Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

To Whom It May Concern re Cleri Model Management:

I just found your website today and I wish I had found it earlier!

However, what's done is done, and we can only live and learn, and not repeat past mistakes.

My question is more of a "What do we do now?" because my daughter and I are truly at a loss.

First of all, she did attend one of the major modeling schools (much to my hesitation), but has not graduated, because I discovered early that they weren't really interested in promoting my daughter.

She was also "selected" to attend IMTA this past month (I had no idea the two companies were so closely linked!).

At the convention, she did receive three callbacks —two from agencies in Milan —and one from Cleri Models in New Jersey.

Well, after being burned TWICE, we are very hesitant to do anything else at this point.

The modeling school director is no help whatsoever; it would appear he knows very little about the actual modeling business.

Upon returning home, we did call Cleri Models, and they said they were very interested in signing our daughter.

Our hesitation comes from having to shell out more money to get her signed with Cleri.

IF this is standard procedure for ALL agencies, then we would do so without hesitation.

Could you please tell us if the following are normal procedures for ALL agencies/models?

Basically, we would pay to fly out to NJ, pay for hotels, and pay for yet another photo shoot ($750). While there, we would sign a contract as well.

My husband especially is hesitant to shell out additional money at the risk of my daughter not getting paid work.

IF Cleri wants us to fly out there and do a photo shoot, are the chances pretty good that they will promote my daughter (since our current school has NOT)?

Do you know anything about the reputation of Cleri Models?

I so appreciate your taking the time to read and answer my questions. We really do not want to throw additional money out the window, but at the same time we want to support our daughter in her dream of modeling.

Thank you,

Modeling Scams Response:

Cleri Models does not appear to provide much information. There is no website at, although the web address has been registered.

The domain was in fact registered about two years ago, but there is no indication there ever was a website at their address.

The registrant appears to be the people you contacted, because the name is unique and the street address of the registrant is in NJ.

So why is there no website? It does not cost much to put up a website and it does not take long. All top modeling agencies now have websites.

There is apparently no information about Cleri Models in the BBB website files. If this is the case, why it there no information? Most modeling agencies are at least listed in the BBB.

If all that does not leave you with doubts, you need to get more information before you spend another dime.

You need to know how long Cleri Models has been around. You also need to know how many models they represent, how many of their models get work, and how much they get paid. You will also need references and then call the people they say are their clients.

If you have to fly to meet them, it begs the question, why did they say they want to represent your daughter? Because you will pay them $750 for photos, or because they can actually get her lots or work, enough to justify continuous travel expenses and pay for the photos?

There are scam modeling agencies which like long-distance models because they can get their money from photos and keep them at arm's length, so to speak, ignoring them after they get their money.

You may want to ask "Cleri Models" for the basic information or put these people on ice until you have contacted and sent Polaroids to the top agencies in NY.

It will not cost much (Polaroids + stamps), and you have nothing to lose from shopping around. Those who do not shop around starting in the modeling industry often end up scammed.

The other thing you need to figure out is if working with Cleri Models will be cost effective. If you are not living in a major modeling market, and they find her work, but you have to keep flying to work, will the travel expenses offset your daughter's earnings modeling?

Presumably we are talking about flights for you and her, not just her, unless she is old enough to fly on her own.

Some of a modeling agency's clients could pay the travel, but if they have the choice between a model who is near, i.e., in their city, and a model from out of town, unless there is a significant difference in the look to help their cause, who do you think they will pick?

Location is a significant issue which should not be overlooked if you want to think through all the issues and make the best possible decisions.

If you can get the interest of a top NY agency, after sending in Polaroids, and then your daughter were to be signed, and get work, the amount of work she could get or the earnings from that would make travel feasible and not really an issue.

Cindy Crawford was able to commute to Chicago where she worked as a model when she was in high school. But she drove. It sounds as if you are too far from NJ or NY to commute by car.

Another issue, perhaps, is timing. Is your daughter going back to school soon? It would probably make more sense to think about starting with a new agency many miles away at the beginning of a summer break, not at the end. Teen models do work when school is out.

Since you apparently were already burned and lost thousands of dollars, it might be better if your next moves focused on what is low risk, low expense, or free, and most reliable. At this point there is nothing about Cheri Models which seems to suggest it is any of those.

You could start with modeling agencies which pose the least risk, have the lowest expenses, and are most reliable, and then work from there to the higher risk, more expensive, and less reliable.

If you say nothing much to Cheri Models, you don't have to burn your bridges. Perhaps just consider getting back to them after you have finished shopping around.

Go International, a modeling agency that apparently lives up to its name, placing models internationally in the fashion capitals, offers solid advice on its website. They have nailed several scams and say they recommend one book to everyone new to the industry. You may also find it helpful. It's called: The Wilhelmina Guide To Modeling by Natasha Esch. She used to be the president of Wilhelmina, one of the top 10 agencies.

It sounded as if you said you were willing to go with an agency which would promote your daughter. That could be a reaction to your past experience. Just because an agency says it will promote a model does not mean it will, and even if it does, that does not mean they will be successful.

The key issue is first and foremost the success rate. You want to know the performance record. Ask to see lots of tear sheets. These prove the models get work. Talk does not.

On the subject of how to get started, there is a chat transcript you may want to read: The chat is between parents of aspiring models, aspiring models, and the President of one of the top NY agencies. Joel Wilkenfeld of Next Model Management was asked many questions and answered most, ducking very few.

Since you asked the same question and he answered I'll include it here:

Q: How do you make sure a talent agency is reputable?

Joel Wilkenfeld: By checking with the clients —you can call them. Find out who clients use in the area or recommendations from friends. A legitimate agency does not charge money to be a model. You may pay for some test pictures, but it won't be more than $300 dollars for the entire shoot and everything.

One thing about Cleri Models that sounds odd is it appears as if they want to build a portfolio to promote your daughter for $750, but they have not even done any test shoots.

Whatever you do, be careful about signing a contract with an agency about which you are not totally comfortable.

If the contract is exclusive, and the agency turns out to be lame or bogus, it may get in the way of your daughter finding real work.

Some contracts are for three years; three years in the modeling world is a long time. It could make the difference between a modeling career and no modeling career if you, for example, get a three-year exclusive contract with a weak or scam agency, and your daughter signs when she is 17, and has no prior experience modeling.

Parent responses back:

I just wanted to let you know that, because of your reply to me, I did further investigate our situation. Had I not heard back from you, I probably wouldn't have been motivated enough to truly seek out the answers I was looking for.

I actually called some of the top modeling agencies in NY, including Ford, IGM, DNA, Elite, etc. They ALL told me that they never require money for a photo shoot up front and to be wary of any agency that does. That's the answer I was looking for!

So, I again wanted to thank you for taking the time to respond to me personally. I imagine you get thousands of emails from anonymous people like myself. The fact that you would take the time to answer a perfect stranger's question speaks volumes.