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Modeling Schools

by Shauna Smith Duty


What are modeling schools?
Modeling schools are private institutions designed to provide an introductory understanding of the modeling and acting industries and teach students basic modeling and acting skills. The two big, national modeling schools in the US are Barbizon Modeling and Acting Centers and John Robert Powers School System. Graduates of these schools have mixed feelings about their modeling alma maters.

John Robert Powers
For 85 years, the John Robert Powers organization has been in business. Today, JRP is in 57 cities including locations in the US, Canada, Guam, and England. The Website boasts success stories such as Jackie Onassis, Dianna Ross, Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, Princess Grace, and Henry Fonda. While the school does offer programs in modeling, acting, and their new class, the “Singing Pro Workshop”, they also teach a “Life Program”, which is intended to work much like a finishing school.

JRP has classes for children as young as 4 years of age, and they also instruct adults. Their modeling school is “by invitation only”, according to the Website, and they claim they do not accept everyone. JRP also has an agency for their graduates, and after a photo shoot scheduled through the school, graduates can request to work with the agency, which boasts a host of clients including a list of big names in fashion (such as DKNY, Abercrombie & Fitch) , print (such as Cover Girl, Parents Magazine), commercials (such as Disney, Kodak), and movies and television (such as American Idol, Saved by the Bell, Sex and the City).
Modern JRP graduates include Conner Rayburn from “According to Jim” and Macy Curthird from “Hope and Faith”. However, like adults, very few children who enter the modeling and acting industry make the “big time”.

Barbizon Modeling and Acting Centers claims to be the oldest modeling school in the US and has been in business for 65 years. Currently, Barbizon locations can be found in 235 cities. Their programs are called “curriculum” and include Female Modeling, Pre-Teen Modeling-TV & Self Esteem, Full-Figure Modeling & Beauty, Male Modeling, and Advanced Professional Modeling.

The Website,, features videos of happy Barbizon graduates sharing their favorite modeling school experiences. What happens when graduates move into the real world? Moises Arias won a role in the major motion picture “Nacho Libre”, and Sara Niemietz acted in “Akeelah and the Bee”. As for print, graduates have made the covers of many national magazines including Vogue, and have been featured in national advertisements as well. Barbizon grads have even won pageant titles, like Miss Pre-Teen, Miss Teen, and Miss US World.

It’s obvious by the number of Barbizon locations and the consistent stream of students who enroll in classes, only a small percentage of graduates make the “big time”. While the acting and modeling industries are huge, only the best, whether modeling school graduates or not, find success.

The Scam
Google JRP or Barbizon and “bad experiences”, and you’ll find many dissatisfied clients, but you’ll also find happy graduates. Check out and to read what people have to say about their negative experiences with modeling schools.

One primary bone of contention with disgruntled clients seems to be financial. Photo shoots, which, according to Marla Dell of the prestigious San Francisco-based Marla Dell Agency, should cost $200-250, generally cost $350 with JRP. An initial investment of $500 is required, too. The cost of these schools’ programs can be upwards of $8000, and hidden costs seem to sneak up when clients least expect them.

The Success
I am a freelance writer. I’m not a model, nor am I an actress. However, I am a John Robert Powers graduate. When I was 16 years old, my mother wisely used my desire to become a famous actress or print model as a reason to send me to the JRP finishing school. After graduation, I took on a one-day non-paying live mannequin job through the JRP agency. As a young married woman in college, I used the industry information I learned at JRP to find a temporary job modeling at the Dallas Apparel Mart during market. It paid well, and it was fun.

My experience with JRP was positive because my mother went into the school contract with the understanding that, no matter what the sales person said about my eyes looking like Michelle Pfeiffer’s, she was purchasing finishing school for me, not a ticket to Easy Street in the modeling and acting biz.

The skills I learned in make up application and wardrobe, formal introductions, dining skills, and even walking in high heels, have come in handy throughout my adult life. From knowing how to introduce an associate to a client, to feeling confident which fork I was to use at a formal dinner, to speaking in front of an assembly of strangers, the training I received at JRP was well worth the cost. Time and time again, my piers, clients, and supervisors have told me that I speak eloquently, and I attribute this, in part, to my training with JRP. I will also say that the photos, though pricey, are the best photos I have ever had. Not only were they professional, but I was 16 and looked great. Trained instructors helped me with make up, wardrobe, and even my choice of hair style (I cut it all off before the shoot). I’ll treasure the pictures forever.
My son is 10, and my daughter is 11. I plan to send them to a finishing school when they are in high school. If JRP has a location in my area, they’ll follow in my footsteps.

Bottom Line
According to Marla Dell, “Modeling schools are beneficial for some people. Kids can be over trained, though.” For serious child models, Dell says training is not necessary until a child is about 8 years old. Children interested in acting should have an acting coach around the age of 10.

As a modeling school graduate, I would advise parents to only enroll their children in a modeling school to provide basic skills in personal etiquette and poise, and as an introduction to the modeling and acting industry. Graduates should not count on the school agencies to lead them into a successful career. Parents need to make sure they know all the costs associated with the programs they purchase, and they should ask questions about the additional costs of photo shoots, supplies, books, and other items not covered by tuition. The representatives who sell the programs are sales people. Like a used car salesman, they want to sell, sell, sell. Don’t be charmed by compliments and empty promises, be an informed consumer.


Comment Pages: 1 2

Sun, Dec 05, 2010 4:06pm

how do i get started on getting my daughter in modeling? [email protected]

Thu, Jul 01, 2010 10:06pm

i was just wondering if iz their free modeling claesses

Tue, May 04, 2010 7:04am

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 7:38pm

check out my pics , should be on mag. or on tv

Tue, Mar 17, 2009 3:09pm

VOTE 4 LAQUINN PLEASE everyone please vote

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