MUSKEGON, Mich. -- A Muskegon mother says she was taken for thousands of dollars by a talent agency that promised to make her daughter a child star.
Wraenique Coleman's 4-year-old daughter Morgan wanted to be a star. When they heard an ad on the radio for a company called 321 Shine holding auditions in Grand Rapids, all Morgan had to do was show up and remember a Tide commercial monologue. The agency claimed to be affiliated with the Disney Channel.
Coleman and her daughter showed up to the Ramada hotel on 28th Street in Grand Rapids where the auditions were being held. Coleman said Morgan remembered all her lines, so it was no surprise to her when the agency wanted her. Wraenique said they made a lot of promises -- acting classes, head shots and, of course, a job -- all at the price of $3,000 in cash.
After Morgan's first acting class, her mother said a lot of red flags popped up. She said 321 Shine gave her a booklet with names of people they work with, but when she contacted them, some said they had never heard of the company. Also, she called Disney, who said they were not affiliated with 321 Shine.
When Wraenique asked for her money back, the agency said no, per the contract she signed. The agency said she only had three days to back out with a full refund. 321 Shine has several bad reviews and complaints listed with the Better Business Bureau all over the country. The company recently changed its name to 321 Shine from John Robert Powers.
The FOX 17 Problem Solvers reached out to the company, but they had no comment.
Local casting agents like Rossa Casting in Grand Rapids say to stay clear of places like 321 Shine. "A red flag is definitely, 'We want you to pay us money so we can get you a job.' That's not how it works," said Tracey Walker at Rossa Casting.
Casting associates with Rossa Casting say you should never pay money up front, especially cash, and that there should never be deadlines. They say that if you hear a mass media advertisement for an audition , run the other way. Unlike big cities like New York or Los Angeles, Grand Rapids doesn't have protections for actors.
"It is not required that you have to have a license to have a talent agent right now. Anyone can say they are an agent," said Ellie Frances with Rossa Casting.
That attracts agencies willing to take your money and leaving you nothing to show for it. Most agents only take 10 percent, but here it's the wild west of acting, with no restrictions on a commission cap.
An Atlanta actor, Larry Herring, also weighed in on the matter. He has been represented by an agency for years, and writes blog posts on his website to help those starting out. A blog he wrote explains the difference between fake and real agencies: He said no legitimate agency would ever advertise over a mass medium like radio or television, because they should be reputable enough that they don't have to do that kind of thing. Also, before even looking for representation, kids should try to get some experience, whether that's in a school play or a community theater.
Wraenique may never get her money back, because she signed a contract with 321 Shine. However, Rossa Casting wants to see Morgan and with the potential of taking her on as a client.