How much could your ego cost you?

My sister and I were walking through Brick Lane a couple of weeks ago just perusing the stalls, minding our own business when a guy bounded up to us and asked if we were interested in being extras in film and TV?. The answer was a resounding ‘YES’. My sister, unfortunately, does not live in London so I took the guy’s card and we went back to our day spotting fashion mistakes.

I was glad that something interesting had happened on my sister’s birthday trip down to see me in London, but quickly forgot about it.

So when I received a phone call from ‘Justyna’ a few days ago saying that The Zebra Collection would be glad to have me on their books. We went through a few questions where she asked me what I did and then told me about the company. She said they were almost like a recruitment agency so there was no joining fee and they didn’t take any commission out of our fees. I asked them how they made their money and they said they charged their clients a monthly fee. I had no reason to think this was untrue. So she listed off the jobs she wanted to put me forward for: MTV dance videos, hair modeling, make-up modeling and extra-work in TV work and film. I was a bit taken aback to hear about the modeling suggestions, I must admit. The first thought that ran through my mind having seen catwalk models is “Aimed at who? Fat Children?” but I let her carry on without opening by big gob (for once). Then she asked me if I had a portfolio or had ever had any professional photos done. Obviously, I had not. She put me on hold which she went to speak to her manager and then came back telling me that they would pay the fee for a professional photographer to do me a portfolio, but the only think was I’d have to pay for the copyright of the photos which wouldn’t be more than £100. That seemed fair, I thought, you’d want to be the owner of pictures of yourself anyway. Otherwise, next thing I know it’d end up in ‘Jugs’, or something equally as unsavoury. So I gave my email address to her and went on my merry way; dreams of being the next ‘Tracey’ in Eastenders already formulating in my tiny mind.

This morning I received an email with the details of my ‘photoshoot’ and advice on what to bring. I replied, confirming my booking and asking her whether I would have to buy the images or if this was included in with either the £100 she said the copyright would cost, or the fee they have very kindly paid for the studio time? She replied with “we will need at least 9 images for the portfolio but you’re welcome to purchase more” which doesn’t answer my question. I started to get a bit suspicious, as I’d worded the original question very carefully to make it very easy to answer. She was presented with options a) the £100 includes purchase of images, b) they will be paying for the images, but I need to buy the ‘copyright’. She apparently opted for c) which, not being on my list, I was unsure about. Next I got a phone call from ‘Blake’ confirming the date and time and anything I needed to bring so I casually asked how much he thought overall I’d need to bring with me and was the £100 I had been quoted just for the copyright or for the purchase of any images too. He said “oh yeah, you’ll need to purchase the images.”

Hmmm…..

So then I asked roughly how much in total he thought this would be. He said he wasn’t too sure and put his mate ‘Beth’ on who said “it’d be hard to say as I don’t know my situation or what sort of work I’d been put forward for” she gave me the party line about how the studio was used to dealing with and directing amateurs (like myself, she made the point of assertively telling me) so any cost will be worth it in the long run. So I said “Being an amateur, as you say, I’m not used to this; the lingo, the costs… I’m finding it quite hard to get anyone to be straight with me about how much any of this is going to be. I’m not looking for a direct quote but a ball-park figure”. She conceded her Fuzzy Logic: “Justyna was right in saying £100 but that was just for a deposit and once you get work you can pay the rest off”

‘The rest off’? We were getting closer to the truth, I could feel. “How much is ‘the rest’?” I tentatively asked. She seemed exasperated. What was I, a lowly amateur, doing? Asking her questions about how much I would have to pay out of my own pocket-money? How dare I ask questions to ascertain whether or not this was an outrageous scam? How very dare I?

“Well,” she huffed “It could be anything from £100 to £500”

“WOAH, WOAH, WOAH. £500??” I queried, unable to hide the not-long-out-of-studentdom surprise in my voice.

“It could be, but it depends on the packages you choose. It will be worth it.” She reiterated.

“So you want me to commit to paying £500 whether you find me work or not?” (Which, of course, having read the terms and conditions on their website, I know they are under no obligation to do).

“You could look at it like that, but amateurs like yourself, with no previous experience, will need a portfolio to get anywhere in the modeling industry”

Let me be clear – I am under no illusion that, as the 5”2, very ordinary looking nearly-25-year-old I am now, or ever will be, ‘model material. I’m fine with that. That is why I went to university. So that’s when alarm bells started to ring.

“Not being in the business and what-not, I’m not used to this situation so thanks for clearing that up for me, I appreciate you taking the time”. We ended the conversation. She may have picked up on my sarcasm.

I found a quite useful blog saying how they are kind-of legit, but what they do is they act as a job agency where they list jobs and ‘work-seekers’ and are basically more interested in the ‘portfolio’ than finding people work, but some people have found work through them. Proper agencies are turning away people, not badgering loads of people on the street, and if they think you’re worth it (L’Oreal style) they won’t make you pay, because they take a commission of your work, they will make the money back in no time!  There were many comments on this blog saying either that Zebra was a genuine agency and the commentator didn’t know what she was talking about, or there were comments from what was clearly the same person (judging by similar spelling errors and a similar phrasing ‘style’) defending Zebra claiming that Zebra had found them work either as an unpaid extra or doing promotional work.

You can go and jump if you think I’m either working for free, or handing out samples of Bodyform outside a cinema on my weekends.

So I was left with the options of 1. Going along tomorrow and probably having a good time in a professional studio, getting my hair and make up done and being shown how to pout. Then being bullied into spending £500 on pictures of myself (which, judging by the ones on facebook, will look shit) without any guarantee that I would ever make any of that back – or 2. Not do any of the above and continue with my life as normal.

So I phoned Justyna and said that “I’d spoken to a girl called Beth who told me that the photos could cost up to £500 and I wasn’t sure that I could afford that without any guarantee of making at least that back so could I arrange for my own portfolio to be done?” to see how she’d react. I thought if she kicks off, then it’s obviously a scam, but if not then it may be ok.

She seemed ok with it at first but ’warned’ me against going to a make-over studio as they focus on the make-up rather than the fashion. (The ‘fashion’ in this case being my own clothes they’d asked me to bring: up to five outfits of my own choosing. Mostly Primark. High fashion, indeed.) and that she hadn’t heard of any other fashion studios. “What? Ever? Don’t you work in the industry?” I thought to myself. She then asked who had told me it would be £500 and seemed a bit annoyed at that fact that I had found out this information (information directly related to my own finances, of course) and could I speak to my ‘friend who works in fashion’ today to find out whether they could do my portfolio? I wasn’t sure whether I had made up this lie about having a friend in fashion or not, but she seemed to think that’s what I meant so I perpetuated it by saying “It all depends on their bookings for today I guess, but I’ll try”.

I left it politely by saying I’ll contact them soon. When I had finally extracted all the information I needed, it sounded like the Fashion Studio and the Talent Agency perhaps have a little commission deal going on to gently bully you into spending money that you normally wouldn’t on genuine photos of yourself. So, as a business model, rather than thinking to themselves “People don’t want to pay £500 for our photos, why is this? Perhaps we could lower the price” they opted for the method of brute force. Interesting choice.

You should also be aware that you are legally allowed a 7-day cooling off period in April 2008 to try and curb bogus agencies taking advantage of young people (see mirror blog here ). It is very unlikely that the agency will inform anyone about this but it’s a legal right. Clive Hurst has a website to help people and provide information so if you have been scammed then get in contact with him and he might be able to help!

I didn’t really want to enter into the world of rejection after rejection from modeling agencies looking for much taller, skinnier, better looking people than myself! To be honest, I thought it would be funny to be an extra in a TV show; earn a little bit of cash, meet a few new people and just generally have a bit of a giggle. I’ve since heard from a friend that that’s not how it works anyway, being an extra is crap. Lucky escape.

Conclusion: I will not be rocking Versace down any Catwalk any time soon.

Lessons learnt: my ego could cost me £100, but not £500.

Retrospective analysis: The magnitude of my error yesterday to go to the gym instead of make (and eat) a cheesecake now seems only too pertinent.

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “How much could your ego cost you?

  1. Hi there, great piece – I had the same experience except that I let myself be bullied into it and parted with just over £500 for 20 photos on a disc. And now, funnily enough, Zebra aren’t replying to my emails or answering my calls. Glad to hear you got out of the scam – I only wish I’d kept my wits about me like you did!

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you had to part with cash. I might email a copy of this blog to watchdog later! Hope zebra reply to you! Sx

  2. Same thing happened to me yesterday!!! Exactly the way that was descried in this article – down to the names and description that I was given over the phone for different jobs! I feel really stupid that I signed a form and now have to part with the cash. Also feel really uncomfortable about the fact that I have given them a copy of my passport – and my credit card. Have put a caution on my credit card just in case, and once I’ve paid off what I’ve owed, am gonna write to watchdog. Just shows how expensive your ego can be!

    • They’re a bunch of cheeky bastards! Write to watchdog now on the basis they haven’t found you work and they might let you off the cash? Worth a go! It might even be worth going to citizen’s advice beureau about it, it is definitely a deceptive tactic! I’m here to back up your story if you need me!!

  3. the light rooms in asociation with zebra are a scam. they refuse to answer to my emails and calls. also the photo saloon called Cover Girl are also a sham. I have never seen people less professional then them

  4. Zebra is a Scam indeed! I have so much evidences.
    They pretend to be distinct companies, but Zebra and The Light Rooms are pretty much the same company, same owner – a very arrogant and two-faced woman.
    My friend used to work for The Light Rooms in 2007 and 2008. She says the studio is cool, they really work on the pictures, but on the other hand, Zebra is a fantasy, a lie, they will never find a job for you. Their website is a joke where you see loads of fake testimonials.

    It’s all about make money to the greedy owner.

    Proper agency does not need testimonials, they have a casting portfolio made by pictures from their jobs, And in Zebra website it’s just a bunch of pictures from a single photoshoot.

    Something must be done to stop them.

    I’ve been told also the all the employers receive a very bad treatment, canceling shifts on the night before and therefore losing a day of work and money.

    such a dark-sided business.

    Love – Sophia

  5. I’ve been forgotten one important point.

    I noticed that Zebra Collection own loads of fake forums just to show up on google search and once again deceive people.

    If you try to right something bad about them, it won’t show up in the forum, but if you right something good, there it goes, posted! Dirty Zebra Scam!

  6. erm… i dont know how this works
    i just got sent the email from justnya or whatever her name is
    typed in ‘light rooms scam’ and got directed to your site’
    lets do the watchdog thing and they can spy camera me up and i can continue on this farce and the expose it as you have done,
    and screen the whole charade on tv
    that would be cool.

    • Hey, cheers for the comment! Have you taken it any further?

      Heh heh, I’d love to expose them on watchdog! Would you be willing? We should contact them!

  7. I’m definitely up for this watchdog plan! I’ve told them I need time to think about it, so if you need a girl with the secret cameras, I’m sure they wouldn’t suspect!

    I think the funniest thing is how similar every girl’s story is… When you tell them that you don’t have any professional shots (which, of course you don’t, because everyone who has been scouted seems to have been asked whether they have had any experience at all anyway), the person you talk to ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ about what to do, puts you on hold to speak to the manager, and comes back to the phone very pleased to tell you that as you’re an investment, the manager knows a place called the light room where they can sort everything out for you!

    “That’s really nice of you”

    “Well, we’re very keen to have you. You seem like you’d be perfect for this company, and I’m sure that you will respect us just as we will respect you, as a mutual partner”… in the 10 minutes I’ve spoken with you, not knowing your wight, height, and all I’ve got to go by is a picture taken on a camera that a woman didn’t reference with a number, so who knows if the picture I’m looking at is even you, I just know you’ll be perfect!

    The idea of someone seeing you, and immediately asking you if you want to be a model, seems to make so many girls think differently about how reliable such a company is… It’s so awful that these people exploit young girl’s (possibly sub-conscious) dreams of being told they’re beautiful and perfect, and would make lots of money for just being them.

    Watchdog here we come!

    Thank you for all the advice – I think this article is what really stopped me from thinking about going. I kept thinking I should go and if they ask for any more money, I’ll just leave, but by taking a photocopy of your passport and card details before you begin (they won’t let you pay by cash or cheque, so once they have these details, they can take as much money as they can legally get around), they’ve played it very well.

    Thanks again!

    • Hey Gen, cheers for reading! Glad you found us! I emailled watch-dog a while ago about it but no one got back to me, perhaps if more of us do they’ll take us seriously! Have you heard from them again? x

      • Yeah, I emailed watch-dog too. Still no word from them though. Have you tried any other companies? I had a problem with a mystery shopper agency scam, and so spoke to trading standards. They spent a while on the phone with me, gathering information, and called back to update me a few weeks later. I might give them another go! x

  8. Hi there, i was thinking of making a fresh post on what a SCAM the zebra connection (aka collection, and management) is. But i will just paste all i wrote on this blog http://whatveidonenow.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/zebra-collection/ cos i was very detailed.

    AVOID ZEBRA CONNECTION!!!!!!!

    I am sooo glad i decided to check online about them. Like most of you, i was approached on Oxford circus area,London and had my photo and number taken by a woman. I was later called by them several times and 2days ago, a DEAN CHEVALIER called asking if i had professional pictures. He then pitched the Light Rooms in Soho and 1st presented the *favour* where they offered to generously cover the £300 for the shoot. By then i was thinking that why would they just out of the goodness of their hearts pay £300 to a Random Stranger like me. Mind you, he did the classic ‘ill speak with my director thing’ and after he quickly haphazardly breezed through the whole £100 copyright, which i learned online is UTTER NONSENSE as the photographer and model have automatic copyright on the images. That immediately rang more alarm bells, especially as some weeks ago i watched GMTV where they did an exposé on scam agencies.

    I was supposed to go for the photoshoot tomorrow and, GET THIS, they said dont bring cash, but BANK CARD *what!* My ex, who is highly skeptical said i should email this dean chevalier person and said that i had financial commitment and that since they said they had *urgent* jobs, they should deduct the £100 from my 1st pay–this was to protect me, because we were thinking that what were the chances of really getting a job after paying the £100. But hey! My research online made me realise that the £100 would have turned to £740 or so…and its sad that some people who gave their Bank details HAD MORE MONEY TAKEN !!!

    SOME GOOD NEWS — I reported them to the Metropolitan Police today and even got a call back some hours later. I submitted the 3 different numbers that they used to call me and their emails. Please people call the MET POLICE to hasten investigation or go online to their website.

    And for those who gave them their full names and addresses, dont be worried into thinking anything. REMEMBER, you can always REPORT them to the POLICE.

    Also, if you have reached the stage where you are about to do the shoot, DO NOT GO THERE AT ALL you are ABSOLUTELY UNDER NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO DO SO.

    And if you walked out of a shoot DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ANY IDIOT THREAT FROM THEM …YOU ARE PROTECTED BY THE LAW, especially if no BINDING CONTRACT WAS SIGNED
    **ZEBRA CONNECTION IS A SCAM BEWARE***

    • Hi Garcelle,

      Thanks so much fro your commenting and linking your blog, I see Zebra have been replying to you! the cheek of it! Cheers for the numbers, can have fun with those hee hee!

      Glad you weren’t scammed!
      Sara x

  9. **ZEBRA CONNECTION IS A SCAM BEWARE***

    Also for those of you interested in calling those idiot scammers, heres a couple of MOBILE numbers you may reach them along with their alleged names. i got texts instructing me on the light room scam of a shoot.

    BLAKE –07500772838

    DANIEL-07985744752

    **ZEBRA CONNECTION IS A SCAM BEWARE***

  10. Hahaha,

    Same story happened to me this week, same Light Rooms place and everything. I haven’t gone to the photo shoot yet which will take place this Wednesday and where frankly, they can wait on their asses for me to show up. They ‘scouted’ me in the street outside Top Shop. Luckily for me, I am an actress, and less luckily maybe I’ve seen this kind of crap before. I keep on getting annoyed by these losers taking money out of people’s pockets on behalf of my beloved profession. You don’t see anybody coming up to you in the street promising a brilliant career as a lawyer or a journalist, Right? Being an actor is a serious business and takes effort and training, and eating just beans for a while, and convincing people that you have to have the go because you are worth it, not the other way around. Anyway…
    I just wanted to mention GUAVA MANAGEMENT as the name of the guys who approached me with the same intentions as anybody else here. Their website looks slicker than Zebra, but thephone conversation I had is the same you did so, watch out guys!
    🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s