Orlando Talent Competition Misleads Would-Be Models
POSTED: 5:28 PM EDT May 19, 2004
UPDATED: 5:33 PM EDT May 19, 2004
ORLANDO, Fla. -- An Action 9 investigation has exposed the sales tactics used by a nationwide talent competition based in Orlando and tied to boy band king Lou Pearlman. Fashion Rock has already been blasted by the New York State Consumer Protection Board as a "sham" because it failed to deliver all the prizes it promised.
Action 9's Todd Ulrich found many would-be models and singers were misled right from the start, when they got that call from Fashion Rock.
"Did you make it?" Todd Ulrich asks Letoi Glover.
"I made it. I made it. That's what they told me," she says.
She felt she had been "selected," after a one hour phone interview, to attend the next Fashion Rock talent competition in Orlando.
It felt like an "audition" and Letoi was asked to sing, twice.
"Out of all the auditions they had been listening to, they had not heard anyone like me," she says.
The 26-year-old Jacksonville signer had already made an audition CD. Now, being chosen by Fashion Rock felt like a big break, since it's run by boy band hit maker Lou Pearlman.
"You know, Back Street Boys, *NSYNC, and they throw those names at you," she says.
Letoi paid the $1,000 entry fee that covered her hotel for the weekend competition.
Her call came from a telephone sales room at Fashion Rock, now located in downtown Orlando.
What happens inside the company's sales room is triggering consumer complaints all over the country to the Florida Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
A Central Florida former employee, who doesn't want us to use her name, is speaking out about her experience at Fashion Rock.
"Do you regret working there, signing people up, and taking their money?" Ulrich asks her.
"Yes, I really regret it. I feel like I was scamming people myself," she says.
Out of 70,000 people who submit their information, only 2,000 get an invitation to the talent competition. And, yet, this salesperson said anybody who had the cash was signed up.
"It was built up like it was a selection," she says.
But, it was just anybody who could pay.
According to her, the staff was trained to twist arms and to tell would-be models and singers they had to pay today, or the cost doubled; all in an operation run by a man with a shady reputation.
"Can I ask you about the scripts you're using to sell the contests?" Todd Ulrich asks while confronting David Elliot, the same David Elliot we found running the sales room two years ago at Options Talent, a controversial model scouting company under state investigation for misleading sales tactics.
"Why don't you talk to Elizabeth Neff? She had all the scripts and everything," he replies.
It's also the same David Elliot who has a criminal past.
"You've been arrested for a telemarketing room you've run in the past," Todd asks him.
"No I've not, prove that," he says.
Elliot had pled guilty to federal bank fraud charges 9 years ago for his involvement in a telemarketing operation. Now running the phone sales at Fashion Rock, he denied the company misled anyone.
"I say we have a perfect script; I say nothing that you've said is true, so far. Back it up and I'll talk about it," he says.
Lou Pearlman turned down our interview request.
A Fashion Rock manager said the company is working to resolve any complaints with the state.
The Office of the Attorney General is investigating Web Style Network, which shares a web site with Fashion Rock, for alleged misrepresentation.
So, how do these would-be models and singers hear about Fashion Rock?
The company runs ads for modeling jobs on the Internet, many times on Google, which is also misleading. Fashion Rock is not actually hiring anybody as models. The ads direct consumers to the contest web site.
Letoi Glover had paid Fashion Rock $1,000 to compete, because there was an audition, and a selection and she made it.
"It makes you feel like you are one of the cream of the crop, and everybody there is, too," she says.
Nationwide Fashion & Talent Competition Offers
Prize 'Contracts' but No Work for Contest Winners
No Reuben, no Clay, no answers' from contest
tied to former Wilhelmina modeling scam
The New York State Consumer Protection Board ("CPB") today issued a consumer alert against "Fashion Rock," a nationwide fashion and talent competition, because previous winners have not received the modeling and recording work advertised by this contest.
"Fashion Rock, which is held at least four times a year, has been luring thousands of young people to Florida by offering prize 'contracts' that will launch their careers in modeling, singing, acting and dancing," said CPB Chairperson and Executive Director Teresa A. Santiago.
"But after six Fashion Rock competitions, contest winners say that there hasn't been a single record released or even one fashion layout produced from any of these so-called prize contracts."
"Fashion Rock should stop pretending to be a competition like 'American Idol.' When winners are eventually paid -- and some have not been paid at all -- these so-called 'contracts' are simply cash prizes paid in monthly installments with no work provided to the winners," said Chairperson Santiago.
In a fine-print notice to Fashion Rock contestants, the company behind Fashion Rock states that these are only "endorsement" contracts. But that disclaimer is not used when Fashion Rock advertises "more than $100,000 in contracts" to winners.
"Competitions such as American Idol have been making instant stars. But at Fashion Rock, we find no Reuben, no Clay and, for consumers, no answers," said Chairperson Santiago, noting that Fashion Rock's organizers have refused to disclose the names of previous winners, the prizes they allegedly have been paid; the names of judges or any other important consumer information.
For a competition that's supposed to promote young talent, the secrecy surrounding Fashion Rock is hard to understand," said Chairperson Santiago. "Perhaps they should change the name of Fashion Rock to American Idle' because nothing seems to happen after contestants spend at least $1,500 to attend this contest."
Joining the CPB's warning today was Sandra Couto of Patchogue, Long Island, who placed first in a Fashion Rock competition last year.
I would not suggest (Fashion Rock) to anybody, said Ms. Couto. They will say everything that you want to hear and they don't come through with what they promise you.
Ms. Couto said Trans Continental Talent, the company behind Fashion Rock, uses high-pressure and misleading sales tactics to lure thousands of young people into purchasing a place in Fashion Rock competitions.
Ms. Couto said the same tactics were used on her last year when she spent $1,600 to join the Wilhelmina Scouting Network, a scam website and photography service, that Trans Continental Talent ("TCT") directed last year.
TCT is the Florida company of boy-band music promoter Lou Pearlman. Last year, Pearlman's company was behind a nationwide modeling, singing and talent scam called the Wilhelmina Scouting Network. Pearlman launched Fashion Rock last year as part of the Wilhelmina Scouting Network, which was renamed Web Style Network after the CPB issued a consumer warning about the company's misleading sales practices.
Ms. Couto said her first-place prize at Fashion Rock a $37,500 modeling contract took nearly a year to arrive and, after close inspection, was not worth signing. The contract tied Ms. Couto to Trans Continental Talent for next three years. But the contract did not offer any specifics about modeling jobs, she said.
TCT also has not paid the rest of her prizes: $1,000 in cash and a $100 gift card, Ms. Couto said.
In a disclaimer given to Fashion Rock contestants, TCT states, "All prizes are endorsement contracts that provide for the applicable prize amount to be paid over the life of the contract in monthly installments."
In addition to questions about prizes, contestants complain that they did not have a chance to meet with leading agents as Fashion Rock advertises. Top agents and companies do not attend Fashion Rock, participants say.
The next Fashion Rock ("Summer Fest") is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend with another contest (called "Sun Fest") slated for July 29 - August 1.
The information we have requested is what any consumer has a right to know before they spend close to $2,000 for a trip to Orlando," said Chairperson Santiago. "Too often, consumers get the bad news after they have already paid thousands of dollars."
"When kids hear they have a chance to record at Trans Continental Talent, they think of the big bands that Lou Pearlman has launched at TCT," said Chairperson Santiago. "But Fashion Rock winners have not been given that opportunity. And young people don't know this when they sign up for Fashion Rock."
Chris Brown of Rochester, Minnesota was one of the signing contest winners at a Fashion Rock last year. But the young musician was never given a chance to use TCT's studio. Instead he is being paid monthly payments.
DeAngelo Pollard, a 22-year-old public-relations student at Indiana State University, thought he won a chance to participate in this spring's "Fashion Week" show in Bryant Park. Instead, Pollard said Fashion Rock cancelled the Fashion Week opportunity and gave him a ticket to attend another show in Orlando.
"It was TCT's prior success in the music business that lured thousands of kids and parents into joining the Wilhelmina Scouting Network. Now we see the same pattern happening at Fashion Rock and we want the deception to end." CLICK here to see why Rip-off Report, as a matter of policy, deleted either a phone number, link or e-mail address from this Report.
Los ANgeles, California
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Trans Continental Talent AKA Options Talent Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Wilhelmina