Avoiding grooming: modelling

Although this guide has been thoroughly researched, it isn’t comprehensive. Please do add your own suggestions, tips and advice in the comments box below.

After reviewing ‘What lies Behind the Curtain’, it was clear that models can be left wide open to grooming. There are three main modelling scams: agencies that aren’t as they seem, ‘scouts’ who aren’t, and unscrupulous photographers.

The scams vary in nature – there are those that try and take your money based on your hopes and dreams, and there are those that are more sinister and are a front to groom you into other things, from drugs to prostitution and modern day slavery. Or even just good old fashion sexual grooming.

Our biggest words of advice? Follow your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Our research into grooming is clearly showing that people being groomed into something generally have a sense that something’s not quite right.

Model Agencies

The most common forms of abuse through model agencies are:

  • Being a cover for an escort agency
  • Sex trafficking
  • Taking (and misusing) pornographic pictures
  • Financial

If someone contacts you claiming to be from a modelling agency, tell them you are on another call and call them back. Run an internet check on the phone numbers. See what other models say. (The name on the company and the word ‘scam’ as a search often flushes out anything being said.)

A good agency will always have contracts and insurance. Make sure you study the contract to see what you’re getting into:

  • No-one can guarantee you work on the basis of pictures or contracts. (They should work to get you ‘castings’ to earn their money.)
  • Agencies should not charge joining fees, and should have an office. (However, cooperative agencies may request a ‘stakeholders fee’ which is refunded when you leave the agency)
  • The agency will probably take a couple of shots of you in their office to see how well you photograph. Many ask you spend moneyon hiring a professional photographer to start a portfolio and to get pictures in a certain style onto their websites/onto their books. However, this is not usually a LOT of mone. Agencies often have preferred or inhouse photographers. Some will pay for the images themselves, and then deduct the costs from your earnings. Make sure you understand up front what’s happening.
  • They may also offer you training. Make sure you know what this is and how it’s paid for.

Watch out for any individuals setting you into drugs – whilst this may seem very glamorous, especially ‘champagne’ drugs, and ones they’ll tell you will keep your weight down, ultimately they may do you more harm than good. These people may present as friends. They are not.

Model Scouts

If someone tells you they are a scout for a model agency, call the agency and check them out – on a telephone number found on the agency’s website, not the telephone number they give you.

Many agencies even post scouts’ details on their websites.


Many agencies won’t charge large fees for a portfolio. They can see from holiday snaps whether the camera likes you. But you may want to give yourself the best chance and create a portfolio, and that means a photographer.

Now let’s face it, Annie Leibovitz is unlikely to drop everything for a rookie portfolio, so you  will probably get a junior or less practised photographer at the start. For the most part, they will want to make a name as well, and so will usually work hard and experiment with angles.

But there are unscrupulous photographers out there too, happy to take thousands from you for a portfolio you don’t yet need. Worse still, these photographers ‘studios’ can put you at risk.

Easy steps to take to protect yourself?

Before booking:

  • Google them. They should have at least a starter portfolio online.
  • Ask questions about lighting and props. If it’s all beds and boudoirs, think carefully.
  • Run reverse photo/image searches on the photographers’ pictures to see if they genuinely own/created the images they are showing you.
  • Don’t send anyone you don’t know naked or semi dressed pictures.
  • Make sure the photographer is explicit about what the shots involve and what you’ll be wearing.
  • Speak to other models who’ve used the same photographer.
  • Look up the photographer’s social media profiles – who do they interact with and does this sound like someone you will trust with your image?

At the shoot:

  • It surprised me to learn that many photographers DO use their own homes for shoots. Make sure you have an address and someone knows where you’re going.
  • Meet the photographer  in a public place to begin with. Take a friend/chaperone (the photographer shouldn’t object), and talk about what you are and aren’t prepared to do beforehand.
  • No photographer should be asking you to take your clothes off to see if you are camera shy.

Storm’s advice: Professional pictures are NOT necessary and you must be at least 5’8″ to apply. Relax, do not smile nor pout for the photos. They do not want, as their introductory photo, retouched photos, body shots, baggy clothes or lots of make-up and hair styling.

And when you’re through stage one….

You put a load of pretty girls together and you have a man magnet. People will want to buy you drinks and give you free entry to clubs.

Circling around you may well be some unscrupulous groomers.

Stick together. Watch your drinks. Use licensed cabs. Talk to each other about anything that makes you uncomfortable. You may be competing for the right kind of attention, but have each others’ backs for the wrong kind.

Good luck. Stay safe.

Contact CAAGe, the Campaign Against Adult Grooming: CONTACT

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