Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

John Casablancas Modeling School - Opinions, Views

To Whom It May Concern:

I am 19 years old and I have been interested in modeling for quite some time. I did a Vera Wang trunk show a while back and really had a good time.

I really think I have what it takes to be a model, but I don't know where I should go to get jobs.

I have thought about sending in pictures for model searches such as Elite and Ford, but I thought I would try going locally to a John Casablancas.

I went to a John Casablancas open call the other night, and they gave me a call back. I am supposed to go see them again.

I really don't need a lot of classes and I won't put up with any of their b*** s***.

I did not know if you could recommend some place for me to go, or possibly what I should do. I don't want to sign a contract that would exclude me from other modeling opportunites.

Please help me.

Thank you,


P.S. I am located in North Florida.


At 19 it may too late to start thinking about Ford or Elite, since they seem to be most interested in new female models from ages 14-19, but you could still work locally, and, if you find local success, look at other options.

What you could do is decide what type of modeling you want to do, then find an agency which specializes is that type of modeling, or which gets its models the type of modeling jobs you want.

You can ask them how many models they represent, how many of them get work, and how much they earn, and which ones worked recently.

Then you can ask to see their work if it's in print (tear sheets), or ask to speak with them or their client references.

The basic rule of thumb is to check out all agencies within driving distance. You said you are in North Florida.

There is a website specifically for models in Florida which you could visit to find the names of modeling agencies in your region, and possibly ask for recommendations for the type of work you want to do.

The website's name is Florida Models; the website address is: They also have a section on Modeling Scams in Florida.

Good luck!

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I was called by John Casablancas/, and asked if I was interested in auditioning for's National Photo Tour.

I went to John Casablanca's and met with the Director, Deborah Knisley, in Atlanta, GA. The cost of the photo shoot is $595 and I received a $100-off coupon. 

The information I received told me that the photo session includes the following:

I have several questions, number one being is this a scam? 

I called Ms. Knisley back today and was told I was selected to go and that I was also going to be signed for one year with Model and Talent Management on a non-exclusive contract.

Which brings me to my second question:  If John Casablancas was truly interested in signing me with their agency and thought I would bring in money and get jobs, would they be asking me to front this money and go to this photo shoot?

I always thought that a modeling agency would pay for the portfolio or take it out of your paycheck from a job.

It also seemed they were a little too eager to get their money, and Ms. Knisley told me that I have one day to decide and pay if I want to do this, as the photo tour is this weekend.

I also asked if they guarantee me a certain amount of auditions during this one year contract, and was told I couldn't be guaranteed anything, as they don't know what I will do, that there are always plenty of jobs for me to go to, but it depends on my flexibility.

I spoke with a friend who also happens to be a former scout for Eileen Ford. He is sketchy also.

What should I do?



P.S.  I went to the BBB site and was not found. According to Ms. Knisley, this site is the future of modeling, and has access and a relationship with over 700 agencies all over the world. Is a substantial site, and do major agencies go on to find girls?


The home page of featured an advertisement for a "National Photo Tour." The large graphic said: "Join Our National Photo Tour Now!" It included dates for two cities: Atlanta, GA, Nov. 8, 9, 10, 11; and Dallas, TX, Nov. 9, 10.

The "National Photo Tour" is simply a model search and photo shoot, all rolled into one. Professional photographers tour these cities and all they are doing is recruiting people to be "models" for their online comp card service. has the same service, purpose, and price as Trans Continental Talent( They recruit people to pay upfront fees ($595) to be on their website for the purpose of getting modeling jobs.

The only basic differences are professional photography is included in the package, and there is "representation" by a real-world modeling agency (MTM) packaged into the "deal."

Comp card websites are irrelevant. You don't need them and neither do agencies. The sales pitch of being discovered by any agency in the world is irrelevant. Agencies work with local talent.

Of the "700 agencies all over the world" you mentioned, probably 99.9% are irrelevant. Maybe more. The only ones which are relevant are the ones in your city and area which you could visit. So why don't you visit them?

Why would anyone want to put their picture on a website if they could visit the agency? This is very basic but somehow the idea is lost in the hype of marketing that speculates internet comp cards are "the future of modeling," or one particular website is "the future of modeling."

The same broken record has been played since about 1995. One company which made the same way-of-the-future claim and spent millions of dollars trying to prove it is a thing of the past: it quickly went bankrupt.

The fact of the matter is top agencies do not have time for websites. They receive so many and more than enough visitors to their agency and pictures by mail, they find lots of models, and they have neither the need nor the time to download and search for more models.

If any agencies do use the internet to find models, it is the insignificant ones, which are unsuccessful, new, or can only get models minimal low-wage work, if anything. Are these really the kind you want to find you online?

One common-sense approach to getting started in modeling is to find the agencies with the lowest prices and the fewest complaints. John Casablancas has a high number of complaints and it does not have the lowest prices.

What is ridiculous in the case of the sales pitch is professional photography after the work of professional makeup artists. Have you seen the image quality of photos on the website? They don't have the digital imaging skills to match the offline professional photos with online professional photos, so the makeup artist is virtually irrelevant.

Interesting how the MTM director tried to shirk responsibility saying they could not guarantee you anything and she turned the whole thing into your responsibility. You are the one who has to be flexible.

You said she claimed there would "always plenty of jobs" for you to go to. Really? Talk is cheap. Have you asked her what models they represent got jobs recently? How many jobs? How many did they try out for? How much were they paid? Have you spoken to their models? Have her claims been checked and verified?

Finally, to answer your question, "What should I do?" you should find a local agency which has found many of its models work recently of the amount, kind, and frequency that you want. Shop around.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I recently signed up at John Casablancas with my twin sister. We paid $3,000.

We heard from plenty of people that the John Casablancas agency is a scam. Is it?

We modeled previously for Model Scout and they took tons of money for us. Then we were asked to come in to John Casablancas and they told us that 85% of their models get jobs.

I start my first class today. What should I do? And is John Casablancas a scam!?

Thank you,



You said: "We heard from plenty of people that the John Casablancas agency is a scam."

You seem to be under the impression JC is an agency. Since you made reference to Model Scout, which is based in FL, presumably you are in FL.

FL requires every talent agency to have a license. The online talent agency license database, however, had no listing for a John Casablancas agency.

JC is a school, not an agency. You need to find an agency if you want to model, not a school, because schools can't book you, and most agencies train their models free.

You said: "They told us that 85% of their models get jobs."

This doesn't mean much by itself and most likely it was not substantiated. How do you know if they made it up? It's always worth getting verification of high number claims, and not assume what they are saying is true.

In any case, the percentage who got jobs is not as important as the type of jobs and the amount students earned.

If, for example, 85% got one job for two hours at $15/hr, you might earn $30, and still be over a $1,000 in the hole from your upfront fees paid to JC.

The real question is how many of their students earned more from modeling than they paid for classes. Even if the unsubstantiated number of 85% is accurate, the number who earned more than $1,500 could be 0.85%.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

I was looking for the John Casablancas website and came along to yours.

I have wanted to be a model all my life. I went to a modeling school once. Then I moved to Florida, and that's when I heard of John Casablancas.

I told them I had already taken classes somewhere else, but the person told me, "It takes more than a cute face to be a model."

That really lowered my self-esteem.

I moved back to Tennessee and came to the agency here. Basically, they told me I had to take classes but they would put me in advanced classes.

The problem is it costs way too much. I am 16 so I don't have a lot of money. I really want to be a model, but I know that that is not the way.

As far as I know John Casablancas is one of the best agencies in the world. I would love to be in their agency but don't have the money.

Everywhere I go people ask me if I am a model and say I should be one.

I wanted to know if you could tell me how to get into an agency without paying so much and if you could recommend any to me. It would mean a lot to me.

Please write back soon.




You said: "As far as I know John Casablancas is one of the best agencies in the world. I would love to be in their agency but don't have the money."

It looks as if you are confusing John Casablancas modeling schools with the Elite modeling agency. He used to own Elite in New York. That is widely considered one of the top agencies in the world. The modeling school is not an agency and it is not widely considered to be either topnotch or even necessary.

The modeling schools play up the name, and try to extract as much value as possible from the celebrity status of Mr. Casablanca, but the Elite agency and the schools are very different. They have different owners, different standards, different goals, and different practices.

Earlier letters said the career centers promote their association with Elite, but a published report ("Elite Model Agency Founder Named in Sex Abuse Suit," Reuters, December 10, 2002), said John Casablancas is no longer at Elite: "Casablancas left Elite in 2000 and now runs the John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center in New York."

Therefore any claims or inferences about the association between and relevance of the career centers to Elite, such as the implication those who attend the schools will get special access to Elite, and a better chance of getting signed with Elite, must first be checked with Elite.

There is not a lot of modeling work in Tennessee compared to other places like NY or LA. You may want to send your pictures to agencies in NY/LA, even to Elite in NY. You can get to Elite without going through a "John Casablancas" franchise school.

You said: "I would love to be in their agency but don't have the money." You don't need money to get into Elite. You don't need to attend classes. Phone Elite and ask them what they require. Ask them if you need to go to a school before you can submit your pictures to Elite.

Redacted Info

To Whom It May Concern:

My 13-year-old daughter was called (out of the blue) by our local JC representative two days ago.

The representative spoke to my daughter before asking for me, telling her that they wanted her to "audition" for the "Open Call" Tuesday night, which happened to be the day after we received the phone call.

My child was super excited because they liked her look. Apparently, the representative gave her false hope of a true career before I was handed the phone.

I was very skeptical, but my daughter was very excited, so I decided to see what it was all about.

We arrived 15 minutes early and found the waiting room jam-packed with people of all ages, races, and sizes. In fact, there was nowhere left to sit and more people were arriving.

We filled out an application and turned in a snapshot of my daughter. The receptionist was dressed in a sweatsuit, which I thought was pretty tacky considering it was a "modeling agency."

At 7:10, a woman yelled at the parents to follow her to another area.

I was shocked at the lack of formality, but followed the group into the runway room.

We all had a seat.

A young woman with a big ego and a snotty attitude strutted into the runway room without even introducing herself.

She stepped onto the runway and began her speech with an extreme "know-it-all" attitude. She was super condescending to every adult in that room.

I was ready to walk out right then, but stayed only because my daughter would have been mortified had I reacted that way.

The snotty woman lined the 30 or so people up and had each one walk down the catwalk. She showed them how to walk "properly" with the half-turn and eye contact.

It looked so fake. Each man, woman and child did their best to imitate her. It was humiliating to watch.

My daughter did "well," considering she has had no training. She had stars in her eyes and thought this woman was a model goddess.

After everyone did their little walk, she called each applicant up to her —in front of all who were present.

They had to answer three questions: on a scale between 1-10 (10 being highest), what is their interest in modeling/acting/runway, etc.

The first girl answered "six" and was scolded by an older JC woman who had joined us for the "interview" part of the night.

The older woman said, "Well, if you only have an interest of a six, then you have no business being here tonight."

Well, that told everyone to definitely say "10" no matter how they truly felt!

The next question was: "At what level do you grade yourself: A, B, or C?" with "A" being professional model with experience and no need for school —ready for immediate bookings; "B" is with some or no experience, but may need some schooling; and "C" being not ready at all, and not truly interested.

All answered "B."

The third question was for the parents: "How long has Jane Doe been interested in pursuing this career? Will you support her fully? Are you willing to send her to classes IF she needs them?"

They then gave us a time to come in two nights later for a personal interview. This would occur IF we didn't get a call from the agency telling us they were not interested.

Of course, we never received that call today, which means they are interested (in our money).

At the end of the group interview, the applicant needed to pick up a sheet of paper and could leave.

This sheet of paper, which was casually tossed onto the floor by the snotty woman with no name, reads like this —word for word:

John Casablancas Modeling & Career Centers
Dear prospective model / actor:
If you are selected as one of the top applicants of today's model / actor search, you will be given the opportunity to be considered as our first choice of applicants.
We are only selecting a certain number of models and actors to represent, and work with.
You are being given some advance information for your consideration, so that you may be prepared if you get a callback.
You will meet with an agent so that we can determine if you have what it takes to be successful in the business.
If you make the cut, you will have the opportunity to work with the most successful model and talent agency in the world.
If you are at a professional level and can be referred to the agency directly for representation, we will take care of the details at that time.
If you have had no previous professional training or experience, you will be referred for training and development at the John Casablancas Center.
This will require a time and financial commitment from you.
Weekend schedules will be made available to you.
Should you need to reschedule a training session due to illness, vacation, etc., we can arrange for makeup sessions at your convenience.
Your training program will be customized according to your needs and will include your photo sessions. These will be done by professional fashion photographers.
You may be eligible for auditions after just a few sessions.
A decision will need to be made tomorrow.
You must bring a parent or guardian if under the age of 18.
If finances are a concern and funds must be transferred, or you need additional time to gather finances, a deposit may be accepted by the director.
We are all looking forward to meeting and potentially working with you.
Good luck!
John Casablancas

Note that when I was 13 years old, my parents sent me to a JC in Fairview Heights, IL. It is now closed. It was a total waste of money.

I don't remember a lot about it now, besides learning to apply makeup, which did help me, and learning how to pluck my eyebrows. They taught no photography skills back then.

I know of nobody who ever got any jobs from JC out of my class. But the teacher always said she had jobs. Makes me wonder if the teachers stole the jobs from the students.

Oh, well, it's too late now.

One final note. They promised me back in 1983 that I could "always" come back to refresh my makeup skills, runway, or anything else I needed practice on —for FREE. Has anyone ever heard this claim? I should see if they will still allow me to do this.

M.L. in NC

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