• Mariam Gevorkian

The Underground Modelling Industry

Updated: Mar 28

When I was starting my summer job in 2018, I found myself at the front line of a lucrative yet illegitimate cooperation in action. Mentally webbing together ' The Underground Modelling Industry', I unknowingly began my first journey of investigative journalism. After witnessing the appalling operations of the company for approximiately 1 day and a half, I ran out and wanted to tell everyone I could to stay away.

In this day and age, London is typically saturated with young aspiring individuals. This refers to models, actresses/actors and dancers, who all belong in a category of artists whom conventionally require a portfolio. Simultaneously this requirement makes this group of talent vulnerable to being mislead - especially if they are starting out and beginners within this field ...


I was soon to discover just how easy it would be for someone to fall into a typical trap orchestrated by fraudulent yet 'legal' cooperations (who are after the money rather than actual talent of individuals).


By mimicking an almost perfect photography studio, this cooperation aimed to sell desperate artists a portfolio ranging from £300 - £3000. Of course no-one was forced to buy these ridiculously priced photos, however this was the very thin string the cooperation and many others use to justify their business ventures - the fact that no-one is forced to buy anything and do so by their own will.


However and I mean a seriously BIG however... is this premise enough to legitimise this money making scheme? It most definitely isn't.


Where the magical money making scheme really happened for this company was in three small cubicle sized rooms. 'Sellers' in these rooms would use every lying tactic they could to sell portfolios to artists at any price. They followed no actual price markings yet aimed to sell photos for the most expensive price, guess why? because they made commission based on their sales. I wish I was making this up and I hadn't been around this environment but I saw all of this for myself and felt it to my core of how wrong and terrible this was.


Perhaps a portfolio may be useful to showcase your work but it definitely is not an essential ingredient in the beginning stages of any creative career. Yet this is exactly what these vulnerable artists are made to believe, that spending £500+ on a portfolio is the most worthwhile investment that they can make towards making all their dreams come true.


Casting & modelling agencies on average take 30 seconds to decide whether you acquire the look that they are looking for, this of course excludes the purpose of a portfolio entirely. To name a few; stars such as; Jennifer Lawrence, Eva Mendes and even Marilyn Monroe were scouted by casting directors whilst casually strolling outdoors.


Looking back, it was almost obvious straight away that something wasn't quite right. I guess the outside of the studio kinda gave it away...I mean, a studio with no WINDOWS? and no SIGN? or NAME? Absolutely nothing was displayed on the outside to give a clear landmark of where it is? I was soon to notice that no one in the office even went by their real name, let alone their real signature.


It it was almost obvious straight away that something wasn't quite right. I guess the outside of the studio kinda gave it away...I mean, a studio with no WINDOWS? and no SIGN? or NAME? Absolutely nothing was displayed on the outside to give a clear landmark of where it is? I was soon to notice that no one in the office even went by their real name, let alone their real signature.


Whilst working as 'admin' my role was to sign in artists and confirm their attendance at the studio. I discovered artists were sent to the studio predominantly from TMA (Talent Management Agency). And is TMA the legitimate and optimum talent agency that artists should aspire to be signed to? Absolutely not.


After conducting extensive research on TMA I concluded that TMA is also taking part in fraudulent strategies to milk artists of their money. On google reviews and other trusted review websites, customers have written similar accounts to their experience with the photography studio. The following are some google reviews which strongly suggest TMA is a scam. Similarly, the photography studio has also received reviews of the same nature.

aroosa hussain Fraud, don't not join. You get excepted no matter what. They call you to a hotel and take payment for a contract of 3 or 6 years. Once you have paid they don't call you or anything. I made a profile for my little one and everything it's been over 3 months we have heard nothing. 😑 👎


Fumi Pie

If I could give no stars, I would. Ignoring all the negative comments, I took my teenage daughter about 7 months ago to meet with the agency - we haven't heard from them since. Luckily, I only payed half the fee. It's a scam. I've recently learnt that any legitimate agency would never ever ask for a fee upfront.


The documentary I directed aims to shine light upon in very dark corners of the modelling and artistic industry, corners that should not go unnoticed or unheard. Whoever it reaches, even if its just a single person I will feel satisfied knowing it helped an aspiring artist to be more knowledgable in the tactics companies use to extract as much money as they can.



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