Why I Started My Own Model Management Company: The Ugly Side of The Modeling Industry

Last year I strayed a bit from The Frugal Model to start my new business, Stetts Model Management. After fit modeling for over a decade, I had experienced the good and the bad of the modeling industry. The good included the high paying jobs working with well-known designers, and having a flexible schedule that never included a desk or the 9-5 grind. The bad came not just from the aspect of rejection you encounter with this line of work, but also the questionable practices of modeling agencies. Young girls are expected to trust their agencies to get them work, pay them for that work, and have their best interests in mind. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Since models are classified as independent contractors, there can often be a lack of accountability and transparency when it comes to paying girls for money owed and charges for things like being featured on the agency website ($600/year for some agencies), and things like head shots, portfolio, and messenger/fedex charges (who messengers anything these days?)

Since models are fearful of causing problems with their bookers, who can often be biased and cultivate the attitude that girls should just be grateful to be represented, nothing is said. Models will wait sometimes 90 plus days to get paid for jobs – even jobs that the agency was already paid for. It is also not unheard of for agencies to charge a fee (usually 5%) if a model requests to be advanced their money to pay their bills. Add this to the countless “fees” that seem to be unavoidable, and it’s easy to see why it’s hard for some models to make any real money.

I realized that something really needed to change when I spent the first of my three-year contract with my (big name) modeling agency and made roughly $20k in the year – not nearly enough to live in NYC – and I requested to be let out of my contract. I was told that they would not release me from my contract, but they would remove me from the system and allow me to pursue other (non modeling) ventures without incurring any further charges from them. They ensured me that I would still be booked for jobs if I was requested, and would still send me out for anything I was right for – which was their legal obligation by keeping me in a contract that was essentially not benefitting me in any way whatsoever.

You can imagine my surprise when not even a week later, I get a call from a long time client letting me know that they had attempted to book me, and were told that I was no longer represented by the agency. They were even sent a package of other girls to look at to replace me. Not only was this completely illegal, but the most unprofessional and shady practice I could imagine. Keeping me in a contract but not allowing me to work since I was no longer paying the fees of the agency was appalling, and a very clear example of why something has to change. 

This is why Stetts was formed. I wanted the opportunity to create a company that operated in a very transparent manner. The company charges the industry standard 20% commission, and in return we take on the costs of the website, photos, and anything else that helps to market our models. This not only communicates that we are truly invested in their success, but is also just the right thing to do. Models are also paid as soon as the money rolls in from the clients, and no fees are charged when money is forwarded because models need to pay their bills. The models represented by Stetts know that they are supported, and if they aren’t working, they are not kept in a contract that is unable to serve them. 

Are we doing something revolutionary in the modeling industry? No, but I can’t help but feel that in having the right intentions and being trustworthy in a world where models are left feeling helpless and taken advantage of – perhaps other agencies will be encouraged to create a similar environment. I’m quickly learning that when you operate a business with good intentions for others, and not just for yourself, you’re bound to be successful. 

Watch Ashley’s interview on Good Morning America speaking about the dark side of the modeling industry.

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