09/14/2010: Dog Modeling Scammers Close Down. Or, My Dog Will Not Be the Next Giselle.

I read something today about a modeling agency that caught my interest. The place, descriptively called Glamour Model Talent, was sued in February by the attorney general’s office as a way of cracking down on allegedly bogus modeling agencies. You can read more about it here.

About a year ago I actually visited this place, looking to learn a little extra income–not off my own back, but off the back of my dog. I knew then that the place was a rip off. Here’s the essay I wrote following the experience.

Before I moved to Chicago I figured I wouldn’t have much work for a while, so I started scouring Craigslist. I figured it would be fun to return to working a series of potentially crappy jobs that would likely lead to some interesting writing possibilities.

At the top of my list was dog walker. What better way to get to know neighborhoods and meet people? But then I realized that dog walker really translates into pro pooper-scooper and I have my hands literally full scooping my own dog’s poop. So I expanded my search and came across an ad looking for dog models. The ad said that dogs could make upwards of $60 an hour.

I looked down at Lucille3, who was taking her third nap of the day after having an hour-long walk that morning. “I give you so much,” I thought. “Maybe it’s time for you to start giving back.”

So a few weeks after I arrived in town I send an email to the agency with a photo of L3. I ask if they’re looking for any particular kind of dog and if there are any fees or costs. I get a long email back from the owner of Glamour, Model, Talent (what kinda name is that?) saying that there are no fees, they’re a licensed and bonded company, and he lets me know the weekend hours they do “interviews.”

So I called and made an appointment for Sunday at 11. I drove L3 to a so-so office building. We walked in behind a family of five who was bringing their Schnauzer mix in for an audition. We walked past the doorman–“She’s frisky today, huh?” He asked.

She’s frisky every minute of every day. She’s pulling on her leash, trying to smell plants, bugs, specks of dirt. I wouldn’t have brought her if the ad hadn’t made it clear that they don’t need to be well behaved.

“You know where you’re going?” he asked. I told him I did and took L3’s first elevator ride up to the second floor. There was a long hallway to walk down, and a number of puddle-sized spots marking the way. Clearly we were headed in the right direction.

We walked past the carpet biohazards, into the room that was alive with barking. A giant, wolf-like dog and that schnauzer-looking animal were waiting their turns.

“First time?” asked a tall man with a casual stance.

“Yes,” I said. He handed me a clipboard to fill out and I sat down. I look over the form and check off the areas of modeling I’m interested in having my dog pursue: feature films, magazines, newspapers, advertising. I check off everything except “stunts.”

Then a short, hippy-looking woman walked in the room with a plate full of grocery-store sushi. L3 greeted her with a sniff, lick and wag, as she does with everyone. The woman walked over and starts gauging her. “She’s so cute, so happy!” she said. Then she felts her haunches and her coat and it was clear she was looking for more than just a greeting.

“I actually work here,” she explained.

She spends about five minutes petting L3 and telling her what a great personality she has. Then she walked off and spent about a minute or so with the other dogs. Admittedly, I was feeling more confident, seeing that she liked my pup.

Time passed and the dogs before us were called. One by one they went to a back office. Then they came back to the room to sit and wait, before being taken to another room. I could see flashbulbs going off in that room.

Across the room the schnauzer barked. L3 whined in return. A freshly arrived lab-beagle mix was getting restless. He looked like an older dog, and his owner was a pretty Asian woman wearing a lot of make up. I wonder if she’s hoping they’ll ask her to be a model.

That’s when a ridiculously groomed poodle and greyhound entered the fray, adding to the energy. They were both calmer than their owner though. She walked up to the casual man.

“This is your second time here, right?” he asked.

“Yes, we were here last week getting photos taken,” she said. “I was wondering, the dogs were very nervous in that room where their photos were taken. Could we let them in there again so they can get used to it? You know, it’s just like humans, the more time they spend in a place the more comfortable they become.”

The man translated this as a request to have new photos taken.

“John was very happy with those photos,” he said. “He didn’t think they seemed nervous. ”

“Well, I’m surprised he couldn’t see it,” she barked. “If they could just revisit that place, if there’s not a lot going on today, I think it would really help them. Because if we’re going to be coming back here regularly I’d like them to be comfortable.”

“You know we’re not really looking for personality,” he said. “Those photos are to show the dog’s breed and that he or she is well-groomed and clean.”

I glance at the poodle. S/he’s groomed all right.

“Oh we’re not asking to have photos retaken,” she carried on. “I’d just like them to get used to the room.”

Then she explained, again, why it would make the dogs more comfortable. The man deferred then, saying that if they’re called to be in some kind of ad or movie they wouldn’t actually be taking the photos here. In other words, no.

With that, the woman then returned to her seat. That hippy woman approaches her and they began talking about poodles, and different kinds of poodles, and something about cocker spaniels and how all dogs came from wolves.

Then, finally, Lucille’s name is called. After waiting for about an hour we’re led behind a temporary divider into an office where we meet John, the owner. He glances at L3 but doesn’t really study her and doesn’t really seem to like dogs so much.

“I can see the Shepherd in her,” he said. I point out that I think there’s some heeler, boxer and Rhodesian ridgeback, too.

“He’s cute,” he said. “Or, I guess it’s a she. Calm.”

Let it be known that no one, ever, has called my dog calm. Ever. In the history of Lucille’s life. She’s not calm. She’s never calm, especially after spending an hour surrounded by a bunch of dogs in a waiting room. But this guy is telling me she’s calm. I was skeptical before, but now I’m having trouble taking the guy seriously.

Then he told me about the different corporations they work with who are looking for talent.

“The casting agents often like the mixed breeds. Because if you’re dealing with a pure-bred they generally all look the same, with some pretty minor variations.” I imagine this is not the speech he’s going to give the owner of the greyhound and poodle.

“I’d like to try and get her a leading role in a movie.”

Wow. Straight to the top.

“But maybe we could start out with a commercial or print ad. Generally those pay about $60 to $200 an hour.”

“Not bad,” I said, poker face intact. Skepticism growing.

“So what we’d like to do is to get about 40 photos of her. We have a fashion photographer in the other room who will get a variety of headshots and full body shots. Then we’ll have those on file and we can start trying to get her jobs. The photographer’s fee is $88.”

Head shots and body shots. Of a dog. For ONLY $88.

At this point I’m officially annoyed. I had emailed them before coming down here to find out if there were any fees or costs for this. I’ve read about modeling scams for years, and wasn’t about to open my wallet today. They had assured me over email that there was no cost, none. So now we’ve wasted an hour and a half.

“Oh I’m not planning on paying anything for this,” I tell him. “It’s one thing for you guys to make money off of her but I’m not going to be paying you.”

“That’s fine,” he tells me, glancing down but non-plussed. “You can have them taken yourself. Just get me a disc of 30 or drop off an 8 by 10 shot and we can go from there. If we start getting interest maybe down the line we can upgrade and get some shots done.”

I would have actually taken that and run with it if it wasn’t for the “upgrade” part. I wasn’t about to be skrunked by a dog-modeling agency.

So I walked her out and brought her home. It was clear now I wouldn’t be making a mint off her back, and I wouldn’t be frolicking with all the doggie obsessed parents/model wannabes. So much for owning the next Giselle.

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