Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Barbizon Modeling School Hidden Camera Investigation

(Chapter 23, "Modeling Schools," Bad and Beautiful: Inside the Dazzling and Deadly World of Supermodels)

* aka Barbizon School of Modeling

Barbizon Modeling School refers clients to International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) Convention ("IMTA Convention")

Alley Wagner, 16, drove from Bluff City, in the Tri-Cities area, to attend classes at Barbizon, a national modeling school and agency with a franchise in Farragut. Modeling classes, according to Barbizon and most industry insiders, are mainly used to bolster confidence and are not necessary for all potential models. Barbizon took Wagner to an open call for the scout company International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA), which selected Wagner to attend a convention. Unwilling to wait months for a Southern convention, she paid $4,000 to fly to Los Angeles and meet with agents there. One week later, an agency named Christian Jacques called. They wanted her in Italy in a week. So the Wagners paid $600 to rent Alley a flat and $500 to upgrade her portfolio. Friends and family pooled frequent flyer miles to pay for her flight. After spending about four weeks in Milan and attending 60 to 70 open calls, Wagner was offered only one job, for a hair show that will pay about 500 Euros ($435). 1
A former Barbizon model described how she'd spent thousands of dollars on her training and got absolutely nothing in return. After finishing a modeling program in Toronto, the Barbizon staff convinced her to go to an International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) convention, a popular gathering for graduates from schools like Barbizon. At the convention, IMTA showcases models to talent scouts from all over the world. Just as with the modeling schools, there's a huge fee to participate in the IMTA convention. "It's nothing but one big money-grab after another," said the former model during the CBC exposé. "After I went through the whole thing and spent thousands of dollars, I only got one audition and no job." 2

Barbizon School of Modeling in the News

One father laments wasting his hard-earned cash on the program. He tells a disgruntled mom nearby that as soon as his daughter gets her hands on her diploma, he's calling his credit-card company to stop payment to the school. The two talk bitterly about the sales pitch that convinced them to fork over $1,495 for a few months' training (meeting once every other week) and a "lifetime membership" that doesn't seem likely to pay off anytime soon, if ever. These jabs don't surprise me. Modeling schools are notorious for preying on the dreams of young women and others who want so badly to be the virtually impossible ideal on magazine covers. No matter that most of them don't fit the rigid mold of fashion model and never will; their money spends the same.
. . .
The voice of a cynical teenage boy dissing Barbizon behind me fades as I reflect on my own experience in modeling school as a teen. Yes, I too once wanted desperately to be that girl in the magazines. I begged my parents to pay for overpriced runway and makeup classes at a modeling school 40 miles away. They finally gave in, knowing they couldn't dissuade me. The school's sales pitch sealed the deal. Surprisingly, I did get modeling work. The agent at the school had contacts, and I nabbed a modeling contract with a Tokyo agency for the summer. A year later, I hooked up with a reputable agency in Milan. In between, I earned decent cash doing very un-Vogue-worthy catalog and runway work. But it wasn't because the school's instructors taught me the right way to apply blush or turn on the runway. I just happened to fit the specifications required for the job at the time. 3

Barbizon is a Confidence School, not a Modeling School

Hi, my name is Ashley & I graduated from Barbizon and it changed my life. When I started out I was very shy and also very down on myself. Barbizon helped me to straighten out my life and see my potential that I had.

Not only did I graduate with Most Improved Award but I graduated with a bunch
of people who were not just my classmates but they were like my family. They were friends who believed in me. This Modeling Organization is like no other; my teachers my friends and classmates changed my whole outlook on myself and my life.

Being up there on the runway makes you feel like you have power; it makes you feel like you are on top of the world and that you can do anything. I just wanted to let everyone know how Barbizon has touched my life as I hope it touches everyone else's lives across the states.

See also:


1. Tamar Wilner, " A Model Profession: The Hard Realities of The Modeling Biz," Metro Pulse, Jan. 15, 2002.
2. Ian Halperin, "Bad and Beautiful: Inside the Dazzling and Deadly World of Supermodels," (New York: Citadel Press, 2001), 161.
3. Liz Brown, "Learn to be a Model . . . or just waste your money," Willamette Week, Mar. 15, 2000.