A model scout is a professional paid to find fresh modeling talent typically for a modeling agency. Scouts receive a commission (percentage) per model retained as well as jobs booked. Scouts may look for individuals with a particular look, or simply look for people that catch their attention; potential talent with that “X factor.” Model scouts must be able to not only recognize already “primed” talent, but people who have something unique about them, even if physically, they may need work, e.g. cosmetic adjustments. Scouts may work independently or for a modeling agency. Top modeling agencies include IMG, Ford, New York Model Management, among others. It should be noted that legitimate model scouts and agencies do not request or demand payment from models; the scout or agency is responsible for incurring any fees associated with the business.
While I would suggest that most model scouts are hardworking professionals who want nothing but the best for their clients, there are model scouts that take advantage of models. This is an unfortunate reality that doesn’t just occur in the fashion industry however, but other industries as well. Scams that can scouts and agencies can run is having a newspaper or television advertisement stating that they are looking for new talent, but once models show up to a presumed casting call, they quickly and perhaps predatorily try to coerce models into purchasing runway walking classes, acting classes, etc., effectively preying on the vulnerability of a lot of models.
Tyra Banks covered the world of modeling scams in one of her talk show episodes:
On the flip side there are plenty of scouts that won’t scam models. Famous model scouts include Tyra Banks (on America’s Next Top Model). Perhaps one of the best, if not the best cities for a scout to search for potential talent is New York. The sheer size of the population coupled with the fact that there is an incredible diversity of beautiful people and it is a great place to find new talent. Tons of successful models have been spotted and taken in by scouts. Examples include Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen, among others. Model scouts are an integral group of people within fashion.
IMG shot a reality show that shows a slightly romanticized model scouting business: