NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Two young students, who were promised trips to help launch careers and get exposure, say they’re out thousands of dollars.
“I was very upset and emotional,” a New Orleans high school junior, who we are not identifying because of her age, explained.
“It’s been so stressful beyond imagining,” nursing student Jacob Good, from Alabama, said.
The two students were strangers until last year, when they learned they’ve got a few things in common.
“I was definitely interested in modeling since I was little,” the teenager said.
“I used to have a number of people like you know stop me on the side of the street, asking, hey, are you like a model.. or have you ever thought about modeling?” Good said.
Both had a dream to one day get a shot at modeling and one agency caught their attention online.
“I ended up going with Impact Modeling and Talent Agency,” Good said. The high school student also liked Impact.
The New Orleans-based agency claims to represent talent ‘throughout the Southeast region and Los Angeles markets.’ Both students say they submitted talent applications last year through the Impact website.
“I was contacted by Carol Sterling,” Good said.
“I was contacted by Carol Sterling," the teen said.
An Impact Modeling and Talent Agency agreement mentions Carol Sterling as ‘the booking agent’. In emails, Sterling introduced herself ‘as the consultant for Impact.’
“She very quickly said that I would have that New York/ East Coast look. She said that I would be quickly seen by like H&M and Zara and different big agencies, companies like that,” Good explained.
“She said, oh you’re so cute, and you’re so pretty and I love your voice. I just can’t wait for you to be in my company and sign with me,” the teenager said.
The first step for the teen was a photo shoot at a hotel on St. Charles Avenue.
Her mother paid 1st Step Consulting 4 Models and Talent $250, but when the student and her mom arrived for the shoot Sterling wasn’t there.
“It was just some random guy. He just said he was here for Carol (Sterling) to take my pictures. He was like okay, take the pictures, he wasn’t saying what to do,” according to the teen.
Soon, she’d return to the same hotel for a talent workshop. This time, Sterling was there and the student learned different poses for photoshoots.
Jacob Good also attended the summer workshop.
“She told me that I would need to do the publicity package. She said it was $1500 and she said it would include me being in magazines.. on calendars that get sent out to all the big agencies,” Good explained.
An email from Sterling mentioned, as a publicity model he would be ‘personally introduced to decision-makers.’
“I asked, hey, will I have any future expenses very soon because I’m a college student, and I didn’t even have the money myself, like I was gonna have to ask my parents,” Good said.
In text messages, Good says Sterling wrote him, ‘How about I help out and give you all for $1,200! You need clothes.’ Good responded, ‘I’d be all in!’ Sterling texted, ‘Please cash app payment to $ImpactMTA.’
Good sent the money via Cash app, and a few weeks later, he and his parents made the six-hour trip to New Orleans where he posed for a few pictures in City Park and attended the workshop.
He said Sterling laid out basic modeling terminology, talked about what to expect in auditions, and pushed a trip to a Las Vegas gala in December for her book release and a model presentation.
“She called and she was saying that hey I got this discount for you. It’s $1,500. It’ll be for you, your mom, your dad hotel, flight and entrance to the gala. You gotta do this. You gotta do it you know,” Good said.
Good then transferred $1,500. Altogether he’s paid $2,700. Meantime, the high school junior transferred $700 to attend the Vegas trip on top of several hundreds of dollars she had already paid.
“She all of a sudden was opening this company Sterling Faces, and that everybody that was in her last workshop she selected to be her Sterling Faces,” the teen said.
Before Vegas, Good says Sterling called to say he would need more pictures.
“She told me the photographer and she was like he’s the best photographer in L.A., and you know he can get you the shots you need $700 for photoshoot, flight and hotel,” Good said.
Good sent Impact MTA $350 and a week later, another $350 directly to Carol Sterling. At that point, he had paid $3,400.
Days and weeks go by and Good can’t reach Sterling about his flight to L.A. Finally he gets a text from her that she had to push L.A. until December Las Vegas trip due to just you and Gaines going.' Good wrote, ‘so L.A. is canceled until Vegas?.. I get a refund correct?’
Both model applicants say after repeated tries to reach Sterling, they could never get an answer on flight information for the Vegas trip, but Sterling did send them confirmation for the hotel rooms.
“My mom called the hotel in Vegas that we were supposed to stay at and they said Carol had scheduled the trip on the day she sent us the confirmation and then two hours later she called the hotel back and canceled the trip,” the teen told us.
She finally reached Sterling by phone.
“Carol had this whole story about her throwing a book on the ground, saying how she quit the book because people were writing bad comments about her on social media.”
In a text, Sterling wrote Good, “Things were changed to February. I agree a full refund for Las Vegas as I am not sure myself of a solid date in February until book is in hand.” That message was in November.
“I haven’t received a thing.. nothing,” Good said.
Again, Jacob Good is out $3,400. The high school student paid more than $2,000. Good paid for a publicity package he says he never received. Both paid for trips that never happened.
“Quite a bit of money. $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 and this last complaint that I actually talked to the consumer said that she put up $15,000 for her son to get the modeling package.. the trips, exposure, everything you could think about.. but just nothing came to fruition, not the whole package for sure,” Cynthia Albert of the Better Business Bureau said.
Like the FOX 8 Defenders, Albert is aware of more complaints.
I went to several locations Impact Modeling and Talent Agency listed with the Secretary of State’s office. First, I visited an office tower in New Orleans East, but a different business occupies the suite Impact listed.
“This is not something that I’m accustomed to, and this is not something that I want to be.. this is horrible,” Carol Sterling said.
After several attempts, we finally reached Sterling, who’s out of town and stressed she doesn’t have access to client records to answer specifics. She says she’s an independent consultant for 1st Step Consulting Agency 4 models and Talent, who’s worked with many people in the model and talent industry for years and taken clients on trips for exposure with success in the past.
“Obviously this one was not successful. I’m struggling like everyone else in an economy that through the years probably should have stopped a long time ago, but it’s my passion, it’s what I do. I just felt like that I needed to move on. I felt like this was something that could happen and it collapsed in my face,” Sterling said.
She told us she took on more than she could handle.
I asked, So they gave you the money. If you had to cancel because it was just too much, where did that money go? Why can’t they get that money back?.
“I am working to give them their money back. It still went into pursuing the event itself. It went into working with them. This wasn’t just you pay this and you’re going. I was coming out of pocket as well,” Sterling said.
She told me publicity packages were in progress and some trips were pushed to February. “I’m working every single solitary day trying to get people rectified,” Sterling said.
While hundreds of dollars were transferred to Impact MTA, Sterling insists ultimately she received those funds.
“I knew every time she would call that she wanted money, and she would say I need it NOW,” the teen model explained.
Looking back, both model applicants say they learned a tough lesson.
“And the funny thing about it is she talked all the way down. I was like we don’t have any more money, and she was like $1,200, $1,000, $600. She went all the way down to $300,” Good said.
They say she impacted their families financially and shattered their dreams.
Just a few hours before our report was scheduled to air, Randi McClendon of Impact Modeling and Talent Agency emailed the FOX 8 Defenders a statement.
In it, she said, “Carol Sterling worked as an Independent Consultant to many beginners in the Industry and referred talent that was ready for an Agent. She has never been an employee and at this time I’m uncertain as to her career plans.”
However, that statement does not answer our questions about how Sterling got access to model applicants and why Impact MTA received some payments.