“This isn’t a scam isn’t it?” I asked Laura from Orange Models. “I mean I know people do lure young girls in with the promise of an illustrious modeling career and all they’re really doing is selling them a portfolio.”
Laura assured me it was not. Several times. And as I normally do when someone answers a direct question, I believed her.
The reason I was talking at Laura at all was that my daughter Olivia had spotted an ad online. ‘Models needed’ it read. And gave an email address and instructions on how to upload pictures. Olivia has had some modelling experience. Well she did one job, for Centrepoint, a charity that helps homeless young people. So she figured she would give it a go. Minutes after the sent them her picture, Laura was on the phone to her. And then she had to talk to me, as Olivia is a minor.
“We really like her look,” she gushed. “She’s quite mature looking isn’t she for her age? She’s got a really interesting face. We think she’d be perfect for High Street brands like Top Shop and Zara and catalogues.”
Laura continued for about 15 minutes, telling me all about how the High Street brands are looking for new, young faces, girls aged 15 or 16.
“But she’s too short to be a model,” I said. “She’s only 5 foot six.”
“Oh there are no height restrictions for that age group,” Laura assured me and then proceeded to tell me what the procedure was.
Olivia was being invited for a four-hour assessment, where there would be people on hand to do her hair and make-up, a stylist to dress her and a photographer to take pictures of her.
“But this must be a scam,” I said. “You can’t possibly provide all that for nothing. What is this going to cost me?”
Nothing at all I was told bar a £50 deposit to secure the studio and staff. This would be refunded as soon as I showed up on the day. “We make our money by passing models on to agencies who get work for them.”
I asked her again if it was a scam or if we were going to be asked to buy the images. Not at all I was assured. They were simply assessing Olivia’s potential to become a model.
“So if you think she has potential you will take her on without me buying a portfolio?”
“Yes of course.”
Olivia was very excited about her future as a model. She recently dropped out of school and was facing the prospect of one mundane job after another. The thought of becoming Kate Moss was incredibly appealing.
I had by now started to believe Laura. She really did talk a good game and she seemed genuinely keen on my daughter, telling me again and again how interesting her face was and what potential she had.
As the day drew closer though and I was faced with the prospect of trekking up to London for it I thought I ought to just double check. So I called Orange again. Laura was out but her colleague asked if he could help me.
Again I repeated my scam question. Again I was assured Olivia was there for a genuine assessment, and that if she were successful she would become a model.
Olivia and I arrived at the studios of Metro Photography at the allotted time with her vital statistics listed and a bag full of clothes for her to change into for her various “looks”.
We were greeted by a girl called Gisela and her stylist Pedro. Gisela painstakingly filled out a form with us, all about Olivia and what sort of model she could become. Then came the photo shoots. Five different looks, involving five locations (outside in the freezing cold, in the studio etc), makeup and hair five times and so on. The whole process took hours. I had to dash off to a meeting so Olivia’s father had to come and take over while the team “assessed” her pictures and decided if she had a future as a model.
Olivia said it was lucky I wasn’t there for the so-called assessment. A man with a rather annoying lisp droned on for ages, keeping them in suspense as to whether Olivia had “made it” until the last minute. They looked at the photos, apparently she looked great, and then EUREKA! She had made it, she could be a model, she could be the next Kendal Jenner. Olivia of course was utterly thrilled. Rupert was happy too, until they told him he would have to buy a portfolio. For £700.
So they had repeatedly lied to me. I wonder how these people can sleep at night knowing they make their living giving innocent punters false hope. How could Gisela (if indeed that is her name) go through all this all day, day in, day out knowing it’s all a lie?
I have to hand it to Orange “models” as they call themselves and their partners, Metro Photography. The whole process was meticulously thought out, every detail made you think they were actually serious until of course they slap you with the bill.
By that stage of course there will be people who have been so overwhelmed and seduced by the whole “modelling” experience that they just can’t say no. And heaven knows what lengths they will go to in order to come up with £700 for something that will be of no use to them whatsoever. We saw two other people fall for it while we were there; one very sweet girl who was about the height of my 12 year old son so is never going to be a model and another woman who was even older than I am.
At best what Orange and Metro are doing is preying on people’s vanity, at worst on their insecurities and their need to be loved.
Whichever it is, they need to be stopped.