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Supermodels

The old adage that 'you can't fight mother nature' fails to apply once you reach the age of 18 and you can indulge yourself in whatever cosmetic surgery and/or procedure you want. You can add, remove, fill or abrade to your heart's content, but until then you are stuck with the hand (and face) you were dealt at birth.


I start from the premise that we all think that our children are beautiful, however, in my own case, I sometimes find myself thinking 'if only I had spent money straightening his teeth' or 'wow - her nose really dominates her face'. I excuse my momentary candour by convincing myself that they look 'quirky' rather than classically beautiful and anyway, who wants to look at a patrician beauty every day?


A female friend who I hadn't seen in a couple of years saw me in a coffee shop the other day and was obviously outraged by something or someone. She clearly wanted to talk and I reluctantly offered to buy her a large skinny vanilla coconut cappuccino topped with a light dusting of cinnamon.What is wrong with a simple black or white coffee??


Having robbed me she then proceeded to tell me her tale of woe. Samantha proudly describes herself as a 'Yummy Mummy' and spends her free time shopping when she is not at the gym or a yoga class. She had a very successful, albeit brief career as an Investment Banker where she met the love of her life and settled into married bliss and subsequently motherhood. Two children in two years made life complete and whilst Samantha and her husband could have stepped out from the cover of fashion magazines, neither of their children bore any obvious resemblance. On a good day, both could best be described as 'unremarkable'


A couple of months ago Samantha insisted that they both come shopping with her to Oxford Street. In return for their company she promised to buy each of them a designer tee shirt of their choice (scams related to designer tee shirts deserve a separate post of their own!). As they walked out one fashion retailers staffed exclusively by sullen wannabee models, Samantha was tapped on the shoulder by a young guy in a loose fitting linen shirt, skinny jeans, flip-flops and was sporting a man-bun. He had just the right amount of stubble and smelled good!


'Hi - I know you are hideously busy, and whilst this must sound rather cliched, but have you ever considered putting your children into modelling?' Samantha composed herself and rather than say what she was thinking (which would have mortally offended both of her kids!) she just said 'Tell me more'. Man-bun guy looked, smelled and sounded 'the part' and handed her a reassuringly thick and embossed business card containing his name, mobile number and website. As she took it from his hand, he looked her in the eyes and without blinking said 'They obviously come from a very rich gene pool' - Samantha blushed on behalf of herself and her children and placed the card in her shoulder bag. Man-bun continued 'Don't decide now - but this could pay all of their university fees and more. Some of our child models have even bought flats on the strength of their earnings. They can get £1,000 a day without any difficulty. At this Man-bun, smiled, turned away and sashayed away down Oxford Street.


As soon as he was out of earshot, both of her kids rounded on Samantha. As images of luxury apartments in Mayfair flashed through their minds they insisted that their mother chase after man-bun man and sign them up on the spot. Samantha smiled benevolently and explained that this might be a scam and she needed to check things our before they did anything else.


Returning home, both of her children sulked in their rooms waiting for their mum to kick-start their careers as Supermodels. Samantha found the website and her third click took her to several pages of testimonials praising 'Sebastian' (man-bun man) and his team for propelling their little darlings into financial independence whilst still in their early teens. Being savvy, she then looked at the Companies House website and easily found the company and on the 'People' tab discovered that Sebastian and one other were listed as Directors. The company was shown as 'Active' and their accounts appeared to be up to date. She breathed a silent sigh of relief and went back to the website and discovered that Sebastian and all of his staff were DBS checked. The last thing she wanted was to hand over her kids over to Jimmy Savile's pervy nephew.


She rang Sebastian the next day and he explained that he had already mentioned her kids to his business partner as being perfect for a forthcoming campaign for a company providing personal coaching for children to learn coding. They had just the right mix of studiousness and charm. Think 'edgy librarian'. He stated that in order to get onto 'the books' Samantha had to sign a contract that provided the agency with exclusivity and whilst they had to pay for their nominated photographer to produce a short portfolio, this was totally refundable if either or both of her kids were not accepted. He repeated that the photographers fee was 100% refundable and that in any case they would earn more than this from a single 'shoot'.


Samantha agreed and after paying 2 x £900 + VAT via a bank transfer, a couple of days later chaperoned both of her darlings to a professional studio in North London. The photographer appeared professional but quite disinterested. When questioned he explained that he was subcontracted by Sebastian to take the photographs but was not an employee. The journey home consisted of Samantha giving advice on which areas of North London might be suitable to buy their first apartments. The area had to be respectable, affordable, on the fringe of gentrification and close enough to mummy, to pop by for lunch.


The next day Samantha rang Sebastian and left him a voicemail message. When he hadn't replied by 5pm she left another. Over the next week she must have left him a dozen or so messages but he never returned her calls. As the penny slowly dropped she realised that a combination of her naivety, greed and an unrealistic belief that he kids could be models had just cost her North of £2,000.


By the time Samantha had finished recounting her tale, her ridiculous coffee had gone cold and, for whatever reason, thought I was going to sympathise with her. Wrong. Instead, I told her that;

  • Anyone that stops you in the street and tries to tell you or your children that they are a scout for a modelling company is probably a scammer.

  • The chances of that are massively amplified if your kids are just average looking unless they have an unusual characteristic e.g. blonde afro with light blue eyes.

  • Flattery of both her and her children had caused her to drop her guard and to be convinced that Sebastian was genuine.

  • Sebastian looked and sounded professional, however his 'props' including an expensively produced business card, burner phone and website cost very little.

  • I could register a completely fictitious company with Companies House within half and hour. Companies House conduct NO due diligence on the companies they list. Unbelievable but true. (I know this as I have done this several times myself)

  • DBS checks are largely worthless. Like a car's MOT, at best, they are only really valid on the day the certificate is issued. There are hundreds of thousands of people employed in sensitive jobs who have not been convicted of a nasty offence which would ordinarily appear on a DBS certificate, but because it was dealt with by an 'out-of-court disposal' it doesn't appear on the record. These offences include Rape and many other serious sexual and violent offences. Worrying but true.

  • The photographer was sub-contracted by Sebastian and probably earned about £75 for taking some simple shots of each of her children. I reminded her that he was keen to point out that he was not a part of Sebastian's business.

  • If she looked at her contract with Sebastian and examined the 'guaranteed refund' paragraph she would undoubtedly discover that the refund would only be given if, following the photographs being taken, her kids were not accepted onto the programme. All models are accepted onto the programme to avoid the need to pay any refunds.

I'm sure this is not what Samantha had wanted to hear, however, it is what she needed to hear. If you and/or you children (who may be anywhere on the spectrum between plug ugly and stunningly beautiful) are ever approached I would suggest the following;

  • Remain polite throughout

  • Accept the business card graciously

  • Bin it as soon as you are out of line-of-sight

As I got up to leave, I conducted a fag-packet calculation that Samantha's foray into the world of modelling had cost her the equivalent of 540 large skinny vanilla coconut cappuccino topped with a light dusting of cinnamon. You just can't buy experience!

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