Barbizon Review: Is it a Modeling Scam?

You’ve probably heard of Barbizon Modeling through an online ad or a talent scout at your local shopping center. In fact, the company has been notoriously active with its marketing efforts throughout the years. Instead of going through acting schools or waiting for performers to track them down, Barbizon has always used ads and scouts to round up students.

The Chicago-based school isn’t without success stories. In fact, Carmen Electra, Lyndsy Fonseca, and Giuliana Rancic are all past students. But as with any modeling school, there are no guarantees you’ll find fame and fortune after graduating from the program. In fact, with a costly signup fee, you may find you lose money on the deal.

Although Barbizon Modeling does have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, there are multiple complaints. The biggest issue appears to be with refunds and payment, as well as them not being upfront about the money involved. It’s important to go in understanding that you’ll be asked to pay a deposit, followed by individual costs for headshots and supplies, so there won’t be any surprises.

Barbizon Modeling does have its merits. If you accept the service for what it is, without the immediate goal of seeing your name in lights, you could actually get the skills you need to pursue a career in entertainment.

How Barbizon Modeling Works

Barbizon specializes in younger talent, with services specific to children and teens. If a talent scout approaches you at the mall, you probably either appear to be under the age of 18 or you’re the parent of someone who is. Barbizon Modeling does not sell itself as a talent placement service. All of the services advertised on its website focus on teaching youth the skills they need to be an actor, model, or successful career professional later in life.

Getting started with Barbizon Modeling almost always starts by providing your contact information. Whether you’re signing up online or filling out a card for one of their recruiters, you’ll need to hand over your details before you’re given any information on what’s involved. The company refuses to disclose its fees, simply stating that each location charges differently. However,  a lawsuit revealed that one woman paid $2,000 for the school for her child.

The payment doesn’t end at graduation, either. The same parent who brought the lawsuit said that she was asked to spend another $8,000 for her child to attend the International Performing Arts Showcase, which has also become the subject of a lawsuit. 

Although some talent has been recruited through these showcases, at issue is the fact that students don’t appear to be chosen for the school or the show based on a specific level of talent or promise. The training, as well as the talent showcase, can put your child in front of the right people, though, assuming the natural ability and aptitude to learn are there.

Does Barbizon Cost Money?

Once you provide your contact information to Barbizon Modeling, someone will be in touch to set up an in-person interview. For that reason, you may want to search the site to make sure there’s a location that’s convenient to where you live. There are so many Barbizon offices across the country, chances are there’s one in your city, but if it’s a long drive from where you live, that may factor into your decision.

Once you’re given the go-ahead, you’ll go through a 14-week course specialized to the industry you want to enter. Without giving details on its site, Barbizon vaguely promises these classes have flexible hours to accommodate students’ school schedules. No matter which track you choose, though, self-confidence and poise will be an important part of your training. Barbizon’s goal is to make sure each student builds a foundation that will help throughout life. 

If you want to be a model, you’ll learn runway techniques, photo movement, nutrition and exercise, product and fashion ads, poise and posture, product and fashion ads, grooming skills, and model etiquette. Actors spend time on audition practice, on-stage showmanship, voice and diction, monologues, on-camera performance, commercial acting, self-promotion, and improvisation. Classes will also focus on industry information in order to equip you with what you need to know to get work once you graduate.

But you don’t have to be a performer to attend Barbizon’s school. In recent years, the company has bolstered its personal development track, teaching its young students skills like resume development, public speaking, and, of course, the always-present self-confidence training. These courses are designed to teach students skills that will improve their performance when they tackle tasks like trying out for the school debate team or interviewing for their first part-time job.

Barbizon Free Services:

You won’t get free services from Barbizon, although there is a three-day grace period to get your deposit back. Monitor this closely, though, as some parents have complained that they were charged even after canceling during those initial three days. If you cancel the service midway through, you may be entitled to a partial refund, but you might also need a heavy dose of persistence to get your money back for that.

How did Barbizon Modeling Get Started?

Barbizon dates all the way back to 1939, when it was founded as something called “charm school.” At the time, this type of training was considered a prerequisite to becoming a well-mannered young lady, capable of becoming successful in society. As the popularity of charm school began to wane, Barbizon rebranded itself as a school that promised to help aspiring entertainers hone their craft. Today, Barbizon Modeling has locations across the globe, including Canada, Japan, and Thailand.

Why Use a Modeling School?

For children and teens truly interested in becoming a performer, the prospect of attending a school can be attractive. However, schools like Barbizon can be quite expensive, and no training is necessary to become a model. If you have what it takes, you can simply submit your photo to agents and scouts, or join a talent platform that alerts you of upcoming jobs. There is a value to learning how to do a runway walk and pose, but industry professionals will base their decision more on whether you have “the look” than whether you’re fully trained.

Aspiring actors, on the other hand, can definitely benefit from training. However, there are plenty of acting classes in many major markets, and you can pay by the class rather than shelling out thousands of dollars for a full course. A one-on-one acting coach charges in the $100 an hour range, and these acting coaches are often well-credentialed.

While you don’t need a modeling or acting school to break in, these schools also prioritize self-confidence and interview practice. With the right school, the investment may be worth it, particularly if they can actually help showcase you to industry professionals. Barbizon tends to raise questions about its motives, though, since their criteria for admission appears to be based more on the willingness to pay rather than whether the student truly has potential.

With any modeling school, it’s important to take the lack of a guarantee of work seriously. If your only goal is to learn more about your craft and develop the skills necessary to succeed, you won’t be disappointed. However, shop around before signing the contract since you may be able to find the same training at a much lower rate, along with an online database and job board that will help you get work in your chosen industry.

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