Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Barbizon modelling and acting schools / IMTA talent search convention reviews by parents of aspiring models.

To Whom It May Concern regarding IMTA conventions:

My daughter was picked at an audition at Barbizon in Boston to go to the convention that the IMTA sponsors at the Hilton in New York this July.

They wants $4,000 for my daughter to go to classes in preparation for this convention.

What are your thoughts? My daughter is 14, is 5'9" tall, and thin.

Thank you for any info you have,

The company has a bad reputation, and it is arguably one of the worst. On one model scam watch website, it seems to have the most complaints.

Barbizon is a modeling school, but modeling schools are not necessary to become models and get contracts. Just ask leading agencies if they require modeling schools.

One person who paid and attended the modeling classes there said: "I learned nothing my older sister couldn't have taught me."

Another aspiring model who paid hundreds of dollars to Barbizon said essentially the same thing about what she was taught: "I could've learned all of that from my mom."

This was another complaint: "I spent $1,600 learning how to pluck my eyebrows and set a table."

Although Modeling Scams has received no complaints about them yet, another modeling site posted several complaint letters from parents of aspiring models and aspiring models themselves.

Regarding the IMTA modeling convention, a recent letter explained how they operate and how the scam works.

Modeling schools are considered modeling scams because they offer what is not required, charge extreme prices, yet offer no money-back guarantee.

One of the things they offer is teaching on makeup. From the corporate website: "Barbizon offers training in the skillful application of makeup."

A mother who made an online inquiry on behalf of her daughter received a forum response with the following observation: "As for makeup classes, the technique varies from each photographer, and each type of shoot. Modeling schools inevitably only teach two styles of makeup."

But, more importantly, don't professional makeup artists do the makeup for professional photoshoots, not the model?

Another thing they offer is teaching on how to walk. But modeling agencies can teach models how to walk if they are doing local or major fashion shows. It is not complicated, and it doesn't take long to learn. Besides, catwalk modeling is the least common type of modeling. Most models are going to appear in print, not on video or at catwalk shows.

One parent said her daughter was chosen to attend a modeling convention in New York. Barbizon said her daughter was one of the 32 students chosen out of 120 to attend because she had a good chance of getting a contract.

But after being at the convention for several days they found out everyone in the class had been asked to go, and they were even more shocked to discover: "Barbizon students paid twice as much as other schools to go."

This is a very common modeling scam technique: modelling companies pretending to be selective, claiming those who are chosen are a small or very small percentage, when in fact just about everyone is chosen.

"Needless to say it was a very, very expensive lesson."

She added: "The convention was also a waste of time. Out of the 2,000 contestants that attended, only a small handful received callbacks, and only a few were asked to sign contracts."

The bottom line is contracts. You always want to know how many and what percentage of modeling companies get contracts. Many of them will have at least a few success stories, but those are not really the main issues.

The main issues are:

Modeling conventions, like modeling schools, are also considered scams, because they offer what is not required, charge hundreds or thousands or dollars, and come with no money-back guarantee.

It would probably come as no surprise to see modeling schools forming partnerships with modeling conventions. Apparently this is indeed exactly what happens with Barbizon and IMTA.

They have different names, but they could just as easily be the same company. They work together. In fact, it has been reported aspiring models cannot attend an IMTA convention unless they have attended a modeling school like Barbizon: it is a prerequisite.

Interestingly, however, top modeling agencies do not require modeling school attendance, graduation, etc., to sign a model. It is not a prerequisite.

Scam modeling agencies and scam modeling photographers operate in a similar way to modeling schools and modeling conventions. The agency requires the aspiring model to use a particular photographer. But they don't say the agency splits the fees with the photographer. It is a hidden or concealed partnership.

You said you are in Boston. Boston is a large city with its own modeling agencies. Your best bet, since the information you provided suggests your daughter fits the modeling industry standards, is to visit the local modeling agencies. This could actually cost you nothing, but it would give you a clearer idea about your daughter's potential, and if she gets work through them, it would be near home, and she may not have to travel to work in another city.

At the same time you can bypass the Barbizons and IMTAs out there, and contact the big New York modeling agencies directly.

Simply cut out the expensive middlemen who offer no money-back guarantees.

To Whom It May Concern Regarding Barbizon and IMTA:

I'm 16 years old.

I have a few things to say about the letters I've been reading on this website.

First of all, modeling schools are not scams. Barbizon never said that their modeling school was required to get jobs. It not only exposes you to the world of modeling, but it also gives many people the confidence they need to succeed in life.

Before I went to their school of Wilmington, Delaware, I didn't know how tough being a model can really be. It takes a whole lot of work and dedication.

If I had just made my own portfolio and sent my pictures to agents like some of you suggested, I think that I (and anyone else who didn't know much about modeling) would be in for a rude awakening. I now know that modeling is a tough job.

Modeling schools also help you learn and practice good modeling techniques. They can give you that extra boost that you need to do well in modeling.

This is no scam. If you say modeling schools are scams, then you are saying that sports camps could also be classified as scams.

They both do the same thing: help you be better at what you want to do. Also, sports camps are not required to play on high school or even professional teams. They can cost a lot of money, too. So does that make them scams? I think not.

Another thing: I'm sure that there are hundreds and hundreds of girls and guys that go to Barbizon modeling schools every year. If it's all such a scam to get money, then why aren't there hundreds of postings on this website?

If you found out how many people who go their each year, and then looked at how many people were disappointed in it, I think that you would find that the people disappointed would make up a very small and almost insignificant percentile.

When I went this past summer, I loved it. I had so much fun, and I finally felt like I had an activity that I was actually good at. Also, since I can't play sports because of problems with my lungs, modeling seemed like a perfect thing for me.

Just because you had an unpleasant experience at your particular modeling school, it doesn't mean that all of Barbizon is corrupted.

I'm sure that there are people out there not qualified to be teaching classes there, but doesn't this happen once in a while in almost every occupation?

Rene, a girl who was in contact with the company over the phone, was told, "Honey, how do you expect to become a model with no training whatsoever?"

Barbizon is obviously unlikely to say their schools are required to become models, but if they are sneaky and they imply in phone calls, conversations, or advertising that school attendance is going to significantly improve your chances of becoming a model with a modeling career, there is a strong argument to say that is misleading advertising and therefore fraud.

A question was asked about the company in a public internet forum. Rene answered:

NO NO NO NO BARBIZON IS *NOT* FOR REAL! They are the greatest of great con-artists. Ok, maybe not to that extent, but let's just say they do kind of lie.

First of all, you do not have to PAY anyone to become a model.

Barbizon, aka, liars, cheats, etc., told me over the phone: "Honey, how do you expect to become a model with no *training* whatsoever? We professionals can help train you to approach agencies and the like."


They also has an agency, but you can't join it unless you complete the "Barbizon course."

All you have to do is go to an agency Open Call, and the agency, not the SCHOOL, will tell you if you have potential or not.

But if you want to learn poise, grace, and all that other stuff you won't really need, then go. Go to Barbizon, John Casablanca, and all that other $$ stuff.

If I sound hostile towards these schools, it's because I feel that they rip you off and steal your money.

I never attended a course in modeling and so far a couple of reputable agencies want to represent me.

Ford (which is one of the most prestigious agencies) told me: "You don't have to pay money to be discovered. Models are not made."

So don't let crappy old Barbizon make you spend thousands, and please don't let them eat away at your self-esteem by saying crap like, "You need us to make it."

You can do it on your own. Also, don't spend over $350 on a portfolio, because that's also a rip-off if you're just starting out.

In another internet forum a similar question was asked about the company. Ember responded, speaking about her niece.

Ember's niece, ironically enough, was not interested in Barbizon for modeling:

She had no interest in modeling... she wanted in for the make up and hair. That did not get too far with me. (Teen mags contain "how to" content and are less expensive.)

The finance issue may be more important to the parents and relatives. If they want their daughters or nieces to go to Barbizon, it makes more sense for learning about hair and makeup or to learn social graces, not for preparation to start a modelling career.

Ember's conclusion after conversations directly with the aspiring talent training school simply echoes what others have said: "It is an expensive lesson in learning to walk a certain way, and apply your make up a certain way. No real job leads or contacts there."

If Barbizon changed its name from Barbizon Modeling School to Barbizon Finishing School, it could go a long way to removing all the confusion.

Barbizon might be more useful to girls who already have contracts with modeling agencies. In other words, they could attend their finishing (modeling-related) classes after an agency has signed them. Of course with the approval of the agency, and if the modeling agency does not already offer the same training and preparation.

Confusion surrounding modeling schools probably originates from the understanding of how almost everyone qualifies for occupations. For most all jobs besides modeling, you have to prepare for the profession.

You go to school, university, or college, take classes or courses, graduate, receive a diploma or certificate, and then pound the pavement looking for work.

Not so with modeling. You don't have to go to school, university, or college, you need no formal education. You can visit a model agency, you don't need to bring any official documents, just show up.

Marie-Eve Nadeau just showed up. Once she was signed she went on to grace the pages of Glamour Italy and Vogue Japan, as well as starring in Coach and Cerutti Jeans campaigns.

Elle Magazine (Canada), which featured her as the cover girl of their March 2002 issue, reported:

It was love at first sight when then-16-year-old Montreal beauty Marie-Eve Nadeau walked into the Folio Montreal Agency. This month's cover girl was offered a contract on the spot. Two years later, Nadeau, who first appeared on the cover of Elle Quebec in 1999, is the hottest ticket going in the modelling world —hugely successful in Europe and North America.

What about the Barbizon success stories? Gina said she attended one of their schools. What did it do for her? She shared her experience and qualified her recommendation:

I went to Barbizon when I was 15, and believe it or not I still get work from them, but mostly just promo and trade show work, and only on occasion. Maybe 5/yr or so? (Just a guess there.)

Anyways, my take on the whole school thing is that it is there for confidence, but not for modeling careers. I learned quite a bit at Barbizon, but it definitely was not necessary for getting into modelling, and it isn't something I put on my resume.

But I did enjoy it, and for me personally I think it was good, because I was very shy and insecure, so it really helped me there.

I only recommend it if you just happen to have lots of money that you WANT to spend on something that can be a fun learning experience, but NOT if you think it will get you into the real world of modeling.

To Whom It May Concern:

While searching the web for the convention I am to attend in six months, I came across your reply to a mother with some questions about attending the Barbizon classes.

I found your reply totally untrue, for I am a Barbizon student, and the skills I learned there helped me so much that it is unbelievable.

Perhaps there are some students on the mainland who have had the training and did not enjoy it?

I have attended the classes in Hawaii and they are phenomenal. My family members have complemented me saying they have seen major improvements in my attitude, posture, and manners.

Also the information given in your reply about Barbizon teachers or whatever you thought they were, about the costs of convention, and they lying that they are a very successful agency is untrue to my experience.

I do not know about other auditions, but a worker of the IMTA itself came down to audition us. She also talked to my parents about the expenses and training costs.

So it was not Barbizon who auditioned me at all, but IMTA. But they still trained me for the audition. I'll tell you one thing, I would have never got accepted for the modeling convention if not for their training.

The "model walk" is NOT easy to learn. AT ALL. Barbizon teachers did an excellent job teaching us the model stance, walk, pose, half turn, etc., etc.

They even went out of their way to bring in past convention models (who are past Barbizon students) to help teach the lessons. (Whom also helped in other classes.)

I ask you, would those past students even consider coming back to a school to teach if they did not like the experience? No, they wouldn't. And to make it even better, they are volunteers.

You said: "But, more importantly, don't professional makeup artists do the makeup for professional photo-shoots, not the model?"

Yes, it is true, but how do you think you got the job? Through the audition, right? And you have to apply your own makeup for the audition. Your appearance is important for your first impression, right?

Well, if you have read this far, thank you very much. I am just defending my thoughts of my experience. I think that the money I spent to go to this school was well worth it.

I myself am only 12 years old, believe it or not, and I believe that you have totally misunderstood the Barbizon Modeling Agency.  AND Barbizon does find work for their students. If you did not know.



It is probably too early for you to be convinced about the Barbizon Modeling School because you have not come out the other side. You have not attended the IMTA convention and you have not been signed by a modeling agency.

I am not aware of anyone who attended the Barbizon Modeling School and said they did not like it. What they did not like was the cost and the results —or lack thereof —in their goal of being signed by a modeling agency.

The things you liked about the Barbizon Modeling School and for which you got complements are useful for your personal life but their value is questionable in the context of being discovered by a modeling agency.

Even if learning to catwalk was difficult for you and you received excellent instruction, it is unlikely to be the main criteria for being signed by a modelling agency.

Catwalking is not the most common type of modeling so it is not the centerpiece of a prospective model's evaluation by a modeling agency.

Regarding the difference between being auditioned or selected by IMTA for the convention or being selected by Barbizon for the IMTA convention, there is no difference.

You claimed you would never have been accepted by IMTA had you not been trained by Barbizon. Well, yes. And you prove my point: IMTA and Barbizon clearly have a business partnership which profits both of them.

Are you believing everything they want you to believe, and spending all the money they want you to spend?

I don't dispute grads of the school get work. The question I have is how many of them make more money through modeling than they paid for the school?

To Whom It May Concern:

I attended a Barbizon modeling school.

Barbizon was just a waste of my time and a waste of my money. I paid over $1,000.

I have learned that it is not necessary for you to attend a modeling school, or even a modeling scouting event like Model Search America, ProScout, BAM USA, and many more. They just want your money.

Yeah, they do put you in front of many top agencies in one spot, but it's not worth it, because most of the people who attend these seminars don't get signed.

And have you ever noticed that the seminars are never in your home city, it is always in another city.

What I suggest people do is look up some top agencies, use the Better Business Bureau, and find out how to submit your photos and contact info, and see what happens.

You do not have to pay any money to anyone just because they tell you they can make you a model.

To all of the people who are thinking of attending a modeling school, or going to a talent convention such as IMTA, you should think about it before you go to one.

God Bless and good luck to all of you,

To Whom It May Concern regarding IMTA Conventions:

My daughter has been through the Barbizon training, participated in IMTA, and has been "selected by NYMC" to attend a "showcase."

In regards to Barbizon, I allowed my daughter to attend Barbizon AFTER discussing the issue with several parents (personal friends of mine) who had allowed their children to attend Barbizon AND go to IMTA as a Barbizon actor or model.


Barbizon is a New Age charm school (and a quite expensive one, at that).

Here's what my daughter DID NOT get from Barbizon: a modeling or acting career.

HOWEVER, I went in fully knowing this, so it was much less painful for me than other "Barbizon parents" to whom I have spoken.

Here's what Barbizon DID DO for my daughter: she improved her conduct grades in school by two letters; learned to be civil and courteous to others; learned teamwork; learned table manners; learned how to stand, act, and present herself with dignity and respect; and that being beautiful was more than just how one looks on the outside.

To me, this was worth the money I spent on the school, plus she got some really cute pictures, and she had a fun time, and she made lots of new friends.

To Whom It May Concern:

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 Barbizon (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 Barbizon 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 (as Barbizon 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,

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 the Barbizon 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 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 or model school such as Barbizon 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.

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.

Redacted Info

Barbizon Modeling School Letters Index

Modeling Agency President Speaks Out Against Expensive Conventions, Calls Modeling Schools A Complete Scam