Prestige Modeling and Talent Agency
Questions / Complaints


To Whom It May Concern:

I'm 16 and I live in Manchester, NH.

There's a new agency in my town. Everyone says they get you jobs fast and that it is not a school. They say the only thing you pay for is the pictures. They do your hair and makeup for free. Any training you need is free.

The name of the agency is Prestige Modeling and Talent Agency.

Yesterday I went in.

They told me I am beautiful and set up an appointment to take my pictures. They told me I have to pay $150 down, $250 the day of the shoot, and $200 when I get the pics back. The total is $600.

They said after that I'd definitely get a job.

They also said $600 is nothing compared to what I'm going to make.

They get 25% of what I earn and I get 75%.

That's all they said to me. Then they told me to call them if I was interested.

I don't know if I should go for it, or if it's a scam.

If I do go for it and pay for pictures, I'm going to have to work for the money and take the money from the money I had saved to go to Florida to visit my older brother.

Is it worth it, or is it just a scam?

S.


S.,

What is their website address?

The physical address, according to the BBB, is:

Prestige Modeling & Talent Agency
1181 Elm St Suite
Manchester, NH 03101

There are no complaints at the Bureau. But you said they are new, so you can't read too much into the BBB record. It can take a while for problems to surface in their files.

Since you said you are in Manchester, New Hampshire, I thought you might want to shop around, so I checked a directory to see what else is out there. Two companies were listed, both with a web address, so I checked them out online.

Both are listed at the BBB, and both are classified as modeling schools. One is clearly a finishing school; the other offers workshops, etc., and is tied in to a modeling convention.

So it's difficult to recommend them as being better options than Prestige.

Prestige, you said, does not have schools. This is a good sign. Hair and makeup, you said, is free. Another good sign. Free training is also a good sign.

However... there are a few things which look suspicious. It is possible Prestige is making their money from photography. There should be a clear line between modeling jobs and photography. In this case, based on the information you provided, there isn't.

The test usually recommended to try and discern if the company is reputable in this regard is to find out if the agency will let you choose which photographer you want to take your pictures.

If they require theirs, "You must use our photographer," it could be because that is how they make money.

Setting it up as you told it where they want a downpayment could indicate they are trying to pressure a commitment.

The total price for photos is not extreme. But what is the quality like? They may only be worth $200. Did they offer to let you see photos the photographer has already taken?

Taking a 25% commission is on the high side; 20% or lower is more common.

Telling you that you would "definitely" get work sounds almost like a promise. Making promises of work can be illegal. How do they know you will definitely get work if: 1) you have not been tested to see how you photograph; 2) you have not worked for a client; and, 3) they don't choose who gets work?

Saying the photo expense "is nothing compared to what you are going to make" sounds like a typical scam sales pitch; at least scam companies use this line. (I recently heard it was used by the biggest scouting scam in American history.)

There is a modeling photography scam which charges the same price as what you were told. They make money from photos, not jobs, even though they are called an agency, and they make it sound like you will get work.

Just quickly, the way a modeling photography scam works is the company charges you to get your pictures making promises you will get work, or saying you will, and tells you about all the money you are going to make, but you don't. So you make no money, lose all you paid for pics; and you can't get your money back.

The bottom line with Prestige is you need to do more research. Check the work of their photographer, ask for his website address, and ask if you can use another photographer.

Also ask for references so you can speak with their models or clients. They should understand because you are new to modeling and they are new to the city.

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The website is prestige-modeling.com.

The agency only has two owners who do everything. They said they were models for 14 years.

They showed me what the pics look like. They include the agency's name and the model's info. They looked nice.

The weird thing is that's all they told me. They told me to call them if I was interested. I'd think they would talk about their agency, but they didn't.

I'm definitely going to take your advice and ask them about their photographer.

Thank you so much. You helped me a lot.

Can you please check out their website and tell me what you think?

S.


S.,

The website said:

Prestige Modeling helps aspiring models search for potential jobs and provides intensive training for a wide range of specialties, including print, commercial, runway, promotional, acting, and pageantry. Self-enhancement workshops are also taught, which cover money management, self-confidence, job interviewing, public speaking, etiquette, and personal appearance. (Call for details on the backgrounds of each professional we use.)

So they are doing training. Although they did not list prices, it does not sound free. The finishing school type of training they offer seems very similar to the other two previously mentioned "modeling agencies" in Manchester.

You said: "I'd think they would talk about their agency, but they didn't."

The website shows no tear sheets and there is no mention of anyone getting any work. You have to think work is the strongest selling point, and what everyone wants to know.

If you were running a company and you had helped people find work modeling, why wouldn't you tell everyone? Why would you keep it off the company website?

The photographer is important but more important is how many models if any of them got work, and how much, and what they were paid.

The experience the owners have is all well and good, and they seem like nice enough people, but it does not guarantee they can get anyone work.

Manchester could be the problem. There are very few modeling agencies in Manchester, NH, from the sound of things. There's probably a reason for that: there is not much demand?

The important issue is how long it would take to make more money from modeling than you paid for pictures. Not all modeling pays really well.

FYI, their website domain was "Created on 15-Mar-2002," so they look new.

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Thank you for your help.

Can you recommend any other agencies I can contact to check out if they are for real or not?

And what can you recommend for someone who genuinely wants to pursue a career in modeling? Are there other agencies in the area you would recommend?

And what about an acting career since they often go hand in hand? Who could I contact?

How about I call Oprah?!!! (Just kidding!)

S.


S.,

If there aren't many agencies in the Manchester Yellow pages, you could try visiting the nearest large city where there is demand for modeling.

What city would that be?

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To Whom It May Concern:

Earlier this year I was walking around in a local mall near my town, and some girls approached me.

They asked me if I had ever modeled before, and I said, "Yes, I have modeled before."

Then they asked me to meet up with their managers, etc. So I made an appointment.

Anyways, I ended up spending $600 on a photo shoot where they said I would get quick jobs, and since I'm so tall, everyone was going to want me for runway.

About a month later, I went to see my pictures and they were taken on film that could be developed at a CVS.

I was embarrassed.

Anyway, they picked a few out and said they would make a cover sheet for me, and send them out to get jobs.

Well, that was four months ago, and they have neither returned any of my phone calls, nor have I seen anything of my cover sheets.

So tonight I went online to look up their web page, and I saw a thing under Modeling Scams for Prestige Modeling in Manchester, NH, and the story written by the 16-year-old girl, well, that is exactly what happened to me.

I guess I'm writing to be heard and to ask for help.

Thanks,

H.L.


H.,

Can you visit their office? If your phone calls are not returned, you should try to visit the office. Take someone with you if you want.

Also contact the BBB since they may have a good idea about what you could do, or tell you if anyone else has faced the same scenario with the company.

Did the agency make any money from the photo shoot? Those that do can lose interest in new models pretty quickly.

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To Whom It May Concern:

We own Prestige Modeling & Talent Agency, LLC, in Manchester, NH, and indeed we are a new agency to our area.

We were informed of a couple of letters sent to your site and would like to inform models/talent with accurate information.

The information a 16-year-old girl gave to you in regard to our "guarantee" to get her a job is completely inaccurate. We also do not see minors without a parent/guardian present. There is NEVER a guarantee that a model/actor is going to get work. We market and promote the models/talent in our agency, we don't choose them for jobs (other than some promotional companies).

Many people come into our office with a very distorted idea of what a modeling agency is and does. Modeling is all about look and image, clients are looking for a look and image for their company, to help promote the products they are offering to hopefully increase the sales for their company. (Example: runway models are helping designers sell their clothing.) That is something they determine not us. We simply supply them with potential faces to choose from.

We do not insist on anyone using specific photographers, if they know or have a good fashion photographer and they produce us with pictures that we feel would best market them and our agency we are more than happy to let them do that. Many new faces we take on have no photographer contacts and use us as a guide to get started. Many models have experience and have their own photographers they like to use and they supply us with fabulous pictures we can use.

However, if a model/talent insist on using their own photographer, we make it very clear that without seeing the pictures we cannot determine if we can utilize them at our agency. We run into people coming in with what they think are great pictures and not being able to use the pictures because they are not professional.

The photographers we know and have used know exactly what we're looking for with new faces and we've had great success getting pictures needed for marketing purposes. They also re-shoot if that look is not achieved. We certainly would not take on a new model with pictures we don't think we can use.

We do take 25% of the total job, as we work hard to get these jobs and feel this is fair. All models/talent know this up front and sign a contract stating this. Anyone thinking this is too high should not sign on with our agency, and is encouraged to find another agency. Hard work goes into establishing relations and finding companies/clients who use models/talent for jobs. We work extremely hard here at Prestige to seek out these people and companies.

We are not a modeling school and we do not offer any paid modeling classes at our agency. We will change our website because it seems to be causing confusion.

Please feel free to have anyone contact our agency. We would love to be of any help and give clarification, if needed.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Crista Moskowitz and Nicole Alward
Owners
Prestige Modeling & Talent Agency

603-669-9199


To Whom It May Concern:

I need to tell you about my experience at Prestige Modeling Agency in Manchester, NH, because I really feel ripped off.

Several months ago, a girl approached me in the local mall recruiting girls to come into Prestige Modeling Agency. She told me that I had "the look they were looking for."

A few hours later, I saw the same girl passing out cards to other girls as well, also telling them that they had "the look." I thought this was odd.

I met the owners one day, and I was showered with compliments. And yes, I was told that I needed to use their photographer for $200.

And while there was no charge for training and hair, I would have to pay them $400 to be "promoted" for a year, but I would surely get a job with my look.

After paying them $200 for the photographer, $400 for promotion, $600 total, and being assured that something would come along for me, the next girl showed up, and I heard the same sales pitch —same compliments, same assurances.

Well, it's been several months now, and I guess I've been duped. To make matters worse, the place was filled with young women who were all recruited by someone in the mall.

The owners told me that they had all kinds of impressive clients who use their models, but they were vague about the companies and wouldn't give me any names.

I am so angry and frustrated and embarrassed.

Should I contact the BBB?

H.C.


H.,

A pattern is emerging in the way Prestige Modeling and Talent agency conducts its business. If you feel it is unethical, you can contact the Better Business Bureau, tell your story, and explain your concerns.

If there is a pattern, young people are approached at a mall. They are told they have the look and they will get modeling jobs easily and quickly. Then they are supposed to pay for photos, and they pay, but they never get any modeling jobs.

Since Prestige Modeling apparently approach people in malls, saying the same thing to many people, it could represent an issue the local media would like to investigate. At least this is how it happens in other cities.

Just so you know, other agencies have got in trouble in the past for soliciting at malls. The malls banned them with further solicitation putting them at the risk of being arrested.

You said: "And while there was no charge for training and hair, I would have to pay them $400 to be "promoted" for a year."

Models are not supposed to pay for promotion by the agency. It's illegal in New York, for example. It's the agency's job and responsibility to promote their models.

New Hampshire apparently has no modeling agency laws, or even any employment agency laws, but once they start making money from upfront fees, they may never get models work.

The regulations where they exist in America are designed to prevent agencies from telling potential models they are going to get work, billing them, but then never getting the models work.

If you are in a small market, or a market with very little modeling jobs, you need to be extra careful about modeling agencies, extra careful to avoid upfront fees.

You said: "The owners told me that they had all kinds of impressive clients who use their models, but they were vague about the companies and wouldn't give me any names."

Tell that to the BBB. The BBB will not accept vague answers. Either they have the clients or they don't.

Agencies which are reputable and successful are quick to boast of the names of their clients with the tear sheets to prove it featured prominently in their advertising, at their agency, and on their website.

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To Whom It May Concern:

I just recently saw an ad in the paper for Prestige Modeling in Manchester, NH.

I took it upon myself to go and meet with them. They offered me a contract that day and told me to take it home and look it over.

So I did. Having had agents, managers, etc., in the past, I thought it to be wise to check them out further on the net; which is where I came across this website.

I saw then what had been written about them, and their response to it. I felt ok about it, and was going to sign with them, seeing as they did not say that I had to pay for pictures or classes, etc.

A few days later, I had my next meeting with them. This time it was very different. I was told by a woman that before I signed I needed to pay $300 for the year for what were called "marketing costs."

These "marketing costs" entailed me being on their website and on any promo CDs and/or mailings they did.

I was then told that $300 was not a big deal!!! The women told me: "You already saved $400, because we are going to use your pictures, and we usually only use our own photographers."

I then said, "Thank you very much, but I have to reconsider."

I then left.

I feel this company is a scam and that they are preying on a small community which does not have a vast knowledge in this field.

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to hear back from you.

Sincerely yours,

F.T.


F.,

You don't want to pay for advertising. It's illegal in states like Texas.

In Texas, for example, agencies cannot charge talent for advance registration fees, video or audio tapes, postcard service, advertising, resumes, photographs, classes, or require subscriptions to a publication.

If you think about it, resumes, photographs, postcards, etc., are all forms of advertising. Why shouldn't models pay for advertising? Because if they did, "agencies" could make most or all their money from the upfront fees, not commissions on modeling jobs.

Prestige says they take 25% commission, which is higher than the normal 20%, but even if they take 25%, they would have to get a model $1,200 in work to make $300, the same amount they charge for advertising. Of course, it's a lot of easier to take $300 upfront because you don't take any risks and you don't have to work for it.

States like New Hampshire have so few modeling jobs available by comparison to major markets, there are few if any laws at all to block upfront fees like advertising, so you have to take the wisdom in the laws of other states which have large markets as the guidelines to protect yourself.

You said: "These 'marketing costs' entailed me being on their website."

The "marketing costs" of putting a picture on a website are almost nothing. You should never pay an agency for advertising online, firstly because they are not supposed to make money from advertising, and secondly because it costs them virtually nothing.

Never accept claims you are getting a discount if you pay upfront fees. Instead of "saving" money, save your money.

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To Whom It May Concern:

About two months ago, I, too, went to the Prestige modeling agency.

"Prestige" told me I had what they were looking for, and that I should make an appointment to have some pictures taken. They said all I would have to bring were the clothes that I wanted to wear.

I ended up paying them the $200 up front for the contract and then another $400 for the photo shoot.

They told me that with my looks I would have a modeling job in no time, and that they wished that I had come a few months earlier, because they had just done a bikini shoot in the Bahamas.

Another thing that kind of made me question them was that they told me it would be a couple of weeks before my portfolio was ready.

Yet the very next day I received a call saying my portfolio was completed and I could come down and pick it up.

When I got there I realized that the whole photo shoot had been done on digital camera and my portfolio was on a disc.

Isn't it more likely that photos like these would be on film for better quality?

It has been quite some time now and I have heard nothing from them about any jobs or that they were still looking.

I do believe after reading this site's letters that this is a scam and I just want to warn others to stay away.

If there is any type of action that myself and others could take, please let us know.

I must say in closing that I feel very foolish for having fell into this trap, but I could not stand by in silence to let it happen to someone else.

Thanks for your time,

U.O.


U.,

The problem is New Hampshire apparently has relatively little modeling work, no modeling agency regulations, and not even any employment agency regulations.

All that makes NH a high-risk state; and the risk is compounded with upfront fees, which are always high risk.

They would not be able to get away with these upfront fees in other states, neither the registration fee, nor the photography fee.

Contact the office of your Attorney General. Share your experience, say it is the same as others, and the state does not have regulations to protect consumers; then find out what they are going to do about it.

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