Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Complaints about John Casablancas Modeling School

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

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:

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 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.

Redacted Info

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

Redacted Info

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!

Redacted Info

John Casablancas Modeling School Letters Index

Modeling Schools