Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Views on John Casablancas Modeling School

To Whom It May Concern:

I was at one point a teacher at John Casablanca's, but was let go for medical reasons.

As for if it's a scam, after reading the letters, I feel like I should have read these letters a long time ago, and let the letters anger me to no end.

In my experience, they train the teachers, but they train them by having them sit in on other teachers' classes.

Half of the teachers aren't licensed; the school is, but that doesn't help.

If that was my child, then I would make sure that person who is teaching my child knows what she is talking about, and not second-guessing it.

I know first hand about the school at the center where I worked. The director half the time didn't know what was going on; nor did she care, she wasn't in the rooms.

The night of one of my class graduations, after I got in to work, I found out half of my class was not going to graduation.

This was due to the fact that they didn't pay the rest of their loans. It was horrible; the students were upset and crying, and yet I couldn't do anything about it.

"Why wasn't I told this sooner about my students owing money?" I asked.

That question was never answered.

Some of these people who are teaching your children have never had a job in the industry. Keep that in mind when you sign a check over to them.

One of things I never understood was why in the world we were teaching runway to students who could care less about it, such as students who were there for television. It made no sense, but they had no choice.

I loved my classes. The students were all talented and had a spark about them. Yes, I made my classes fun, but I figured I didn't want it to be a thing where they dreaded coming to see me every week.

I'm glad that I found all this out because I could never be involved with a company like this.


To Whom It May Concern:

I recently went to the J. Casablancas agency in Atlanta with a friend who was enrolled in the classes. I was just there for support, so I wasn't allowed to be in the class with her.

While I was waiting with her parents, one of the receptionist ladies came and told me how pretty I was and tried to get me to sign with them that day. Other staff members did as well.

I do aspire to be a model (runway and print). I have experience with tv scripts, runway, and photography.

I went home and told my mom. So my friend's mom talked to my mom about how much she had to pay for the classes. That's one of the reasons I can't go to the class. Another is that Atlanta is three hours away from me.

I know you don't need modeling school to make it, and once my friend got out of the class she told me what she learned. Everything that she had learned and was going to learn before graduation, I already knew, either from books or other sources.

Once my mom figured out the total cost for clothes, makeup, more makeup, and pictures, etc., she said, "NO!"

I have such big dreams to be a model. I know I am model material. I have people (strangers) walk up to me asking if I model and telling me how pretty I look. This happened one time when I went into the MAC cosmetics store, for instance.

One of the staff members was so sure I was model material, she gave me the number to her friend, a photographer, to have test shots taken.

I am a black female, a little taller than 5'6", 14 years old, and weigh 111 pounds. You can tell how photogenic I am just by looking at my portfolio.

I just need tips on how to break into the business. I know it's going to be hard. I have some tips from all of the books I've been reading.

So can you give me some tips in breaking into the business? I would most appreciate it.

Thank you,



You're at an age and weight which fits the NY fashion model standards, but are you still growing? If you get to 5'8", you may want to send Polaroids or sharp non-professional snapshot pictures to top NY agencies.

It sounds as if you are not very close to a major modeling market, although Atlanta is probably the closest to you. If you are going to work as a model in Atlanta, you will probably need to live in Atlanta. Otherwise, what are you looking at? Six hours of travel plus hotel accommodation each time you want to go to a go-see or a photo shoot?

The rule of thumb on location is you should be within driving distance of where you can get modeling jobs. You must be able to get to the auditions and assignments easily or on time.

It can get a bit awkward and complicated for a teen who wants to model but does not live in a major modeling market. A lot of the best modeling jobs are available to teens, e.g. high fashion, but they are usually committed to school and living with their parents. They lack flexibility and mobility.

Many doors are therefore closed until school is out and the summer vacation starts. Some parents will then move with their kids to NY, for example, so they can get work.

It's a lot to ask of your parents, and, as others have already discovered, it is no guarantee you will get work, or enough work to cover all the expenses.

You can talk to your parents about how committed they would be to helping you travel if and when the need arises. Then visit agencies in Atlanta which are reputable and find out if they will sign you.

Meanwhile you can call top NY agencies, and find out their current requirements. They will probably say you need to be at least 5'8", but there is no harm in calling.

Good luck!

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To Whom It May Concern:

I was "involved" in John Casablancas and I'm very upset at what all they said! John Casablancas said famous people like Cindy Crawford went there... and the list goes on!

Are there any REAL agencies out there?



Cindy Crawford did not go to John Casablancas. She is not into modeling schools, either. Perhaps the confusion stems from the fact John Casablancas used to own the Elite agency, and Cindy Crawford used to be represented by Elite Model Management. In any case, she never went to a John Casablancas modeling school as a student, or to any other modeling school.

There are real modeling agencies out there, and they are not modeling schools. Actually, if the "agency" has modeling schools which aren't free, they are not an agency or not a reputable agency. Have you ever heard of one reputable modeling agency which charges models for classes?

How to find a reputable modeling agency

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To Whom It May Concern:

I was in high school one day in my 10th grade year when John Casablancas was doing casting calls to get the word out about their agency.

And I gave them my number and of course they called back.

I visited their office to do an interview and they signed me. Along with everyone else. I thought this was a major thing being signed on with an agency.

I went through classes and admit to learning some helpful things, but not enough new info to justify the money my mom paid.

We also got ripped off by the photographer who said we didn't pay for our pictures, but it turns out the manager of that particular agency took off with a bunch of money —including our check!

Needless to say, it was a big waste of a good $2,000!!

Now I am enrolled with On Track Modeling and have gotten some promotional work...

I was just wondering if your could research and find out if this agency is scam proof. I don't want to be fooled again!




JC is not an agency; it's a school. Just to clarify for anyone reading your letter since you are still under the impression they are an agency.

There is a lot of info and complaints about On Track Modeling. Hardly scam proof if you pay up front. They apparently are extremely low end (promotions) and their models, if they work, earn the lowest of the low wages of all models. It's like minumum wages, only worse, because it is not regular hours.

If you are serious about modeling, find a strong agency which can get you significant work.

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To Whom It May Concern:

All of these letters make me so sad. I can't believe how awful some of you were treated. No, it's not fair at all. It's not right.

I guess when it came to this company, I was "lucky," you would say. Yes, we did pay the money to get the classes as well as the two photo shoots (three rolls of pictures each-32 exposures); three clothing changes hair and makeup included.

We currently own the negatives (CD) as well as the contact sheets. The photo seasons ran for 1 1/2 hours each. Total $1,200.

They did flat out tell us "you may not get any jobs once you are done with the school; would you still like to continue?"

I said, "yes," because I was thinking of it as a learning experiece as well.

A step back a little before I continue. In school (k-12 grade) I used to be so shy that I would play sick or skip school, pretend I lost my voice, etc., just so I didn't have to stand in front of the class and give a presentation.

So I went to the school the whole summer after I graduated from high school, and signed with the affiliated MTM agency.

I am amazed at how much more outgoing and happy with myself I am. If I had not received any jobs with this, it was all worth it to help me be more outgoing.

I have received local jobs with a few companies.

Just this past April, I was invited to attend a meeting about the Mike Beaty Expo in Dallas, Texas.

I went to the meeting and they asked us to read.

The next meeting was for the people after they had narrowed it down.

A week later I got a call. They invited me to go, but had things they wanted to talk to me about before they had me commit.

I went in and they sat me down and explained everything, right down to "an agency may call you just to say, "I wanted to see you up close."

"Now some of you may get one call back some many and some none."

We had classes on a runway practice (that was where the agents saw you). We had an overall, agency shirt and black pants, a black, white or black and white outfit. Children could wear any color. And a swimsuit, but only those 13 and over could participate, and that was optional. The children could wear any sports type outfit (play clothes).

There was a commercial reading (the other thing we had to do).

We had meetings from September to October to make sure people were understanding everything.

They helped us set up fundraising to get us there for cheaper and many of us did not have to pay for even the hotel stay.

Our group (a total of 23 I believe from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin) went to Dallas from October 31-November 4 for the modeling Expo (there is also a talent one).

Our group took best overall agency and swept the overall divisions.

It was fun to watch because all these other groups were thinking that those things meant everything.

We had been told before that they are just for fun, "Don't take it (the awards) seriously, concentrate on who you are here for. You."

Out of 23 of us I think 12 may have gotten call backs (I got one). One guy in our group got a call from every agency he now lives in New York.

The call backs were everything they had said they would be. They had told us we would stand in line and may not get to everyone, but we had their cell numbers, so if that was the case, we had to call them, and they would run around and grab cards from the ones we did not make it, too.

The people who helped us through Casablanca's were amazing. Hopefully there are more good Casablanc's than bad. I really believe it's all in who you work with.

N.L. in Bloomington, Minnesota


It is not all in who you work with; it's all in the business model. Is the JC business model consistent with modeling industry standards? No.

Some JC franchises are going to do business with higher business ethics standards than others, but every one has the same business model.

The issue of confidence always seems to come up in defense of modeling schools or JC. Confidence is important. If you want to take classes at a "modeling school" for confidence only, fine.

JC franchises in the past have claimed affiliation with Elite in NY. Consider the words of Monique Pillard, president of Elite, as published in a news report.

The fact is, when top agencies see a girl they think has a real chance to make it (and generate huge fees down the road), they are willing to pay for runway lessons, housing, transportation, pictures, you name it.
"If [a girl] comes off the street into Elite and we think she has potential, she doesn't need to pay for classes," says Monique Pillard, director of New York's powerhouse Elite Models, which represents Linda Evangelista, Shalom Harlow, Amber Valletta and Trish Goff, among others.
"Somewhere down the line, she may take runway classes, which she doesn't pay for," Pillard says. "We absolutely bear the burden. If a girl has talent and potential to become a model, of course, we help.
"It's a scam of [the model] paying $1,000 or $2,000," she says. "That's [expletive]."

("The Improbable Dream," Robin Givhan, Washington Post, December 2, 1996)

Modeling conventions like the Mike Beaty Expo operate at the same ethical standard as modeling schools like JC. Therefore it is no surprise they get along so well and work together.

Neither one accepts the industry standards and both operate with an unchecked conflict of interest on extreme upfront fees.

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To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to make some things clear about John Casablanca's (JC).

If the modeling world were a family, JC would be the family member who has a different "the greatest business opportunity" for you every time you see him.

My first encounter with modeling was with Manhattan Model Search. Now that was my only encounter ever with anything to do with modeling.

So, three months down the road, I get a call from a guy at JC in the Easton Town Square in Columbus, Ohio.

He said, "Yeah, xxxx company referred you to us, so I would like to set up an appointment with you and discuss some things. Remember to bring a photo of yourself."

First of all, xxxx company was not Manhattan Model Search, so I knew that was a lie, because, as I said, Manhattan was the only other company with which I had ever dealt.

Second of all, I knew that JC had never seen me before because:

a) they wanted me to bring a picture;
b) I had never worked as a model; and,
c) I had never even been photographed!

So this guy is not starting off on my good side at all. I didn't say it, but I knew the only reason they were calling me is because JC had bought my name off a mailing list somewhere, so at best this was a waste of time.

Still, I had my doubts as to how much of a farce JC was, so I decided to do some extensive research and cross referencing.

I found much more negative material than good about JC.

Now, I'll admit, the gentleman on the phone never made any promises to me; however, most of the complaints I read about JC said that they really don't let "the cat out of the bag" until you are in the office.

I am a more seasoned professional now, and I have some recommendations for future hopefuls:

1) Before the "agent" can speak the first word, your mouth should utter the following: "Please inform me of any and all costs I will accrue before my first modeling job with your company."

If any, ask why they are asking for money up front if they are so confident in you? Sounds to me like they are trying to take out an insurance policy.

Frankly, you don't want an agent who only thinks he can make you money if you spend yours.

2) If you are in the younger crowd, let's say, 13-17, possibly younger, let your parent(s) go to the first meeting alone —without you!

Why? Agents can be sharks, believe it or not. They will try and play a parent's guilt by getting their child's hopes up and rubbing it in their parent's face.

Going in together the first time makes this all the more easy for the agent to do. Your mom and dad will be objective and looking out for your best interests, which is a very good thing.

If it is just the parent and agent on the first meeting, more times than not the agent mystically drops the smoke-and-mirror act, and is more honest versus being able to manipulate the mind of an impressionable teenager.

This rule is a "must follow."

3) Do research on every modeling company you deal with until the cows come home. If you can afford it, hire a private attorney to research and review all the technical. If you choose to do it yourself, research it, read it, re-read it, and then start all over again.

I cannot stress this enough.

Too many times I have seen models promised riches only to see them go to their agents, only because they "didn't read that part of the contract."

If you apply these rules and have some common sense, you can have a rewarding career in the modeling business.

I hope I have been of some help.



To Whom It May Concern:

I am a teenager who is currently attending John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center in Connecticut.

I was reading a woman's letter on the site and I too heard the same things as her when I went in for my interview.

My classes are not as bad as she described them. We do work, and are instructed, and do not share any of the same supplies.

However, I know that my family does not have the easiest time paying for these classes.

But since I am the only child, and my parents are split up, I do get to do a lot of things as long as I agree to stay with it.

I do have hopes to some day be a model, because it has been an ambition of mine since I was a very little girl, but I do not want to put my mother's money into it if there will be no benefit from it.

I have heard from many people that it is a very good place, and they recommend it, but I have also heard from people that it is a bad idea, and a waste of time.

I was looking through the papers one night, and one thing they failed to mention was that you had to have a 2 average for every class in order to receive agency representation. (We are graded between 1 and 4; 1 being the best.)

Do you have any suggestions as to what I should do? And if I do stick with this, but nothing ends up happening, even if I meet their criteria, grade wise, is there anything I can do about my parents' money?

On a related note, my friend from school attends John Robert Powers of Connecticut. I believe it is located in Norwalk. Is there anything I could possibly tell her about her school?

Thank you for your time,



You asked: "Do you have any suggestions as to what I should do? And if I do stick with this, but nothing ends up happening, even if I meet their criteria, grade wise, is there anything I can do about my parents' money?"

How many classes have you attended? Is it even possible for you to get your money back if you want? Are you paying on a payment plan, or did you pay everything upfront already?

If you do not want to get your money back, or you are unable to do so, make the most of the situation. Learn whatever you can and have fun.

The first thing you should know, which JC may not have taught you, is the JC standards are not the industry standards. There aren't 1s and 2s and 3s and 4s which qualify or disqualify models. You don't even have to attend classes!

You can and probably should seek out respectable modeling agencies in your city or state. You do not have to wait until the classes are over. You don't even have to say you are going to a modeling school. If you want you can look for and contact them today.

You also asked about your friend at JRP: "Is there anything I could possibly tell her about her school?"

You can suggest she reads the letters and complaints about JRP.

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John Casablancas Modeling School Letters Index

Modeling Schools