Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Barbizon Modeling School - Model Search Concerns

To Whom It May Concern:

My husband and I just signed a contract with Barbizon for $1,895 ($495 deposit).

This is for our daughter to attend their school one weekend a month for six months. They say this is to get her ready for work in commercials, acting, and modeling.

Could you please let me know if you have any information on Barbizon Modeling? I hope we haven't been scammed. I wish I would have found this website sooner. Please let me know soon.

Thank you,

Redacted Info

I keep finding modeling agencies which try to distance themselves from modeling schools and prove they are reputable or legitimate by saying they are not modeling schools.

I read another one saying they do not run modeling schools yesterday. Here is that quote and several other examples:

Minx Models Modeling Agency: "VMH Models and Minx Models are not modeling schools and we do not require that you register in modeling classes or pay fees to be represented. We earn a commission on work that you perform through our agency."

Prestige Modeling and Talent: "We are not a modeling school and we do not offer any paid modeling classes at our agency."

Actors North West: "We do not charge a fee to talent for representation or for larger-market agency placement. We are NOT a modeling school, nor a photography studio."

VIP Management Model and Talent Agency: "We are not a modeling school, and do not try to sell training."

Dream International Models: "We are not a modeling school, but an International placement agency."

AD Modeling Inc.: "We are not a modeling school and we do not require you to register in any modeling classes or pay fees to have your portfolio posted on our site."

Ascension Models: "We are NOT a modeling school. Most modeling school graduates NEVER become paid working models."

Why do modeling firms say they are not modeling schools? Because modeling schools have bad reputations and the modeling school concept has a bad reputation.

Experts say you should not pay upfront fees. Modeling schools require upfront fees.

One person observed: "Barbizon is a modeling school and they profit when you sign up for their classes." So true. They haven't even done anything and they already have your money.

You really need to be clear about why you signed up your daughter for classes. Why did you sign her up?

Most people whose children went to a modeling school who wrote before you were basically pleased with the confidence it provided their daughters, etc., but most of them were basically not pleased with the fact they never got any work.

Therefore if your only reason for signing up is to get modeling work, get your money back and look elsewhere.

On the other hand, if your only reason for signing her up was so she could learn manners, develop confidence, and become more polished, it may be worth your money and her time to attend the Barbizon classes.

Joan Scholz, director of the Cleveland office of the Docherty Agency, which represents models and actors, said: "You do not need to go to a modeling school, but they have their advantages. It's a benefit for someone who needs self-confidence."

Cindy Crawford essentially says the same thing. She said modeling schools are misnamed because they are finishing schools.

There are modeling schools which are upfront and clear about what they are and others which are not, and instead they try to make it look as if they will be able to get the aspiring models work.

Some companies say their school is a "modeling school"; others say theirs is a "finishing school"; and others still call theirs a "modeling and finishing school."

The fact is you do not need to attend a modeling school to get modeling jobs. Cindy Crawford and other supermodels never attended a modeling school. How could they get signed with an agency without attending a modeling school? How could thousands of models get signed without attending or even graduating from a modeling school?

Simply because most aspiring models have enough self-confidence to model, the agencies do not require a certificate for representation, and the agencies teach their models the little they need to learn after they have been signed.

If your daughter wants to model, find a modeling agency, not a modeling school. Barbizon is very expensive. Indeed it could be the most expensive "modeling school." Representation by a reputable modeling agency, however, will not be expensive, it will be free; and so will the training.

For more comments about modeling schools from industry professionals see the link below.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I used to consider myself an educated type of consumer; however, since we have now been ripped off by Barbizon, IMTA, and most recently Options Talent, I guess I was wrong.

My teenage daughter wanted to do some modeling (she is on the tall side, very nicely built, and very pretty), so we contacted Barbizon.

She was invited to an open audition, and selected to take part in a series of classes. We were also told that the $1,700 we were spending would be all we had to pay Barbizon for life. They said she could return anytime in the future and take classes of all different types for no extra cost.

Having been familiar with Barbizon through a relative, we decided to sign her up with the idea that even if she never modeled, she would gain self-confidence, which she needed badly.

The classes were so badly taught that it took my intervention and phone calls to Toronto, Canada, to get the teacher changed and add extra classes to match the original schedule we had been given.

At the end, the models attended a "graduation" which cost a tremendous amount for us to watch, and we had to supply all the various outfits she "might" wear.

The graduation was a joke and a disaster; however, our daughter had learned poise, how to dress, how to properly use makeup, and gained a lot of confidence.

We were told there would be the opportunity to audition to be represented by Barbizon's own modeling agency, ICE, when they set up their local office.

Five months after graduation, they called asking us to allow her to audition for attendance at the International Talent and Modeling Association's (IMTA) upcoming convention in Los Angeles.

We had no reason to suspect that Barbizon seems to run IMTA, so we were thrilled and surprised when they selected her.

Along with her acceptance to attend IMTA, they were signing her up for representation by ICE.

We were told it would cost around $4,000 (airfare and the hotel were included in this plus special training from out-of-town persons in the business, and a photo shoot), but we could get sponsorships to defray the cost.

We traveled an hour every weekend for two months and then several times a week during the final weeks of preparation before the trip.

We had to supply all her clothing, including an evening gown, which had to be approved beforehand, and money for food. We also had to pay for comp cards.

We received very little sponsorship money, but I console myself by the fact that the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure she never would have had otherwise, and she was able to see relatives in L.A. she had never met before.

Within two weeks of her return, we were shocked to find that the Barbizon school at the location she had been attending was closed down, all employees let go, and there was no way to contact them.

We paid $25 for a video made on the trip, which we never received, and were left with a massive amount of comp cards on which were printed "ICE" which we couldn't use.

Suffice to say, if I had known then what I know now, I would have made some very different decisions.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I was a student at Barbizon of Olympia (Seattle); they put the classes in Olympia, because it was easier for the girls in my class.

Well, I am surely glad that my mom found this site as well as many others about Barbizon and their scams that they are running.

Barbizon charged us a down payment of $495 at the beginning of the classes; the total payment for the classes and the audition near the end was $1,895.

That's just crazy.

After my audition with two ladies, Dana West and Renee Eppers, I was called the following Monday and told that I was picked to go to a convention in L.A.

The price to go is $4,495!

My mom found this site on Tuesday night before we had to meet them on Wednesday.

So the next morning she told me all about the scam; needless to say, we didn't go to Seattle to meet with them; instead, we stopped a payment that was being sent to them to pay for the classes.

Thanks to your site and others, and, of course my mom for looking. We saved ourselves from paying $5,000 to go to L.A. and be taken advantage of even more.

Thanks again,

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

Can you please fill me in on this company? My twins have been accepted as models by Barbizon and now they want $1,500 for each of my daughters for six classes over a six-month period. Is this a legitimate company? Thank you for your assistance.

Redacted Info

Barbizon is extremely expensive. Being "accepted" means nothing, because Barbizon is not an agency. They are a school. Did they give you the impression they could get your daughters work?

Most modeling agencies teach their models free. Barbizon wants you to pay $1,500 for something you could get free, and they can't even get them work?

Furthermore, a certificate or graduation from Barbizon means nothing in the real world of modeling. There are no standards and there is no central education organization for the modeling industry.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

Right now I'm attending Barbizon, and I want to know if it's true that Barbizon is a rip-off.

I'm going to graduate next year, but now that I have been hearing this stuff, I really don't know what I'm going to do.

If someone could help me, I would really appreciate it.

Redacted Info

Have you already paid in full? What are the classes like? How many have you attended?

It's difficult to respond without more information, but if you have already paid in full, is it possible to cancel? Will you get your money back minus the amount for the classes you already attended? If you only pay by installments, what happens if you back out of the school?

Is it a ripoff? Only you can decide, because much depends on why you are attending the school, what you are getting out of it, and what you hope it will do for you.

One girl said she wanted to attend Barbizon to learn about hair and makeup; she was not in the slightest bit interested in modeling. Others attend Barbizon with little interest in learning about hair and makeup; they only want to become models. Others still want to learn social graces and develop confidence.

Whatever your purpose, to figure out if it is a ripoff, you would want to compare the program with alternatives and their prices. You can learn about hair and makeup in books and magazines, and learn about makeup at makeup counters free.

Also for free you can learn what you need to model at modeling agencies. Have you learned or can you learn social graces and develop confidence anywhere else? Or do you have a lot of confidence already?

The point is it's an individual thing. Everyone has a different background. There are teens, for example, who have more confidence than they know what to do with, they have good manners, they know enough about hair and makeup to teach others, and they have a great personality. They may find Barbizon redundant.

Each Barbizon modeling school is a franchise, which means there are different owners and different teachers. Some will be more experienced, more competent, more successful, and more ethical than others.

Still waiting to receive a message from a Barbizon student who had already signed up and was attending classes but went to modeling agencies on her own, seeking representation, got signed, learned whatever she needed to know free from the agency, started working, earned money, then went back to the class, stood up, and said, "I have not even graduated from this school, but I have already worked. I realize I don't need to be here. This is my last class."

Don't think for a minute you have to wait until the classes are over, you have graduated, and you have a certificate to prove it before you can approach one agency or as many agencies as you want seeking representation.

Barbizon can't say who is agency ready, because they don't represent every agency, and they don't know what every agency requires of models before they can get representation.

Now you need to be careful because apparently Barbizon sets it up to where they affiliate with one agency which conveniently requires its models to complete the Barbizon school and graduate before they will offer representation.

For that one agency, you will not get representation unless you successfully complete Barbizon. But if it is not the only agency in town, does it really matter?

You could project from this situation with one agency that all agencies require modeling school attendance and graduation if not through Barbizon then through some other school before they will offer representation. But this is simply not the case.

Find the agency you want to represent you first. Then find out what they want if anything before you can be represented. Don't start with a school; it is the wrong place to start. A school is not going to get you work; the agency can get you work, and they know if you are ready to work.

Redacted Info

Just a few days after you first wrote, in the Nov. 12 edition of the South Bend Tribune, there was a question and answer about Barbizon in Schaumburg, IL, exactly where you were not only a student but also an employee:

Q. My 15-year-old daughter is interested in modeling and has found Barbizon Modeling School & Agency in Schaumburg, Ill. The Barbizon group offers modeling training at what I consider a hefty price tag. Is there a way to find if they are a reputable organization?

G.R., South Bend

A. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the best advice when it comes to modeling schools is, "Save your money." Most of them charge $1,500 or more to take some photos and put your child through a few "finishing" classes.

Be wary of agencies that charge up-front fees. Legitimate agencies sign a model and make money by taking a cut of her earnings from assignments.

The mother who wrote the newspaper seems to be under the impression Barbizon is a school and an agency, since she called it "Barbizon Modeling School & Agency."

Since you worked for them, can you answer these questions:

1. Is the Barbizon in Schaumburg, IL, not only a school, but also an agency?
2. Do they have an agency license?

Redacted Info

The Barbizon in Schaumburg is affiliated with an agency. That agency is Royal Model Management. The agency only uses models who have graduated from the school.

The agency used to be run by Ann Emmrich, and she was fantastic. She used to get very credible work with companies like JCPenny's, Kohls, Coca-Cola, etc.

People (including me) did a lot of print work out of her office. Barbizon didn't really have anything to do with getting the jobs —the agency did.

Ms. Emmrich often battled with Barbizon about their ethics. Barbizon recommended shady agencies and managers in California (I am assuming they got some sort of commission or deal for this).

For example, they recommended one manager in Los Angeles that essentially left a 13-year-old girl alone in Los Angeles with minimal representation and zero supervision.

When the girl's mother flew to Los Angeles to meet with the manager about her concerns, he blew off two meetings and never met with the mom. She ended up flying back home and leaving her daughter in LA with nothing.

Ann often went to bat for models that were put in bad positions due to this sort of behavior. I am sure that she wasn't winning any friends, as a result.

Also, Barbizon was often pushing her to take more than her standard 15% from the models' paychecks.

The Barbizon in Schaumburg has other agencies that take 30% from each paycheck —15% for an agency fee —and 15% for a finder's fee. Ann refused to do this.

I am sure that I am only grazing the surface here. However, Ann Emmrich no longer directs that agency. I am not sure what happened to her (it is all very hush, hush).

At any rate, Barbizon got "one of their own" in the agency director position now; I wouldn't trust any work that came out of that office now.

Models are probably still told about the agency, but my guess will be that no work will come out of it. Just thought I'd let you know.

The mother that wrote to the South Bend Tribune will probably be told that Barbizon in Schaumburg is indeed affiliated with an agency. However, without Ann Emmrich to back up that claim, I certainly wouldn't trust it.

Barbizon in Schaumburg is also heavily involved with IMTA —beware! I could write another huge testimony on the problems with that competition.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a former graduate and employee of the Barbizon Modeling School in Schaumburg, IL. Having been both student and an employee, I can verify that the school is a total waste of money.

I paid $800 for my lessons back in 1996; I know that the school now charges more like $2,000 for the classes.

I am writing this letter after several years of denial. I have never been one to burn bridges, so I always tried to look on the positive side. However, there is just no denying any more that Barbizon is a total scam.

I was fortunate enough to have an excellent instructor who had great contacts. I did get A LOT of work after I graduated. I did print work for Haughton Mifflin and a ton of hair shows.

I always got paid at least $80/hour or $500/day. I was working 1-3 days/week. I knew that this wasn't going to make me rich —but it definitely paid for some college courses.

My point in disclosing my success isn't to brag, but hopefully to give me some credibility to anyone who might read this.

My main point is Barbizon didn't get me ONE job. My training with Barbizon didn't get me ONE job. Yes, Barbizon does teach makeup and runway. However, I have NEVER, EVER had to do my own makeup at a job.

And, furthermore, when you audition, people don't want you to wear makeup. Girls that have on too much makeup are asked to either wash it off or leave.

As far as runway goes, you would be better off watching models on the runway and copying their moves. Rent a movie like "Gia" that features a lot of runway, and then copy it in front of a full length mirror until you get it.

Also, what Barbizon doesn't tell you is that runway shows are generally CHOREOGRAPHED!! That means that you need to be able to copy what someone wants. You are better off not getting stuck in one particular style. You would be better prepared by practising a variety of styles, so that you get used to mimicking what a choreographer wants.

All of my success as a model (and I would say I am a success story from a small market point of view) came from practice. The best thing to do is go on as many auditions as possible. Part of learning to be a model is learning to audition. So the more you audition, the better you get.

Furthermore, when you get a job, watch everything and learn. I learned to do makeup from watching the artists that did mine at every job. I perfected runway from watching other girls.

I also worked for the Barbizon in Schaumburg. When you work for the company, however, you see a whole new side. It was this experience that finally convinced me that it is a total scam.

Until then my only experience had been with the classes I took. Back then the classes only cost $800 and I had a great instructor. True, Barbizon didn't get me any work. However, I always felt that my instructor had been great and she did a lot to boost my self-esteem.

My instructor was also a working model and actress. When she was offered contracts in Los Angeles, and turned in her resignation, the owners of the Schaumburg Baribizon actually tried to blackball her.

They called the agencies in Los Angeles and told them that she was an addict and a bunch of other lies just to keep her from moving. They also tried to tell her that the agencies which wanted to sign her were fraudulent (pot calling the kettle black!).

Just to support her side, she is a stable mother of two and she was offered a contract with Matthau Incorporated. That agency is run by Walter Matthau's son. Hardly a fraudulent agency!

When I was working as an instructor, they refused to pay for ANYTHING. I was required to put on a fashion show and a graduation with NO budget.

I was told to get money from the students. I couldn't believe that. My students were already paying $2,000 to attend the school, and now they were being told that they would have to pay for the fashion show and graduation as well.

I just couldn't bear to do that to the students. I had 75 students who were paying $2,000, and I only got paid $500 per class for six classes.

When I was teaching, Barbizon was taking in an astounding $150,000 in tuition (for just my class), and paying $3,000 to me.

Now, keep in mind that the Barbizon in Shaumburg has about 30 classes going at any given time. That makes for $4,500,000 every six months or $9,000,000 per year in tuition.

That also means that they are taking advantage of 4,500 students PER YEAR.

Now maybe you are thinking that it is worth the $2,000 to get lessons from an experienced instructor. Think again. I was an exception. Most modeling instructors at Barbizon are former students that couldn't make the grade. That's right, they are former students that weren't able to get any work as models so they teach.

They are told to lie so that the students and parents won't figure out that they are clueless. Also, the Barbizon in Schaumburg does not even have a complete curriculum to give the instructors. So many teachers just make up the class as they go.

I also worked on the recruiting end of Barbizon (once again the recruiters are people who couldn't get any real work). When I did the recruiting shows, the "talent scouts" would make up jobs that they had done in the industry. They would claim to have walked the runway in Milan, etc. This was all crap.

No model who has ever been successful enough to walk a runway in Milan is going to come back to be a "talent scout" for Barbizon at a Holiday Inn. Girls who are that successful in the modeling industry go back and work for reputable agencies, and they don't need to recruit. They hold open calls out of their office.

Furthermore, those girls get a bonus for each student that enrolls in their courses. They get $100 for each student they enroll. So basically, the more students that sign up, the more money they make. So everyone gets in to the school. The whole "audition" process is really a sales pitch to get you to pay for the classes. There is no audition —if you can pay, you get in.

I could go on and give more examples, but hopefully, this has already gotten through to the readers. These people do NOT care about the students. It is a total scam. All they want to do is make more money. I am sorry that I didn't see through it faster.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I'm a 16-year-old girl that just recently graduated from Barbizon on Long Island. I was not completely satisfied with this school at all.

First, the school took place in a conference room in a hotel and it was very unorganized.

Secondly, at the very first interview the women made it clear that after graduating from Barbizon we would have pictures to start our portfolio at no cost; however, this was not written on any papers; we all fell for it.

Tuition costs about $2,000. Out of that I got a $2,000 bag with a set of brushes and a book we opened twice. Photoshoot came... we find out that in order to get our promised comp cards it's $300-$600 more.

Finally, the promised professional graduation ceremony did take place in a conference room that only fit 200 people when each graduate was allowed to bring 15 people; 40 grads together from two classes is over 400 people.

In my opinion Barbizon is definitely not worth all the money. I have been researching professional photographers and you get so much more out of their work for less than what Barbizon charged. (Great website for photographers:

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a former Barbizon Graduate.

When I went to the open call they said that not many girls would make it and that only a select few make it but that is b/s. Everybody that was in that open call made it. Even a girl with a prosthetic leg would have a high chance of making it as well.

So that goes to prove that Barbizon makes it seem like their agency, school or whatever it really is takes only "the best." They accept everyone because they need money.

For example, one of my friends who is only 12 years old and has no experience whatsoever has just landed a contract with a top modeling agency, and now she is going to do an ipod commercial for about $27,000.

Now Barbizon says that you must have training to be a model. Ya, right!

And another thing. How come they don't have any specifications for models who want to be in their agency? Simple, they don't really run an agency.

What they do is make innocent people who want their kids or themselves to become models pay up first a fee of $150.00 for what I really don't know. Then they make you pay up to $1,695 for classes, and, yes, they guarantee that your child will become a model at the end of his or her training duration.

They even give you packets that supposedly show how many of their socalled students received jobs after training and graduation. They inflate everyone's head with the idea that you are the best and if you don't do Barbizon, you're going to regret it. Not true.

They're everywhere, fashion malls, beauty pagents, teen magazines, etc., to hook these girls that don't know better. To groups of teenage girls roaming through the malls they say: "You are the look that Barbizon is looking for" or "Have you ever considered modeling?"

Some walk away while other unfortunately stop by their booth to get the information to transfer on to their parents. Since parents don't want to be a dream-breaker, they are going to drive their kid to the open call and maybe in some cases get them a new outfit so that they can impress the agency directors.

When I began to take my classes at Barbizon, I didn't feel comfortable at all. Personally, I disliked my modeling coach. She was very mean to me especially because my walk wasn't as great as the other girls, or my shoes weren't always the right ones.

I spent so much money on their stupid classes that I couldn't even buy shoes that were appropriate for runway classes. The makeup classes are the worst. They make you seem like an alien if you have any sort of skin problem such as acne. I was dealing with a very cronic case of acne and they are supposed to boost your confidence when they made me feel like crap.

They were very stingy with the makeup so you would literally get a drop of foundation and concealer and have to use their crusty, used makeup that probably had expired.

In the contract it clearly stated that everyone was to receive a makeup kit. No one did because the rules changed. All you get is a bag with the Barbizon logo. Wow, I feel so special.

So you really had no other choice but to buy makeup. I react to makeup when worn a lot so they would make us put it on every other Saturday so I would literally break out in rashes and pimples which made my face look so nasty and my coach didn't care.

Well, enough with Barbizon. I am currently going to another modeling agency that has way more opportunity for me. I hope this Barbizon nonsense will stop. I think that if you have money to burn and you're not looking forward to getting any work, do Barbizon; it's the thing for you. But if you're going through some kind of financial issue, Barbizon isn't for you. You might as well go to a photographer, make a portfolio and send them out to various agencies. It's way cheaper than spending six months in some low-budget "modeling school."

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to know about Barbizon modeling. My daughter was accepted there, but I am a little worried about it. I have a bad feeling.

She is supposed to start on Saturday, but they want money up front. Like about $2,000 for 48 hours.

If you could please let me know what you think, I would appreciate it.

Thank you,

Redacted Info

Your bad feeling is probably right on the money. Barbizon is not an agency. If you go to an agency, they will train you free. (Most agencies do that, says the Better Business Bureau.) Why pay $2,000 when you can get it free?

Redacted Info

Just wanted to thank you for the info. I am looking into modeling agents for my daughter. She is so pretty. I'm sure she won't have a problem finding an agent.

Thanks again,

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

My daughter just graduated from Barbizon modeling school.

For the graduation they gave the wrong directions to this country club. Everyone was so disappointed in being late.

Then we found out the place did not even have a runway. This was the focal point of the evening. The girls had to walk on top of tables that were put together.

Every girl was scared to walk on that so-called runway. The very first girl who came out slid and almost fell down in front of everyone.

The girls were pushed for time. They told everyone in the letter that it would take up to 1-2 1/2 hours for this graduation show. It took 1 1/2 hours.

When my daughter came out on stage, she was not nervous about being in front of people, but was so afraid of slipping on the so-called runway, she did not even look up for having to look down to see if she was going to fall.

When the cowgirl show came on, her group only had 10 seconds, when all the other girls had 30-40 seconds to show off.

When we first arrived there, the reps were so disorganized, it was terrible.

My daughter was so upset with the runway, she was crying when we left.

And you know what? We spent lots of money to have my daughter to cry at this graduation.

I figure that for $1,800 for 120 girls that graduated and then some, Barbizon could have chosen a place with a runway.

Barbizon sucks... don't let them fool you... keep your daughters in gymnastics or whatever they are doing.

Please do not make the mistake that we did, or if you should choose your daughter to be in modeling school, I would not choose Barbizon modeling school out of Tampa, FL.

If Barbizon school happens to read this letter, that's good. I sure hope they read it, and read it good, because I know that I am not the only parent who was disappointed.

Barbizon modeling school sucks!

Redacted Info

Barbizon Modeling School Letters Index

Modeling Schools