds of models and actors got connected with their agents? Do you think that Hope Riley, Rachel Caulk or Whitney East flew to Japan to get their contracts to become Japanese covergirls?

Do you think that the majority of parents have the time, money, knowledge or connections to take their children to meet over 100 reputable agents in four days in one safe environment?

When you imply that call-backs can be faked and that agents can be paid to fake them, that is also off-base. Do you think top names in the industry would come to an event that also hosted such scams? They don't need the money, and they don't have the time.

Let me share with you an interesting story concerning Marie Anderson, co-owner of Aria in Chicago and author of the highly-regarded book Model: A Complete Guide. Marie also discovered Cindy Crawford.

At an agents' panel discussion at our convention, an intelligent parent asked the question, "Of the models you bring to your agency, how many make it a career?"

Marie hesitated, looked at the other agents for guidance, as if uncomfortable with the question.

She finally answered that two or three out of an average 10 who appear to have the look to be successful models actually stay and make it a career.

I believe this startling statistic exists because the models and their families do not understand the industry, and the agents do not have the time to educate them. AMTC does educate them.

With over 24 hours of training before they come to our event, and a steady stream of excellent workshops given by renowned experts, like Marie. Because of this fact, AMTC placements have a much greater likelihood of long-term success.

I applaud your efforts to police this industry, but before we're listed as a potential scam, I would like you or your staff member to come to our event, talk to our contestants, attend our workshops and speak to the agents themselves.

Sincerely,

Carey Lewis Arban
President
The Millie Lewis American Modeling and Talent Convention and Millie Lewis International, Inc.


Ms. Arban,

I didn't have a problem including the letter from someone who criticised your company because going to your event wouldn't have made any difference.

The point was Millie Lewis "haven't missed a trick at how to make a buck." O.D. did not have to attend a convention to know you are making money from your event. I have not heard this claim disputed by you or anyone else.

I have read comments about your company from agents who attended your modeling convention. I don't dispute them. But you never said anything about the people who pay to attend the convention and don't get discovered.

There are two groups here, the aspiring models and the modeling agencies. If you have a list and the comments of people who attended Millie Lewis conventions but did not get anywhere as a result, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say.

When you said, "When you imply that our successes had little to do with our event, that is a complete misassertion," I assume you are referring to the comments of O.D., who wrote:

I am sure if you tracked their success stories you would find attending this convention had very little to do with them making it.

You wrote that Marie Anderson "finally answered that two or three out of an average 10 who appear to have the look to be successful models actually stay and make it a career... I believe this startling statistic exists..."

I don't know if this statistic is either accurate or relevant to a discussion about being discovered at modeling conventions. Marie Anderson did not sound confident in her answer ("hesitated, looked at the other agents for guidance"), and she did not say they were tracking the numbers and compiled data.

More importantly, it sounds as if you are not talking about people who attend Millie Lewis modeling conventions.

In this discussion, the main issue is neither the percentage of people who stick with modeling to become career models, nor the success rate of modeling agencies, it is the success rate of modeling conventions, specifically the AMTC.

In a previous letter you addressed this issue, and you yourself said it had become increasingly difficult to determine if your company's modeling conventions are successful in the primary objective of those who pay to attend:

We have not tracked our placement rate in several years, as it has become impossible to do so.... Because of the issues above, we decided at the beginning of this year that we would no longer refer to "Placement Rate" in any of our scouting or advertising.

If you don't track your success rate, either because you can't, or you won't, why should anyone believe it is more successful or cheaper than other recommended ways of being discovered?

The president of the Models Guild has said it may be fun and informative (I believe you have said it is), to attend a modeling convention, and I agree with her, but she also pointed out it is unlikely to be the best way to spend your money, and I also agree with her on that point, too. When Rhonda Hudson made her statements, she did not give any exceptions. She did not say every convention except Millie Lewis.

There are other ways of learning and being discovered which are either cheap or free. You can learn about the modeling industry by reading books, like the one you mentioned earlier, Model: A Complete Guide by Marie Anderson. You can send quality snapshots to agencies, attend open calls, or visit agencies.

I agree with the basic modeling advice of Marie Anderson: "One of the best ways to get started is to contact your local agencies and see when they have their "open calls." Note: she did not say one of the best ways to get started is to go to a modeling convention. Why is that?

Cindy Crawford, for example, went with her father to modeling agencies in Chicago. They lived in Illinois, so he took a day off work, and drove her to Chicago, where, he said, they got a phone book, tore out the modeling agencies in the Yellow Pages, and they went directly to the offices of the modeling agencies.

You wrote: "Marie also discovered Cindy Crawford." Really?

I have watched the documentary about Cindy Crawford called Intimate Portrait, where Cindy Crawford is interviewed from beginning to end, along with her father and mother, and I don't remember Cindy ever saying she was discovered by Marie.

However, I have heard many people claim they discovered Cindy Crawford.

For example, some say she was discovered by the Elite "Look of the Year Contest" in 1982 at age 17 when she lost.

Another claim (from a Northwestern alumni website!) was an unnamed photographer discovered Cindy Crawford at a mall while she was a student at Northwestern University, and suggested she try modeling.

Another claim is Chicago photographer Victor Skrebneski discovered Cindy Crawford while she was at Northwestern.

Then there is the claim Cindy Crawford had already been discovered when she was 16 by the local news photographer where she lived in DeKalb, Illinois.

And now your claim Cindy Crawford was discovered by Marie Anderson.

So who do you believe when all these claims are made about how a model was discovered and by whom?

Why not hear it from the horse's mouth? Why not listen to Cindy Crawford tell the story in her own words?

When she was a 16-year-old high school student, Cindy's summer job was detasselling corn.

CC: "There was a local photographer who worked for the paper, and in DeKalb, like, the one photographer covered everything, from, you know, if there was a fire, to high school basketball games, parades, all that. And he came up to me, and asked if he could do some pictures of me. They were published, like, in the local college paper."

IP: "Suddenly people were saying: 'Cindy you should be a model.' "

DC: "I took off work one day, and her and I drove into Chicago, stopped at a phone booth, I think, I think we tore the Yellow Pages out of modeling agencies, and literally went around the city up into these offices."

The first agency they visited was not keen. They noticed her mole, and raised the possibility of removing it, but they agreed to a test shoot.

The first test shoot pictures were awful: the clothes, the hair, and the makeup.

IP: "Some new test photos were taken and suddenly Cindy Crawford had a job offer —a modeling job offer."

CC: "My first job was a bra ad for Marshall Fields."

Cindy Crawford was already discovered and she was already a model while she was in high school, that is, before she moved to Chicago.

She was already getting enough work modeling in Chicago that in her senior year in high school she studied in the morning, and worked as a model in Chicago in the afternoon.

Despite her focus on modeling work while she was in high school, she still graduated with straight As in June 1984, and in fact she won a scholarship to Northwestern; she attended Northwestern in the fall of 1984.

But the documentary said Cindy Crawford left Northwestern after only one semester to model full time in the spring of 1985. She realized modeling could not wait, whereas she could return to study later, so she dropped out of university.

The reason for the claims Victor Skrebneski discovered Cindy Crawford could be that after dropping out of university, she worked with him in Chicago for two years. "I was modeling in Chicago for, really, two full years."

Skrebneski was the premier fashion photographer in Chicago, and she credits him with teaching her a lot about modeling and professionalism, but not for discovering her.

Since Cindy Crawford had already been modeling before she worked with Victor Skrebneski, the claim he discovered her is obviously bogus. I have not heard him try to take credit for discovering Cindy Crawford, but I have read others give him the credit.

Ironically, Crawford credits Skrebneski for being the person who tried to manipulate her from becoming an international model by moving from Chicago to New York and working for a top agency.

IP: "Elite, a top modeling agency, wanted her in New York."

She said she was scared.

CC: "Victor Skrebneski did not want me to leave and he kinda told me he was the only one who could take a good picture of me, and I would be a fool to leave, and if I did leave, he would never work with me again."

It looks as if they have never worked with each other again —or even spoken to each other again!

IP: "Victor and Cindy have not spoken since the day she left Chicago in 1986."

I trust you now see why I don't believe everyone who says they discovered Cindy Crawford or any other model if they can't prove it.

The point of all this is it calls into question any claims made by Marie Anderson about the numbers she gave, and if you give her the credit and you are unable or unwilling to give out accurate information about who is responsible for discovering models, when you are a scouting business, how can we trust scouting success data/claims/advertising you provide about Millie Lewis?

This is one industry where you should not believe what people cannot prove. Bogus name dropping sucks!

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