Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

John Casablanca's Modeling Schools (John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center)

* Tip: Audit a John Casablancas Modeling School class before you pay a cent.*

"Natasha Esch, president of Wilhelmina Models in New York, cautions parents against spending large sums of money on modeling lessons or big photo packages to their get children's careers going." -- Vivian Marino, "Not All Talent Scouts Behave Like Model Citizens," Los Angeles Times, Oct 26, 1994. pg. 9 [MORE]


Last fall, Bre-Ana Negrette invested nearly $1,700 for modeling classes at John Casablancas, but she quickly discovered she wasn't learning anything, said her mother, Nancy Negrette.

Bre-Ana was 12 when she persuaded her mother to let her use her birthday money and other gift money to purchase classes that she thought would train her for a modeling career. "They say you have to go through these classes before they'll even look at you," her mother said. "They're not going to hire someone who doesn't know how to pose, walk in front of a camera or read in front of the camera."

But after two sessions, the young girl told her mother that the classes weren't teaching her anything. Their contract required them to cancel in writing within the first five weeks, so Negrette sent her notice in the third week, she said. Having heard nothing from John Casablancas, she called and was told to send another letter. She said she did that and still didn't hear anything. She called repeatedly, she said and, after weeks, she finally got a return call from a company vice president, assuring her that she would receive a refund, minus the cost for the two classes Bre-Ana already had attended.

Seven months later, Bre-Ana, who is now 13, is still waiting for her refund, her mother said, and the young girl no longer mentions modeling. "It's sad," said Nancy Negrette, who filed a complaint in June with the Better Business Bureau. "I haven't really heard her talk about this since."

Allie Shah, "Not always a pretty business," Star Tribune [Minneapolis], Aug. 2, 2004. #Delete [Aug. 29, 2004] Google Cache


Elite model agency founder named in sex abuse lawsuit

Reuters - December 11, 2002

Jane Doe 44 v. Defendant Doe 1, BC286674 (L.A. Super. Ct., filed Dec. 9, 2002).

John Casablancas, founder of leading model agency Elite, has been named in a sex abuse lawsuit by an aspiring model who claims he made her pregnant at the age of 15, and then arranged an abortion -- all more than 15 years ago.

Casablancas, 60, whose Elite agency has represented supermodels such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, is accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

The plaintiff, whose name was not made public, is seeking substantial damages.

Lawyers for Casablancas said the allegations were fabricated and were confident the case would be dismissed.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, alleges that Casablancas began sexually abusing the girl in 1988 when she was a finalist in Elite's prestigious "Look of the Year" competition for fresh new faces.

The former model said she travelled with Casablancas to New York later that year when it was discovered she was pregnant by him. She alleges she was driven to a doctor's office and an abortion was arranged for her at the behest of Casablancas.

Former Teen-Age Model Sues Agency Founder

By Leslie Simmons - Daily Journal

. . .

Casablancas has long been in the public eye linked to various youthful supermodels, including Stephanie Seymour.

In 1993, the self-described playboy [then 49] married 17-year-old Elite model Aline Wermelinger, a Brazilian high-school junior who participated in Elite's Look of the Year contest in Rio.

Boucher said his client is filing suit now because she "thinks it's important that the public realize our young children have been victimized for many years in all segments of society."

He added: "It's time for all of us to step up and do all we can to protect our children from future abuse and molestation."

Boucher said he represents several other former models who may be filing similar suits in the near future.

John Casablancas is named in the class-action lawsuit by models who believe they were scammed by price-fixing. Casablancas is specifically singled out, quoted as saying, "there is no point doing it unless it is secret":

Defendants have claimed that this variation in pricing among models who earn different amounts reflects the absence of a conspiracy, but Defendants' own statements show that the opposite is true – when such discounts began, Defendants sought to conceal them from the models and from each other, so as not to be seen to be undercutting the standard rate. Thus John Casablancas of Elite was quoted referring to rates lower than 20% as follows: "Everybody does it. But there is no point doing it unless it is secret.

When we started we had telephones and nothing else. It was spooky. A few of the top girls got a . . . discount." (emphasis added) This kind of covert variation from a standard price is flatly contrary to what one would expect in a competitive market – and exactly consistent with the existence of an industry-wide agreement on prices that individual defendants might opportunistically violate to keep a particularly lucrative account.

Case No. 02-CV-4911


John Casablanca's training centers are modeling school franchises. There are many of them in most states across America. For many girls and their parents, the John Casablanca's modeling schools are the first thing they see as they look into starting a modeling career.

But what is the value of modeling schools? Do you need to go to modeling school to become a model? If you want to start a modeling career, are modeling classes necessary? If they are not necessary, how much difference, if any, will they make? Can they help a lot or are they virtually useless?

The person most qualified to speak on modeling schools or modeling classes is the president of a top modeling agency. Such a person knows exactly what is needed, if anything, to prepare a girl to be a model. Monique Pillard, as President of Elite Model Management, based in New York City, and one of the top modeling agencies in the world, said:

If [a girl] comes off the street into Elite and we think she has potential, she doesn't need to pay for classes. Somewhere down the line, she may take runway classes, which she doesn't pay for. We absolutely bear the burden. If a girl has talent and potential to become a model, of course, we help. It's a scam of [the model] paying $1,000 or $2,000. That's [expletive]!

-- THE IMPROBABLE DREAM, Robin Givhan, Washington Post, December 2, 1996; Page C1

Now the curious thing about this statement is that John Casablanca used to be the president of Elite Model Management. Indeed, he founded Elite. So how could it be that the founder and former president of Elite says or implies there is such great value of modeling schools that aspiring models should pay $1,000 to $2,000, and there should be many of them in America; then the subsequent president of Elite says modeling schools which cost $1,000 or $2,000 are a scam?

Something is not quite right here. How do you explain it? How do you reconcile the extreme difference of opinion? The contrast is astounding.


What is even more interesting is that JC Centers are known to say they are affiliated with Elite. Indeed, they have even suggested kids who attend a John Casablancas modeling school have an inside track to Elite Model Management, that is, a better opportunity to get representation with the Elite modeling agency.

It becomes part of the sales pitch, a key selling point to influence kids into spending a lot of money by signing up for modeling classes.

Meanwhile the president of Elite who succeeded John Casablancas himself has said modeling schools which charge $1,000 or $2,000 are a scam, and the Elite agency will accept new models who never attended a John Casablancas modeling school.


From the beginning some modeling schools are inherently deceptive. They are called modeling schools when they are in fact finishing schools. While the difference may be considered trivial, the reality is most kids would not spend $1,000 or $2,000 just to be "finished." They want to become models; they could care less if they learn manners.

If you were to conduct an experiment polling teen girls, asking them if they wanted to learn etiquette or become models, you will probably find the numbers weighted significantly towards modeling.

Furthermore, you would more than likely also find only a very small percentage would be willing to spend money simply for etiquette classes.

One consumer wrote in her observation that so-called modeling classes "turned out to be 'etiquette' classes." JC marketed the classes as modeling classes when they were etiquette classes.


John Casablancas modeling schools are known to violate industry standards which say new models should avoid paying for professional photography and avoid buying comp cards until they get agency representation.

Ironically, in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being A Model, the book about modeling which is endorsed by John Casablancas himself (his comment appears on the cover), specifically and emphatically warns against spending money on professional pictures before the model gets agency representation. Roshumba Williams is consistently emphatic about this basic issue.


Tell me if they are a scam or not. I just paid $1,725 to get my daughter into modeling school.


I attended John Casablanca's Modeling and Career Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and "graduated" in 2002. I would like to get my money back or at least some of it. They have not fulfilled their promises to get me into the [...] agency and I believe it was a big [...]!!! Can I do anything?

See also Consumer Complaints against John Casablanca's Modeling Schools (John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center)

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