Help Wanted: Model to live rent-free in amazing New York City apartment, get free dinners and transportation. Must be able to hang out and dance at high-end NYC clubs night after night.
It’s the type of ad that some nightclub promoters post on international websites where real fashion models look for work. Its purpose is to attract women who are willing to entice men to frequent clubs that the promoters are paid to promote.
Promoters have been using the tactic for years. The arrangement is typically referred to as "model houses." It remains something of an industry secret in New York and across the globe. To some, it may seem devious. To others, it's a stroke of entrepreneurial genius.
The women are often from such places as Lebanon in the Middle East, and and Ukraine in Eastern Europe. They arrive with little money but with hopes of landing in New York to get their modeling careers off the ground. The promoter pays their airfare and then provides free housing in his New York City apartment where 5 to 15 other ladies live.
“Those promoters control the market,” setting a club’s attractiveness standards, providing a club’s status that corresponds to bottle service prices, Roy Lugasi, a veteran New York club promoter, told Metro. Lugasi claimed that a club might pay a good promoter $1,500 to $2,000 a night; sometimes they can make as much as $500, even $700 per model they bring to the club. He takes his entourage of models to more than one club a night, five to seven nights a week.
"They're not just good looking women. They are real, tall, fashion models," he said.
The promoters encourage the women to stay at their tables and not get lost in the crowd. They dance near the table to ensure they're not lured away by a rival promoter and drink only enough to keep up appearances.
“It’s still her own free will,” another veteran promoter “Travis” told Metro. “It’s not a lie. She’s getting the perfect opportunity and she is safe,” he said, explaining that the promoters sometimes have a car and a driver, or guarantee a taxi to make sure they get home safely.
“The promoters are for the most part good guys. They take care of them,” Travis said. “The girls would be going out anyway. Partying anyway. They live for free, sit at the best table, have a car, drink for free.”
A sad truth in the modeling industry is that women who get signed to agencies—even the top agencies that staff Fashion Week runways and catalogs—are made to live in an official model housing and have to pay expensive rent, causing many of them to go into debt, as CNN reported in an expose. Those apartments might be in bad condition, could be roach and rat infested, and are often not in desirable locations.
The promoters' model apartments are "much nicer," Travis said. Right now there are about 20 promoter-run model houses in the city, he said. Some promoters have more than one apartment.
Clearly not all promoters use this method. Millennial promoters utilize social media to get bodies in the club. “Nate” told Metro that he finds Tinder and Instagram to be useful for finding good-looking people to add to his coterie. As a “light” promoter who only goes out a couple of times a week with a small group of women, he said he might make just $60 a night to supplement his income. Other very dedicated promoters he knows might take out 60 people almost every night.
Lugasi is trying to change the scene with his app Weepo which allows club-goers to choose a venue based on “real people” who are going, and chat with them beforehand.
Infrequently, some women associated with promoters will have sex with club patrons for cash, Lugasi said.
“Someone who comes in and pays $5,000 to get a table next to the promoter table might have two women who are very, very hot go over and speak to him," he said. "Then they go with him and when they get them into bed they say it’s costing money.” Then she’ll put him on the phone with the promoter and work out a deal, he said.
Travis said that having a model house might be lucrative for a promoter, but it can be a big risk, and pain.
“It’s babysitting,” said Travis, adding that sometimes a woman might get lost or fight with someone else in the house. “It’s hard work. My friend tried and said it was the most hectic year of his life.”