NYC Craigslist Ads and Other Scam Stories

This seems like a lifetime ago, but last year around this time I was new to the City, eager to try out things I had never tried out anywhere else, and I saw opportunities to do so right here – where everything is possible!
I had already acquainted myself with Craigslist because of my roommate search. So I decided to give it another shot. Craigslist has a category called Talent and another named Event, in which they advertise for every possible ridiculous job out there: runway models, hair models, waiters for a catering event, artists, people with certain body types or of certain ethnic descent … Pretty much anything you could imagine and beyond. After scrolling down past the ad looking for foot fetish victims models and the ads wanting waitresses who serve drinks topless and are willing to be “nice to the guests” (uhm, so you’re looking for strippers, guy, strippers!), I stumbled across a few links that were looking for models, preferably “fresh faces.” If you’ve gotten to know me a bit, you know I do have the body type, possibly the looks to be the next Heidi Klum famous face on the screen. This half-jokingely said, I do not have any serious interest in pursuing any sort of career in the industry of starvation, shallowness, and forced young looks. And that is basically all it is, unless you are a designer, then you would have to deal with the issue of eccentricism on top of this. However, I have always been curious of how these notorious model castings work and what it takes to grab the agency’s intention.

I responded to a few ads with some outdated pictures of myself and, sure enough, the next day I received a call from a Model Counseling Agency. The word counseling purposefully disguising their intents, I dare say. They asked me to stop by at their office in Midtown, right on Park Avenue and 50th Street. For all of you who do not know, this is a splendid area: It is 3 blocks away from the Rockefeller Center and a bustling crowd of suit-people blends in with the under-dressed tourists and over-dressed divas.

I didn’t have any plans for that day, so I decided to come and see what I might be able to write about later. Around 3 PM I entered a huge lobby and waited a bit, until a 55-year-old woman, who was desperately trying to look like 50 by means of Botox & Co, came down and led me up to their “office” laid out in suite-sized rooms. I wasn’t the only one waiting. Two other girls were hiding what a nervous wreck they were. One was about two heads smaller than me, but nonetheless extremely beautiful. The other was a burlier type of female with a few strokes of make-up too many on her otherwise non-exciting face. I was confirmed in my initial impression that this is only a scam. After the short girl disappeared, I tried to start a conversation with Ms. Make-up Queen. She was nervously glancing around and didn’t seem like the type to socialize with what she thought was her competition.
Then a beautiful Islander-type of woman with a tall figure, no doubt a retired model herself, fetched me and led me into a room filled with a serious-looking desk and a few chairs. I seated myself and couldn’t wait to start the circus. She first explained what her firm was about, and basically it seemed like it was doing the same type of work a normal model agency would. I was even more confused by the term “counseling.” They seemed to have tons, no, an innumerable amount of photo shoots waiting for them and their hot models in the Tri-State-Area and Connecticut. Boy, was I lucky to have met them the same day, for we could start working together by the end of this week. Then she started to ask me basics, such as if I was able to work in the US, where I was from, how long I had been here… This was a tough part for me, as she constantly sweet-talked me in such a manipulative manner, I didn’t know how exactly to react. First it was my gorgeous cheek bones, which made her ask if I had any Russian heritage. Then it was my tall statue, which would make it easy to snag a job. And my short, sexy hair, that would just stand out (I had a bob cut back then). Well, her spider webs didn’t manage to lure me in, albeit I gave the best impression they had. And I had also learned to become immune to sweet-talk from an early time on, so my alarm bells were constantly ringing. I was just waiting for the one unfortunate thing about this entire conversation. And sure enough, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, she stopped to take a look at my pictures and noticed I didn’t have any. What a pity! But we would have to shoot those first before we progress further. She already confirmed that there was a photographer waiting downstairs and all I had to do is pay her $200 for a professional session. My, what a deal! I was about to laugh out loud, but kept my serious face. I explained to her that my bank had not yet been set up and that I did not have a German credit card. How unlucky. I definitely did not carry $200 in cash with me, either. So I would have to return another day. I think I was quite convincing. She led me out of the door, further flattering words followed, and then the other woman appeared again, asking if I was doing the photo shoot now. She looked disappointed when I said I wouldn’t today. Gotcha right there! I fled this building as fast as I could and just shook my head about how gullible people are in New York – I probably included.
When I told my roommate about this, she told me a similar story had happened to her in the artist industry, in which they had wanted $100 dollars for such a photo shoot. She congratulated me for getting out of that one and I did so myself, too.

There are a few other comical events I witnessed. In August, one month before fashion show, I responded to an ad by the FIT. It’s the Fashion Institue-Technology, located in Chelsea. They were looking for runway models for an upcoming show – unpaid, of course. I first had to sign in with a guard who couldn’t care less but still had to do his job. Then I entered a huge studio – there is indeed no doubt that this school likes to splurge is worth its money. Because of the name the E-mail had provided me with, I was expecting a male designer, so I was rather surprised to see a fragile woman sitting next to a chubby man. The man introduced himself as a manager, politely asked for my name, and then wanted me to “perform” straight from there. Some funky music was played (nothing really professional), and I walked up and down the studio, with both of them watching every move. I think I couldn’t disguise my smile because they noticed quite soon I wasn’t serious. Hey, if you want a model, you better make sure she has enough time to put her 10 inch high heels, on, is all I have to say. We shook hands and they had enough manners to wish me good-bye. The next model was waiting to perform: A transvestite-looking, heavy female who could offer a glorious portfolio of no doubt severely edited and cropped pictures. Poor guy girl!

Lastly, I had a fun experience with craigslist scams, believe it or not. In May of 2010 I responded to a model ad for a make-up school in Dumbo. At first I had trouble finding it, as it was housed in an abandoned industrial building – one of the many in that area. I walked into a tiny room filled with 4 girls and the instructor. I think I was the only model they had during that session. A nice young woman with a belly indicating her pregnancy tended my face for over an hour. She said she was travelling every day from the Bronx all the way down to Brooklyn, just to take classes in the best make-up school on the entire East Coast. Then, she brushed powder across my face, shadowed my eye lids, pinkened my lips … until the instructor noticed my white eye brow and insisted on “fixing it up” with some color. So ten tedious minutes were spent on this and when I looked into the mirror at the end I was taken aback … in horror! My eye brow looked patched together, my face was covered with a white, mask-looking poweder, my eyes had never looked like this before – it was less than optimal. I didn’t know if I should pity the student’s lack of talent or the ruthlessness of the instructor for demanding money from her.

Vampire me! This photo does not show the full extent of how bad the make-up looked.

As a thank-you I received a make-up tool in form of an expensive-looking brush and pink, loose powder (eye shadow, I assumed) together with a coupon to attend a class at their school at a reduced rate or to purchase an expensive make-up kit at a not signicantly enough reduced price. What a lucky day! On my way out I was just thinking about all those poor souls that probably would never learn how to do someone’s face right and who paid hundreds of dollars just to get ripped off.

New York – it’s filled with incredible scams and it’s fun to witness!