The world of modelling can appear very appealing with photoshoots, professional hair and make-up and beautiful clothes.
But Miss Lancashire, Mary-Kate McKay is warning aspiring models about rogue agencies, after she almost fell victim to a company which promised they could help her to become a model.
The 23-year-old from Chorley, who is also deputy Miss England, is working with charity Fixers to alert other aspiring models to be on their guard.
She said: “I want people to realise that there are some companies out there that are only after your money.
“If I could stop just one person from being scammed then my work will be done.”
Mary-Kate was crowned Miss Lancashire earlier this year and was soon encouraged to look for a modelling agency.
“I found it quite challenging,” she said.
“After filling in loads of application forms and getting lots of rejections, I finally got a positive response, but it turned out to be a scam.”
With the support of Fixers, Mary-Kate is making a film to get her message across to as wide an audience as possible.
“I was really excited when I finally got a really positive reply from a firm telling me that I was exactly what they wanted,” said Mary-Kate.
“They told me that they would be sending me for a really high-end photo-shoot, and that if I didn’t respond there and then, I would miss the opportunity, which terrified me.
“But a couple of days before the shoot, my mum came across a website highlighting all the rogue modelling agencies. Unfortunately, the company that was putting me forward for the high-profile photo-shoot was top of the list.
“It turned out that I would have had to pay for the photos, which can cost thousands of pounds. When I realised that it was a scam, I was devastated.”
Lauren Mellor, senior model booker at Boss Model Management, in Manchester, said: “In 2010 a new law came in to make it illegal for agencies to charge an administration fee so if anybody approaches you and asks you to send them money, this is against the law.
“Nowadays you don’t have to have a professional portfolio to get onto the books of an agency. A reputable agency will be able to spot potential in a simple Facebook photograph or family snapshot.
“Our advice is to only approach agencies recommended by the Association of Model Agents website.”
Laurie Kuhrt, chairman of the Association of Model Agents, said: “This is terrible and it’s a blot on the modelling industry because it is kidding young people, including boys as well as girls, that they have got what it takes, when they know perfectly well that it is hopeless.
“They’re taking huge amounts of money from people and fanning the flames of people’s desire to be famous, and then exploiting it ruthlessly.
“An aspiring model does not need a portfolio.”