Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.


Fox 2 St. Louis

June 18, 2004

The life of supermodels seems attractive to young girls dreaming about careers in the fashion industry. But too many young women trust the wrong people. In Contact 2, Margie Ellisor shows, the road to glitz and glamour can be rocky.

19-year-old Cassie Gant has wanted to be a model since junior high school. Cassie Gant, aspiring model, “You actually get to dress up and be someone else and that's what I think is fun.” Cassie is a full time college student who works after class to help finance her dream. “Everything I've ever worked for goes toward this because this is something I really want.” Cassie paid a bundle to sign on with Millennium Model Management. “The initial fee is $1,500 and they lead you to believe that the $1,500 pays for a lifetime of photo shoots.” But then, Cassie was charged nearly $400 dollars more for publicity photos. A short time later, she was shocked to find the business closed. “I got out of the elevator and their office was dark.” All Cassie got for her nearly $2,000 dollar investment was a few photographs.

“I've had people come in here that have invested $7,000 - $10,000 dollars, instead of questioning it.” Christina Klobe is with Talent Plus, a St. Louis modeling agency that's been in business 28 years. She explains, models are independent contractors who give agencies a cut of their earnings for finding them jobs. “We get 20% of what they make.” On the day we visited, the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency of New York was in town interviewing prospects. But unlike reputable agencies, Talent Plus warns of companies 'scouting' for models. Christina Klobe, Talent Plus, “They breeze into town, hit the shopping malls. They hit the areas that a lot of the teenagers are, they really want to target that age, but really a lot of these agencies that are, the fly by night ones, it really doesn't matter what age.” People in the industry have heard plenty of horror stories. “People want to do this so desperately, they just believe it and without even batting an eye or questioning it, they're handing over money. Money for classes, for runway class, make-up class, for acting classes, for photos.”

Christina has advice for people thinking about a modeling career. “They should call agencies in their own market and find out when their open call is and submit photos to be reviewed by that agency.” And instead of paying for fancy photographs, Christina says don't waste your money. “Matter of fact, I prefer that they just be snapshots taken from a normal camera by a friend.” Christina also has this warning… “if they really are pressuring them to go under contract, they want them to sign something, if they're really pressuring them to do that, red flag.” “I just want people to not fall for it, not waste their money and to go for something that's real and not a scam.”

The phone number for Millennium Model Management has been disconnected. We were able to track down someone who used to be affiliated with the company, who told us the company is no longer in business. Cassie plans to file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's office.

"Modeling," Contact 2, Fox 2 St. Louis, June 18, 2004.