What are some legitimate talent agencies

Modeling ranks among the most glamorous careers. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most difficult to break into. Adding to this burden are unscrupulous agents, scouts and managers who earn their living by cashing in on the dreams of aspiring models. Even when represented by legitimate agents or managers, it is often difficult for inexperienced models to support themselves on modeling alone.

Managers and Agents
Virtually all models work through agents or managers. Occasionally, models new to the field will obtain bookings on their own. This procedure is called free-lancing. However, most clients prefer to book models through a manager or an agent.

Modeling agencies are different from modeling managers. A modeling agency is like any other employment agency. It matches an employer with an appropriate candidate for an available job. Managers, on the other hand, maintain ongoing relationships with their clients, who, in this case, are models. They direct the model's career, including bookings and advice on appearance and portfolios.

Keep in mind that modeling is a difficult profession to break into. Therefore, if your are not accepted by several reputable managers and agents, you may want to reconsider your career choice.

Types of Modeling
There are several different kinds of modeling including high fashion, runway/showroom modeling, product or specialized modeling, and children's modeling.

1. High Fashion Modeling:
“High Fashion” modeling involves modeling designer clothes at fashion shows, and in magazines or newspapers. It may also include runaway, showroom product, or “specialized” modeling.

If you wish to do high fashion modeling, you should meet the following requirements:

Female Models:
Height: 5'9”- 6'
Weight: 110 to 130 lbs, from minimum to maximum height respectively
Eyes: must be widely spaced

Male Models: Height: 5'11” - 6'2”
Weight: 140 to 165 lbs, from minimum to maximum height, respectively
Suit Size: 39 - 40 regular to long
Shirt: 15 - 15 1/2 neck, 32-34 sleeve
Waist: 29” - 32”

Generally, the entire look of the body should be well proportioned. Legs should be long, especially the distance from the knee to the ground. With respect to posture, a model should carry her/himself gracefully. Skin must be clear of blemishes, scars and birthmarks. Prospective models should determine weather they meet these requirements.

2. Runway and Showroom Modeling:
The requirements for high fashion models apply to runway/showroom modeling. However, since ready-to-wear houses also hire models to show clothes to prospective buyers at the manufacturer's showroom, height and weight may vary depending on the type of apparel shown. For example, women under 5’ 3” may be hired to model petite fashions, while manufacturers of larger-size clothes will require a plus-size model.

3. Product or Specialized Modeling:
Some businesses may use photos of different parts of a model's body in ads for specialized products. For example, only hands for hand lotion commercials, legs for panty hose commercials, etc. Thus, the requirements previously described do not apply to product ads. However, be aware that most agencies use runway, showroom, or high fashion models for product ads, and choose these from their existing roster of models. Very few models build careers solely on specialized modeling.

4. Children's Modeling:
General appearance is the most important factor in children’s modeling. Parents may receive direct mail solicitations from model or talent agencies. Often, the child's name is obtained from hospital records, list brokers, or other sources. Such solicitations do not indicate that a child is suitable form modeling. . They may be no more than promotions for the service of a particular photographer. Check with you local BBB whenever you receive solicitations from unfamiliar firms.

Choosing The Right Representative
Virtually all successful models obtain jobs through modeling managers or agents. Since the right modeling agency or manager is crucial to a successful modeling career, be sure to research and interview them before signing any contracts. Sources for referrals can include friends, the telephone directory, or model/talent associations such as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

After you choose the representatives you wish to approach, check to determine whether you need to send photos first or if they have specified hours to meet with prospective clients face-to-face. If they require a photo, you can send snapshots or professionally done photos. Most reputable managers and agents will only request a snapshot before making an appointment. A typed resume should be attached to the photo and should include birth date, height, weight, clothing sizes, and hair and eye color. If they are interested in representing you, they will ask to see you, request more screening, or perhaps offer you a contract. If they are not interested in representing you, you should ask for their opinion of your chances within the modeling industry.

If you visit a manager’s or agent’s office as a walk-in, you may first be screened to determine whether you meet the basic requirements. If you do, you will be referred to an interviewer or the manager. If this person, in turn, determines that you have modeling potential, you will often be sent to a photographer for test shots. According to the head of one large reputable New York modeling agency, no legitimate manager or agent will charge a prospective model to have test shots taken. In fact, be wary of any modeling firm that requires you to purchase expensive portfolio photos from their recommended photographer before they will do business with you. The photographer, however, may require that you pay for the film and the cost of developing it. If the photos indicate that you have modeling potential, you may be invited to contract with the manager to represent you.

In general, find out as much as you can during the initial interview. For example, find out the commission rate and how it is paid. In addition, inquire if the manager or agent uses headsheets or publishes a modeling agency book, and how much the model will be charged for each. Make certain you understand the daily rate that the manager or agent charges the clients. Inquire about the length of time between the completion of a job assignment and receipt of your wages.

Once you have accepted a manager with whom you are comfortable, be prepared to make following investments:

  1. Test Shots - Managers and agents often send models to take test shots to see how well they photograph. However, it is uncommon for a legitimate manager or agent to have a model pay for more than the film and the developing of the photographs.

  2. Portfolio - This is a collection of pictures of you. It is taken to every “go-see” (job interview for a modeling booking). It is difficult to estimate the initial cost of a portfolio. At the beginning of your career, you may consider using test shots taken at a minimal cost by photographers who are eager to build their own portfolios. This, however, requires extra work and time. If speed is important, your manager may suggest a photographer, who will have his own price list. This will generally be more expensive than having test shots taken. Portfolios should be update the when any changes in appearance occur.

  3. “Cards” or “Composites”- One or more pictures of you. The picture(s) can be taken from your portfolio. Your manager will recommend a reputable printer who will make a card for you for a reasonable fee. The fee will cover a specified number of color or black and white printed cards, with one or more pictures of you and your vital statistics. This card should be left at every firm to which you are sent for an interview. New models need not initially spend a large amount for elaborate cards, but it is important that the photo is both a flattering and honest representation of your appearance. In addition to your portfolio, your card is the most important piece of information about you.

  4. Resume - Summary of basic facts about you including height, weight, coloring, age, clothing sizes, your professional skills and any past modeling experiences.

  5. Headsheet - Collection of pictures and names of models who work through one particular manager. This sheet is distributed to prospective clients. Virtually all managers charge their models to be included on a headsheet, but costs vary widely. Be sure to determine the fee before you agree to be put on a headsheet. A manager should obtain your consent before including you.

  6. Modeling book - Book published by modeling managers and agents which includes photographs and a summary of basic facts about models which the agency represents. This book replaces the headsheet and the composite. Managers often charge their models to be included in an agency book. Although the fees vary, they are typically from $750 to $1,000. The cost is generally less than the cost for a composite, which is generally not needed when an agency book is available.

  7. Union requirements - Any model who makes more than one television commercial is required to join a union. Initiation fees vary from $250 to $500, with semi-annual dues of $15 to $25. These are approximate figures; your manager will provide you with more information on unions, or will direct you to the appropriate source. Models who work only in prints, high fashion, or runway/showrooms are not required to join a union.

Generally, reputable managers will deduct a 10% commission for television commercials from your wages after you have completed a job. For print ads, the manager will take a 15% to 20% commission. Some managers pay models shortly after the job is completed, but quite often the models must wait until the manger is paid by the client.

Warning signs of a Non-Reputable Modeling Manager or Agent
A non-reputable manager often:

  • charges an advance fee or “registration” fee;
  • places ads in the “help wanted” section of newspapers that seem like job offers, but are really ads for representation or the purchase of portfolios;
  • has a photographer on site, or one that they strongly recommend you use to immediately create a portfolio;
  • pressures you to leave a deposit for photos, books or other forms of “packaging your talent”;
  • pressures you to take their courses or seminars on topics such as acting, makeup and clothing;
  • avoids answering questions concerning specific types of assignments for which you might be used;
  • uses a name which sounds similar, but is not identical to, a well-known studio or manager, causing you to think that the two might be related;
  • displays pictures of famous models or celebrities on the walls who are actually not represented by the manager. (Ask whether the manager actually represents and gets jobs for the models in the photos.)

How the Laws Protect You
No legitimate agency takes an advance fee, which is sometimes called a “registration fee” or a “consultation fee.” This practice is prohibited in the state of New York by New York General Business Law Section 396-n.

Personal managers, talent scouts, talent agents, or any person or firm associated with show business are prohibited from advertising that it has employment available, or is able to secure any employment when an advance fee is a condition to such employment. (New York Arts Cultural Affairs 37.07)

Modeling agencies are required to have a license issued by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. (N.Y. GBL Section 172). Licensed agencies are required to conspicuously post a notice concerning the agency's bond, the applicant's right to bring an action against the company, the required contents of a contract, and the fees involved. Model management firms are not required to be licensed. A modeling agency is prohibited from soliciting clients by means of false misleading representations or promises. (NY GBL Section 187). A modeling agency is also prohibited from advertising in newspapers or otherwise unless the advertising contains the company’s name and address as well as the word “agency.”

Modeling agencies are prohibited from requiring applicants to subscribe to any publication or incidental service or to contribute to the cost of the agency’s advertising.

Modeling Contracts
Either party may easily terminate some modeling contracts, while other contracts bind the parties for a definite period of time. Be sure to understand all of the terms of the contract before signing.

Note that all oral promises and representations should be incorporated into the contract itself. Check the duration of the contract, and ask whether your manager will allow you to work for other agencies during the duration of your contact. This is known as exclusive or non-exclusive representation.

New York Law requires that modeling agency contracts contain the following information:

  1. The name and address of the agent, the kind of service to be performed, the anticipated wage rate, the agency's fee for the applicant, whether employment is permanent or temporary, and the name and address of the person authorizing the hiring.

  2. The exact amount of the fees involved. Remember, modeling agency fees are limited by New York State Law to 10% while modeling manager's fees are unlimited. (N.Y. GBL Section 185).

  3. The modeling agency is required to provide the applicant with a copy of the contract.


  1. Investigate the modeling agency or manager before you visit or sign a contract. Call the Better Business Bureau to obtain the BBB’s reliability rating for the firm, and to see if the firm has been the subject of complaints or serious law enforcement actions. If you are dealing with a modeling agency, contact the Department of Consumer Affairs to verify the firm’s license. Ask the company for the names of models who have received work through the firm’s services.
  2. Do not pay fees for classes or testshots. Legitimate companies invest in you, not vice versa. Occasionally, you may be expected to pay for the photographer’s film for test shots, which is a minimal cost.
  3. Do not meet with managers after business hours or at their homes. If you do see them at odd times or places, go with a friend who will stay with you. A legitimate manager will not be offended by this reasonable precaution; only illegitimate ones will.
  4. Beware of people who represent themselves as “Talent Scouts” or “Talent Packagers” who are really only photographers with little or no incentive to give you an honest assessment of your chances of becoming a model.

If You Have a Complaint
If you have a problem, it is important that you file a complaint. Not only can it help you obtain restitution, it will also give you the opportunity to warn others about problems they might encounter with this firm.

  • Contact the New York Department of Labor (888) 469-7365 if there is an unreasonable delay in getting paid for a modeling assignment.
  • Contact the Sex Crimes Unit of your local police department to report sexually harassment by an employee of a modeling agency or management firm. Do not be embarrassed and do not hesitate to file a complaint. If you were sexually harassed during an assignment, contact the manager who placed you on that job and the local police precinct.