Oh how she hated the Internet, this new means of modern technology that allowed information to spread swiftly across the masses. Only six months ago, Rachel Greene had been gracing the covers of some of the world's most illustrious fashion magazines. Barely 24 years of age, this pretty brunette already had close to USD20 mio of contracts under her belt. She was in demand and her modeling career was right on track
But all that came crashing down when she received her first photo shoot assignment with Massimo Milano. Rachel had at first welcomed the chance to shoot with this well know Italian photographer, whose name was associated with some of the biggest cat walk models and fashion houses this side of Manhattan.
But things started going wrong when she refused the repeated advances of Massimo. He had taken no pains to hide his sexual fascination with her and she had to endure the endless hours of torment and torture during his photo shoots. But had managed always to tacitly evade his lewd advances.
Rachel suspected that quite a few girls in the industry had become victims of this perverted monster. She was advised by her friend Monica that this was a usual seedy trademark of the high fashion industry. It was not the face that launched careers, but the photographer behind the face and body who could make or break a promising talent.
But she had not heeded Monica's advise. She simply could not, the very sight of the fat balding middle- aged Italian filled her with disgust and revulsion. The crunch came 3 months ago when she responded to a last minute assignment by the agency for a swimwear shoot.
Rachel suspected nothing unusual when she walked into the deserted studio. However her suspicions were immediately raised when she found herself alone with Massimo. She refused to change into the very skimpy G- String type bikinis and declined the cocktails he offered her. Finally, she simply walked out of the studio ignoring his threats and vulgarities.
The next thing she knew, nude and pornographic pictures of her were flooding the websites. She made a report to the authorities but they were never able to trace the actual origin of the pictures. But she recognized his handy work. These were not the product of amateurs photographers, they even fooled playboy and penthouse who vouched for the authenticity of the pictures.
The contracts were swiftly cancelled as prestigious brands and fashion houses tossed her like a used rag doll, wanting to distance their immaculate brand names from her soiled public image. It did not matter that the pictures were false, Rachel Greene was damaged goods and had lost her public appeal.
Low on cash and desperate for an assignment, Monica referred her to a secluded modeling agency known simply as "Cleo's." She soon found out that the agency itself was a front and only maintained a surreal existence on the internet.
There was no actual business address, phone lines, fax numbers etc. In fact, the agency prided itself on its discreteness. Perspective models e-mailed their portfolios and resumes to an internet web page together with their contact details. It was the agency who short listed the models and initiated first contact.
This arrangement seemed highly unusual to Rachel as she had thought that any aspiring modeling agency would be hungry for publicity. But Monica told her the reason behind this cloak of secrecy.
Additional to the usual modeling contracts, Cleo's also doubled as an escort agency. Rachel's heart sank when she heard this but Monica assured her that Cleo's looked after all of their models, many of whom were top models like herself who have wondered off the wayward path.
Cleo's was no ordinary escort agency either. It maintained an exclusive clientele which would forever be beyond the reach of the average man on the street. This agency catered to royalty, Celebes and the filthy rich. Small wonder that discretion and anonymity were the order of the day.
Monica herself confessed that she had accepted several well paid assignments and found the experience quite enjoyable. Seeing her hesitation Monica had prompted that she accepts the agency's invitation for a phone interview. She would speak with Madame Tussard, who basically ran Cleo's.
And now she sat anxiously as she waited to receive the impending phone call. As if reading her mind, the phone rang shrilly, jolting her out of her reverie. Rachel's heart pounded as she allowed the phone to rang for long seconds, still having reservations about this agency. Finally she snatched the cradle up and answered the phone breathlessly;
A soft spoken soothing feminine voice greeted her on the phone: "Why hello, is this Rachel Greene, it Madam Tussard here."
Rachel: "Yes this is her, er I mean me...I am Rachel Greene."
Madame Tussard: "My, you do sound tense tonight Rachel, but don't worry, Monica has told me a lot about you and that is why we are having this call tonight, to let you know a little more about Cleo's and its operations."
Rachel: "Oh, so you have spoken to Monica already, I hear she accepts contracts from your agency."
Madame Tussard: "Yes, Monica is one of our more popular young ladies, she has lovely blonde hair and ocean blue eyes and appeals naturally to the camera."
Rachel: "So she has accepted only modeling assignments? And not the more er...discreet jobs?"
Madame Tussard: "Well let me start from the beginning and tell you how we run Cleo's. Cleo's is first and foremost a modeling agency. Our models are featured in glamour magazines. The girls are young and beautiful and we look after them very well as they are our prized assets. Without the models, there is no Cleo's!!" she laughed easily.
Rachel: "Well that's very re-assuring to know and I am ready and willing to accept modeling assignments, you have seen my portfolio and resume..."
Madame Tussard: "Yes we have and we are very impressed. Your birth cert says you turn 24 this February and already I have seen your face on so many covers. And you have the perfect model's figure, long luscious black hair, 5'4 tall, 100lbs and a very supple and delicate 33C-24-34, with almond brown eyes and ivory white skin. Its no wonder that the public adores you so."
Rachel: "Yes, but as you probably also no, there was that ugly internet scandal... I have not been given another lucrative assignments since."
Madame Tussard's tone was encouraging: "That's a minor set-back. You are very young, and the public has a very short memory. We can restart your career, this is what Cleo's specializes in. We help less fortunate young ladies like yourself who were exploited by the industry, back on their feet." Rachel took heart and she felt herself more at ease with Madame Tussard: "Oh that's so good to hear, so when can I begin my first assignment."
There was a pause before Madame Tussard answered: "That's really up to you. You can even start tonight if you are up to it, but before that I must brief you on the other services that Cleo's offers."
Rachel: "Yes I can start tonight, tell me more."
Madame Tussard: "One reason Cleo's has been so successful over the years is the contacts we maintain with our exclusive clientele. These are not the fashion houses and tabloid magazines I refer to. These are the top celebrities, royalty, the CEOs of huge companies, oil tycoons, ministers, people whose names and faces appear in Forbes and Fortune magazine."
Rachel was confused: "Er do you mean they finance and sponsor the agency's operations?"
Madame Tussard thought for awhile: "That's one way to see things. The rich and famous are constantly at the mercy of the press. They have an image to maintain and they also have their personal needs, which quite often conflict with their public image. Cleo's plays the very delicate and vital role of maintaining the balance between these two needs."
Rachel was still confused: "I am sorry, what's so bad about financing a modeling agency, even if you are a minister or oil tycoon."
Madame Tussard's voice took a harder edge: "Even the filthy rich have their human needs, their sexual fantasies, desires that they need fulfilled. As money is no object they want only the best, so the usual whore houses or escort agencies will not appeal to them. They want cover girls and top models at their back and call, and of cause discretion is the order of the day."
Rachel's heart sank as she realized the implications of Madame Tussard's words. "So you are nothing more than an escort agency, just selling sex to the rich."
Madame Tussard's voice softened: "Not true. Although we run an agency and have contracts with fashion houses, we cannot survive on this seasonal revenue alone. We are a bona-fide modeling agency, but the harsh reality of corporate finance also sinks in. The fashion houses continue to use our models because Cleo's waives its agency fees. We do not charge the fashion house or the model. Cleo's offers a cheap alternative in these tough economic times to the budget conscious designer who still requires a top model to launch his products."
Madame Tussard continued: "But we need to cover our costs. We try to minimize on rental and office space and studios by maintaining only a surreal existence on the internet, but we still have to pay our photographers, drivers, writers and most importantly of all, our models. Our models take home 80% of our revenue, and they are worth every penny. So you my dear would take home most of the revenue. It's a win-win situation for you."
Rachel: "I still don't get it, will I get a proper modeling assignment or not?" Madame Tussard: "You will get a proper modeling, but because we have to cover our costs, you need to also fulfill a minimum quota of "Discreet Assignments" every month before we can refer you to the fashion houses."
Rachel knew by now what Madame Tussard meant by "Discreet Assignments."
Rachel: "How many "Discreet Assignments" a month precisely"
Madame Tussard: "That depends on the revenue generated on each assignment. Which also depends on the er "services rendered" in each Discreet Assignment."
Rachel: "Well that's still very vague, can you be more precise."
Madame Tussard: "I'll try. Lets say we were a full time modeling agency and I were to refer a top model like you to a fashion house, what would my agency fees be? I know it differs from assignment to assignment but on average I can expect at least 5-10 grand an assignment. So that's the opportunity cost for the agency, which is one side of the equation. Now we ask, how many Discreet Assignments do you need to complete before you can meet our minimum cost base of say 5k per month. That is an open question."
Rachel: "Why? Don't I receive a fix remuneration for each Discreet Assignment."
Madame Tussard: "Yes and no. For each Discreet Assignment, you will receive a basic Attendance Fee of 200 bucks."
Rachel: "200 bucks!!! It will take me forever to work that off!!!"
Madame Tussard: "This is only the Attendance Fee, you get this fee for merely showing up. All Discreet Assignments are voluntary. The model decides how far she wants to carry through her assignments. This is also for the welfare of the model."
Rachel: "That means I can turn-up, look at the client and if I do not like him, I can just leave."
Madame Tussard: "In short yes. But Cleo's prides itself on meeting and satisfying our exclusive clientele. Many of these high flyers are on stop-over flights between international destinations. They only have a few short hours to fulfill their Discreet Assignments. Its not nice to disappoint them. Word also does get around amongst the clients and if you have too many refusals, I will have difficulty recommending you even for Discreet Assignments, let alone modeling jobs. So use that as a last option."
Rachel remained silent as she contemplated her options. Sensing her reservations Madame Tussard continued: "I think you are viewing this in a negative manner. Most of our Discreet Assignments are actually quite pleasant. Do remember that you will be meeting the crème de le crème of society and not the usual riff raffs.
"Who knows you may meet a Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise and the pay-outs for full services are handsome, between 1- 2k a night. That means that you need only do 2-3 Discreet Assignments a month to meet your monthly quota. Once the quota is met we can refer you to any number of modeling jobs."
Rachel: "Yes, but this is so cheap, its tantamount to prostitution."
Madame Tussard: "Not true. The model decides how the evening progresses. Of cause sex is a real possibility, but it may or may not be on the agenda of our clients. Some may just want the company of a beautiful young lady. And even if there is sex, you decide whether to proceed, and it may turn out to be quite a pleasant experience after all. Imagine getting paid 1-2k to have a passionate evening with Tom Cruise, life can't get any better Rachel!"
Rachel: "Well, when you put it like this, its hard to say no."
Madame Tussard pushed on: "Then accept a Discreet Assignment Rachel, say yes! The bottom line is that you have nothing to lose. And if you do change your mind, you can just collect your Attendance Fee and leave after the preliminary social obligations."
Rachel: "Well, ok, since you put it that way. But will I have a male escort just in case the client becomes difficult."
Madame Tussard: "Of cause, that's agency policy to ensure the safety of our models. The Limo will pick you up from home and will wait for you at the client's location. You will have a direct line in to the driver, Ben, who will come to your aid in the very unlikely event things get out of hand."
Rachel: "yes, that is most re-assuring, so where do we go from here?"
Madame Tussard: "You mentioned you could start this evening, I have a very exclusive client flying through Manhattan. He is a regular and a perfect gentlemen. I can start by sending him your portfolio and pictures to see if he is interested in meeting up with you this evening."
Rachel: "Well, ok., who is this client?"
Madame Tussard: "Sorry that's privileged information. Just as the agency protects its models, so too do we protect the reputation of our clients. You will only know who the client is when you meet him in person. And if you do not like him, you can pull out after the obligatory cocktails."
Rachel: "Obligatory cocktails?"
Madame Tussard: "Yes Rachel, these are social formalities. We do not run a cheap fuck-shop so to speak. The usual protocol is to have 5-10 minutes of social interaction with the client, make small talk. Seep a cocktail, this also gives both of you a chance to get to know each other better. You can even think of it as a first date!"
Rachel: "Ok, I suppose I can do that tonight, just to have drinks and cocktail and nothing more. Please alert your client to this."
Madame Tussard: "That's not advisable, its like throwing a bucket of ice-water onto the client. He won't even want to meet you. Just play along with the game and cross the bridge when you come to it. The client knows the agency policy and that the model can walk anytime she wants to."
Rachel: "Well, ok, but I am just having cocktails this evening..."
Madame Tussard: "As you please Rachel. I will call you within the hour to confirm the assignment for tonight. Please leave your mobile on. Good bye for now."
-- Scene Shift To Madame Tussard's sleazy studio --