Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

John Casablancas Modeling School - Concerns, Complaints

To Whom It May Concern:

I am glad I came across this site. I fortunately have friends who were in the modeling industry who gave me a lot of good tips on avoiding situations like these.

But there are some details, such as agencies who want you to use their photographer, etc., that I didn't know about, and some problems I ran into as well.

In the past I went to auditions for John Casablancas with my mom, who also was a single parent. (I really feel for the lady with the three kids and the bad car.)

We had the same thing happen to us. I was so excited that they wanted me, but then my hopes were crushed because we couldn't afford it.

I am now 23 and on my own (well, married), and I tried going back there to see if they would sign me with their agency without the school, since I have some experience now.

I told one of the scouts that I was aware that modeling schools aren't needed to be a model, and that if they really could get work for me that I could just sign with their agency without the training for $1,600.

She just said in a condescending way: "Well, good luck then," and made the motion for me to leave.

Every time I have had any contact with the scouts, they were all so snooty, and treated you as if you were nothing because you couldn't afford them.

I never, ever will go to an audition for John Casablancas again.


To Whom It May Concern:

My son was approached by John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center here in Atlanta, GA.

I'm very concerned because they are charging $1,750 for training (one-time cash fee) or $2,107.95 if we make payments.

We decided to do the payment at an 18% interest rate, meaning our payments will be $128.53 a month.

We also had to pay $280 up front for books and $100 for supplies and $180 for registration fees.

They said because he is new and has never modeled before he needs training. The training is for five months every other weekend. During these five months there will be 20 Sessions.

John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center also told me that they own Elite Model Agency.

Today I called Elite and they said that they were no longer owned by John Casablancas. This is another reason why I am concerned.

I also called other agencies today just to see if they would be able to use my son. Everyone told me that my son is far too short: he is 15 and 5'3." They said that as a 15-year-old he is considered an adult.

So if he is too short for everyone else including Elite, how can John Casablancas use him?

Can you help me with some of these questions?

Do you know anything about this model agency? Do you think that is too much to pay for them to train him? Elite also said that they didn't charge their models anything to be trained.

Concerned Mother,



It is good to read you did what many others never did. You called the right people to check out the company's claims. Calling not only Elite but also other modeling agencies was a good idea.

Your last comment is really all you need to know: "Elite also said that they didn't charge their models anything to be trained."

Here you have one of the leading modeling agencies in America and the world producing the top models in the world and they don't make them pay for training. There is a clue in there somewhere.

You don't have to pay for training to get signed by a top agency or to become a top model: I wonder if John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center teaches their students this fact during the first class!

You said: "John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center also told me that they own Elite Model Agency."

This is not true and never was true. If anything the exact opposite was true. John used to own Elite (he started Elite). Then he started modeling schools. Then these schools were franchised. So they used the John Casablancas name, but he did not really own them.

There are still lots of JC franchises all over America. How many of them try to milk the name for all it's worth?

The problem with the John Casablancas Modeling and Career Centers business model is a clear and significant conflict of interest which puts every consumer at financial risk. This is why there are laws against this sort of thing in some states.

John Casablancas Modeling and Career Centers are effectively paid up front to get as many people as possible to sign up for classes.

But this is in fact the exact opposite of how the modeling industry works. Agencies are not paid up front and only make their money by commissions, not classes, and this includes Elite.

The BBB said most agencies are like Elite: they do not charge for classes.

JC is likely to be overselective in their recruiting of students for classes, because they are paid up front. Your son appears to be the result of overselecting by JC.

I'm afraid Elite and the other agencies are correct about your son. He is far too short for a male model and too short even by top female model standards (at least 5'8").

If you have concluded your son is not model material, just by the industry standards for measurements, not looks, it would make sense to try and get your money back, wouldn't it? Or at least stop further payments and the bleeding of your bank account.

Why don't you call JC and tell them what Elite said. See how they try to get their way out of that! Tell them they can call Elite themselves if they don't believe you. Provide the phone number if they don't have it.

You can even say several other modeling agencies said the same thing as Elite. (Maybe JC needs to go to a class which explains the measurements of people who are model material.)

That fact in and of itself should lead them to grant you a refund. If they do not, however, present the same facts to the BBB, and register a formal complaint against JC.

You could also add you were misled into believing John Casablancas Modeling and Career Centers own Elite.

You know you should ask JC one question: if Elite in New York does not charge its models for classes, and gives them training free, what is it that JC classes offer which Elite does not offer which is so important and so valuable that it costs $1,750?

Your last question was: "Do you think that is too much to pay for them to train him?" If all the others like Elite do not charge for training, anything more than free is too expensive.

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Thanks for all your help.

I contacted John Casablancas last night before I received your email. I canceled the agreement and was told to write a letter and send it in.

Then the director called me back and told me to stop payment on my check, because it might go through. He said it was out of his hands, that he had sent it to the corporate office. Anyway, I did the stop payment and I'm faxing the letter today.

Thanks again for all your help.


To Whom It May Concern:

I agreed to take the classes with John Casablancas, being too excited about what they were telling me to look past all of the fancy pictures hanging in the office.

I took classes at a modeling school when I was 12 years old, and it never amounted to anything.

Then I moved to another state and immediately looked for agencies.

I found out that John Casablancas was having an audition and I went.

I got called back, but they told me I wasn't "agency ready," so I should take these classes.

So I started the classes, and I started making the payments ($100 a month for 15 months, $1,500 total).

But after I took a few of the classes, I realized I knew all of the information.

I am 18 years old, and I am in school for Skin Care, and these people are telling me how to do makeup and wash my face —and I am paying them? No thank you!

Is there any way that I can get out of it? What can I do?

Please help.



I think someone already said they pulled out of the classes.

You'll have to review the terms and conditions of whatever paperwork you signed. It is probably not a contract like a model contract with an agency, but you still need to read it carefully.

You may just have to say, "I have realized these classes aren't for me." People must drop out of there classes, from time to time, because they get sick, or for whatever reason.

You appear to be in the fortunate position of not having paid $1,500 up front, so they don't have your money. Also, you have paid for what you have received, so you are not in debt, right?

Hopefully, they will be reasonable and let you quit. But if they are difficult, what can they do if you stop going? If it can't affect your credit rating, it may be easy to quit.

You can continue on your search for an agency. Find an agency, not a school. Find an agency that does not charge you for classes, but trains its models FREE!

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To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to find out what I can do about getting my money back from the John Casablanca School.

We went in for what they call an "interview," but in reality it was a sales presentation.

I was led to believe that this package that we were paying for was to include my daughter's makeup package, professional stylists, licensed instructors, teaching, and her portfolio.

After the presentation, I told them that it sounded good, but I would have to discuss it with my daughter's father, and we would let them know in a couple of days.

She said that they had to sign up right then to save her a spot in the class, because it was filling up fast.

So I gave her my credit card and she held the payment for a day, i.e. until I could talk to her father.

During most of the class time all they did was play, and most of the instructors, if not all, were not licensed.

The makeup package that was included consisted of a dresser full of used makeup that everyone shared. That is very unsanitary.

A lot of the classes on the syllabus were not even taught.

Then I get a phone call towards the end of her schooling, telling me that my credit card payment was lost, and now I have to come up with $175 for that.

They were supposed to graduate around the end of August, and here it is November, and they still have not graduated.

I felt I was very pressured into this and my daughter was cheated. What can I do?



You said: "I felt I was very pressured into this."

Saying there are almost no places left, or there is only one place left, and you need to reserve a spot immediately or risk losing the opportunity entirely is an old sales trick. It is already on the list of warning signs.

You also wrote: "We went in for what they call an "interview," but in reality it was a sales presentation."

Just about all the firms which want upfront fees are salesmen and women looking for a quick sale to get fast money and they apply hard sales pressure to get you to make a financial commitment.

You said: "I am writing to find out what I can do about getting my money back."

The chances of getting your money back could be determined by a few issues, such as whether you received the services for which you paid, or whether you received the services but they were poor. It is more difficult to get a refund if you actually received the services, even if they were poor. Quality is subjective.

You said: "I was led to believe that this package that we were paying for was to include my daughter's makeup package, professional stylists, licensed instructors, teaching, and her portfolio."

Was there any misrepresentation? The things you paid for which you did not receive, from the sound of things, were licensed instructors and teaching on the syllabus.

When they represented to you there would be licensed instructors, was this in writing? If not, it could be difficult to make a case against them. But if they have not fulfilled the requirements of teaching what was on the curriculum when you paid, you have a case to present to them when you ask for your money back.

You said they still want $175. Since you want them to return your money, it's probably not a good idea to give them any more even if at the risk of not graduating.

After all, what is the graduation worth at the end of the day if the teaching was poor and the instructors not licensed and the JC certificate is worth nothing in the real modeling world?

You may want to consult the BBB in your area to get your money back if your own efforts working directly with JC do not achieve the desired result. They can help consumers up the ante with their formal complaint and dispute resolution service.

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To Whom It May Concern:

I was thinking about taking John Casablanca classes. The lady at JC said I'm guaranteed a contract after I graduate from the classes.

Do you think this a good thing, or is it what the agents basically tell everyone?

I need help before I make a big mistake and go broke.



It sounds as if you figured it out. It is certainly possible the agents tell everyone there is a guaranteed contract waiting for them at the end of the school.

It looks tempting when people want to get signed with an agency, but that contract does not mean anything if there is no work waiting for you once the schools ends.

There may be a guaranteed contract but there is no guaranteed work. You can have all the training in the world, but if the clients do not select you, the training is in vain.

There is a conflict of interest with upfront fees. JC really like their upfront fees. But you don't know if you can believe them, because they are paid to tell you whatever so you will pay them.

Agencies do not normally charge models for training. So if there is a conflict of interest and you can get the training you need free, why pay?

Shop around, and see what else is out there. See if you can find local agencies which do not have upfront fees.

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To Whom It May Concern:

As a graduate of John Casablanca's, I can attest to the scam. I was first "scouted" when I was a senior in high school, after attending Manhattan Model Search.

I went to an interview at one of their agencies with my mother shortly thereafter. I was really excited, but when I heard about all the money I would have to shell out to take classes, I got skeptical.

My mom said she felt the same way, but if it was something I really wanted to do, she would help me with payments.

I decided that even though it had been my dream to become a model, I thought the whole thing was a bad idea.

Several years later, when I was a senior in college, I kept seeing and hearing ads for John Casablanca's.

Basically forgetting about my previous experience with them, I decided to contact their local agency for more information.

Again I went in for an interview.

Realizing that my dream might slip away completely, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for the classes.

Since I couldn't pay for it all up front, I did a payment plan in which I ended spending about $2,000.

That was money wasted in my opinion. The classes were a joke. The teachers didn't seem to have a clue about what they were teaching.

As for work, I never really got any jobs through the agency. The job hotline never seemed to have jobs for which I could even attempt to apply.

Right now I'm working on a virtual resume and head sheet, as well as cold calling other agencies to get more work, and getting tips from fellow promotional models with whom I have worked over the years.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have saved my money and used it for more appropriate things, like paying for my college tuition.

I hope my story will let people know how true this scam is and keep them from making the same mistake I did.



To Whom It May Concern:

I am 15 years old and want to be a model, so a couple months ago, I went to one of those John Casablancas "Open Calls."

Afterwards I was approved to go to the Model Convention to meet with "top" agents. Of course this wasn't free and it cost about $800.

My parents were thinking of paying, but in the end I decided to wait and see what else is out there.

A couple days ago, I got a phone call from John Casablancas. I went for an interview and I am supposed to go to Columbus, OH, for a second interview.

Now I don't know what to do. If I will pass the second interview, then what is next? Are they going to offer me classes?

Please tell me about John Casablancas and what should I do. Should I go? I live in Indianapolis, IN, so there aren't many possibilities out here.

My parents believe in me, but I don't want to disappoint them with a scam agency/modeling school.



You wrote: "I got a phone call from John Casablancas."

If you got a phone call from John Casablancas himself, maybe you should go. If you got a phone call from a John Casablancas agency/school representative, maybe you should not go.

You asked: "Are they going to offer me classes?"

It is quite possible. You don't need them, or if you do, you can get them free. Elite apparently does not charge for classes. A recent letter about JC showed they were not selective, and failed to select according to industry standards.

To answer your question, where you go from here might depend on your measurements, and whether or not you meet the industry standards. You are at an age where if you do meet the industry standard measurements, and you have a look agencies want, you could get a lot of work.

So why not contact top agencies by phone to determine if you fit the criteria for the "timeless" measurements and the current look. If you pass the first test (measurements), they may ask you to send Polaroids (headshot, bodyshot) to see if you are the current look.

If they want you to model, even though you don't live in a major market, during the summer they might find work for you. If that happens, and you get a lot of work, you would probably have to move to NY.

Good luck!

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John Casablancas Modeling School Letters Index

Modeling Schools