Carolina Talent, headed my Mandy Silla, immediately gave me the impression of the typical scam agency. It had all the typical warning signs: open calls on weekends, absurd fees of $60-$100 for mandatory "orientation" meetings for new models, and dramatic ultimatums that models have lots of photos taken, printed, and put online (at 800casting.com - probably another scam organization they collude with).
Nevertheless, at the time I worked for them I was a college student with nothing to lose except a couple hundred dollars, and the agency did seem to have some redeeming qualities. The biggest was that I was quickly befriended by a gentleman there named Lee Taylor, who despite the company's suspicious qualities did in fact seem genuinely interested in working for me. For instance he spent an entire day with me styling me for 7 different looks, all with his own clothes and makeup, and took well over a thousand pictures free of charge. [continued below]....
..... He also got me one single paying job (more than most of their models seem to get) though it has been over 3 months since I did the shoot and no money has been sent.
In fact, however, the advertising agency (Lippi & Co.) with whom I worked was completely legitimate, and has produced very real ads, as can seen on their website thehttp://www.lippi.com/main.html
However, I made many friends while working there, and I learned that my good fortune was not shared by all. In fact many who joined at the same time as me have been coerced to pay well over $1,000 already for such expenses as "getting marketable photos taken" (which are actually taken by a CT employee at $125 per set, and a total of 3 sets are required). While the agency claims they don't profit from these shoots this is rather transparently untrue, since the supposedly "3rd party professional photographer" who took mine ('Jerry'), also doubles as an agent and publicist, and can be seen at his desk during the work day.
Other charges typical of a photo mill scam also exist. Composite Cards are expected of models for another fee, and portfolios are also printed and assembled there for over $100 dollars. Models are constantly prodded to get both of these. Lastly, a number of monthly clinics and information sessions are offered, usually for a fee of $65, and are run by employees.
Most unfortunate of all, while many of the other individuals my age quickly realized that they were unlikely to earn back the amount of money they paid, I saw that a lot of the agency's work is focused on bringing in children and their parents. While I cannot personally attest to whether or not any child models there ever saw work, I can say that I observed lots of naive parents paying large sums of money to have their children's photos taken, and I doubt that they will get much or any of it back. Several friends I met there repeatedly tried calling their "agents" to ask for more attention, and were scolded for being too pushy, or told that they needed more experience working.
I continue to get almost daily emails from Mandy designed to resound well with parents and despite some egregious spelling/grammar mistakes sound fairly professional. Here is an example from one of her typical "email blasts sent out three days ago:
"Orientation...You must be under contract with us in order for us to market you.Contract siging takes place Monday evening. $65 fee applies...
Questions regarding the orientation fee, it covers mailings, visits to clients on your behalf(gas) and assorted other task we do on your behalf.Hosting showcases, we feed the clients afterwards.
Again, not a service you will find at other agencies,us, we provide this for you, why? Because you are WORTH IT"
I think it is worth mentioning that I have since gotten representation by one of the largest cadillac agencies in New York City, and if Carolina Talent has shown interest in you, it is possible that you can as well. However, if I can offer any advice from my experiences with this agency, it is to not be fooled by their nearly-legitimate facade. What is dangerous about this organization is that they are essentially barely legal. They seem to maintain just enough connections with real clients to present themselves as a real company to the authorities, but rest assured that nearly all of their profit comes not from marketing their models but exploiting them. A friend I made in the agency called the Charlotte Better Business Bureau to report them, only to find out they are apparently approved. Regardless, having worked on the inside, and personally given away my own money, I seriously caution anybody thinking about working them to heed the warning signs. To date, nobody I have met or worked with from Carolina Talent has been paid any money at all, myself included.
The bottom line:
Carolina Talent is first and foremost a scam agency, and despite the incredibly friendly staff who will work overtime to convince you otherwise, they simply don't have the resources to launch anybody's career as an actor or model.