For some time now I have been keeping some things to myself. I can remain silent no longer. Others have given voice to much of what I will be speaking of and freed themselves, others are still trapped. If my words can help just one to free him or herself from the virtual prison in which they have found themselves, like myself and so many others, then whatever consequences these words may bring will have been worth it.
The virtual prison of which I speak is known in the Second Life fashion world as Classic with Style or CWS. Prison may be a rather strong or even inaccurate term to use in reference to CWS but for those who have been there and gotten out... it's a rather apt description. It's that sense of freedom when you have finally walked away that makes you realize just how oppressed you really felt. Perhaps I am being overly dramatic, perhaps not. Try to reserve judgement until after you have read my story.
My story begins the day I received a notice in the SF Design group inviting all to participate in the SF Designs Super Model 2012 competition, even if you weren't a model. While I hadn't done any modeling in SL since 2005 and there have been some changes since then, I had been kicking around the idea of getting back into modeling. This seemed like as good an opportunity as any to break the ice. Since I have purchased outfits from SF Designs I was already familiar with the designer. So I filled out the application and sent it in. I was a little surprised when my application was approved. Frankly, I didn't think I would even be considered since it had been so long since I had been on a runway. After all, there were many models in SL with more recent experience than mine. I was even more surprised when I was chosen to be one of the 15 contestants.
Of course I had gone out and spent Ls on poses and a Balut HUD after I had found out what some of the changes from 2005 were. Money that quite frankly, I really did not have to spare. But I was having fun and enjoying a break from doing viewer support. Yes, I really am on the PH/FS viewer support team. Many seem to think that because I do support on one account and other things on a different account that means I'm not on the team when I am on my alt, as if I am not the same person on the other side of the screen. But that's another story. Anyway, here I am after that first round of competition watching the CWS blog like a hawk, waiting to see if I had "made it". We were told that the announcement would be up that day within a fairly short period of time. It wasn't. Not until the next day. See for yourself: http://cwsshows.blogspot.ca/2012/08/next-sf-super-models-audition-results.html The audition was held on the 26th... the date of the blog post announcing those who had "made it" is dated the 27th. That should have been the first alarm to go off.
But by then I had been told about UCWS. At the time it seemed like a good idea to get into the school if I could and learn the changes that had occurred since 2005. So I spoke with Anrol Anthony, CEO of CWS, in IMs about it. When she told me the price (10,500Ls) I was not only dismayed I was shocked. I'm on a limited income in RL and that amount is twice what I allow myself to occasionally purchase in Ls. Normally I budget for 2500Ls per month. I told Anrol I couldn't afford 10.5k Ls. I think she realized just how much I really wanted those classes because she told me to talk to DebbieDoo. Which I promptly did. Regardless of what others may think of Debbie, she is actually a generous person. It was because of Debbie sponsoring me that I was able to get into UCWS. And she has not once asked me for anything in return. At the time I didn't think much about it. I had spoken with my RL other half about the whole thing. He reminded me of how "agencies" had been run way back when and of what a scam they were. It was his opinion (and still is) that all agencies still operate the same way. My opinion differs from his. Obviously, there is at least one "agency" that still scams people and there are perhaps others, but I feel certain there are those out there who do not and actually deliver what they promise.
So. There I was, busting my butt in UCWS while at the same time trying my best to stay in the SF Design comp. Classes were held every day, 7 days a week, twice a day. You only needed to attend one class a day, which I did. I also attended a few "extra" classes, repeating some of the ones I had already taken. Without even the slightest doubt I know I had perfect attendance. I was even getting up earlier every day including Saturdays and Sundays just so I could log in earlier than normal and practice. Not only was I practicing each morning I was helping other students in my class. Some of whom needed the help badly. I was more than happy to help those who needed it and even started announcing in group that I was at the school ready to practice and help others. No one else volunteered to do what I was doing (you could call it tutoring) that I ever saw. That's not to say no one else didn't. I just never saw it if they did. I did, however, see one or two announce once or twice they were going to practice if anyone wanted to join them. So, now not only am I busting my butt in class and in the SF Design comp, I'm busting my butt to help the other students who were so confused and felt so lost. Did I mind? Did I feel resentful? Not at all. I was enjoying it even if it was wearing me out. Two things occurred which were the real reasons I stopped busting my butt to help just a few days before finals and graduation. One of which was when I got volunteered for something. By that I mean someone else told some of the students that I would do something without even asking me first! It doesn't matter who or what and frankly, I've already forgotten who it was and what it was. What caused me to slam the brakes on was the fact I was not asked first. I already had enough on my plate. Fact is I would have offered even though I knew I would probably be taking on more than I should or even could. But I had to draw the line somewhere and because I felt I was being used by another student, I balked. Am I angry about it? No. Was I angry about it at the time? Not really. I even turned the whole thing into a joke then let it go.
About a week before, I had been assured by one of the three SF Design comp judges that I had made it to the next round which, as it turns out, was not really a competition since the three finalist are doing a pageant format; swimsuit, talent and evening gown. After having made it through the audition, the first round of competition and actually beating out some of the established CWS models, you can imagine how it felt when I discovered I had been eliminated. Mind you, this was after I had been assured by a judge that I would be in the next round. Up until this point in time I had not had any doubts about my abilities as a model. I had been successful as a model in 2005 and things had not changed so drastically as to render my abilities null and void. This is when the alarms really started going off. After talking with one of the instructors and another student on different occasions I was given a link by the student and asked my opinion of what was on the site. I went to the site (one I had never heard of) and spent several hours reading through everything that was posted there about CWS. I then told the student that had asked for my opinion what I knew; there was some truth to what was posted. Yes, that site is Agency Report and no I have not, do not and never will post on that site. Sorry to disappoint you Anrol but I am not Debbie nor am I ScamAlertLicious. If you had actually read any of the applications I turned in to you, you would know. Hopefully though you have trashed them all and emptied your Trash folder. Of course I expect you will read this, Anrol. Sooner or later word will get back to you about it. Do yourself a favor and don't waste your time trying to trash me in SL and/or harass me. It won't phase me one bit and I will report any harassment, griefing, etc, to LL. That includes all of your alts and anyone you bribe into doing something you know is wrong. There are some advantages to being a long time resident of SL as well as being on a viewer support team. You do get to know a few well placed Lindens.
Anyway... back to my story. As this is turning into a much longer blog post than I had intended, I'm going to forget about some of the things that happened and get to the heart of the story. As you will recall, Debbie had sponsored me to take the classes at UCWS and because of that I was determined that not only would I graduate, I would graduate with honors. I was not going to let Debbie down. I set my sights on being Valedictorian and I never told anyone. Even after the bombshell of how things really worked at CWS was dropped on us one day in class. As I said earlier I have it all logged... I log everything. Somewhere on my other pc I have SL logs going back several years. Local chat and IMs. But I digress. By this time I was no longer enjoying what I was doing. All the enjoyment was gone. I was spending all of my time in SL working on stylings, homework, etc and was barely logging into my other account except just long enough to transfer Ls. I was doing support solely on my alt and not by choice, but by necessity... if I wanted to graduate and do everything I needed to do... just to be in fashion shows. Forget pageants. I have no desire to be in a pageant. Especially after I found out just how much some of the CWS models will spend on them. More on that later.
Valedictorian... "To be considered as class valedictorian, a student must demonstrate a optimistic attitude and help his or her fellow students." http://cwsweekly.blogspot.ca/2012/10/congratulations-ucws-graduates.html
If you have read the previous entry on my blog then you already know, even after all the hard work I put in, the perfect attendance, the constant "Good jobs!" even when it really wasn't and all the long, long hours... I was not awarded Valedictorian at graduation. Instead I was awarded Best Blogger. Both awards came with a "scholarship" for the advanced classes. Yes, I was disappointed all my hard work and optimistic attitude was not recognized. I was extremely let down and highly discouraged by that time. On the other side of the same coin I am very happy my friend Kitty was awarded Valedictorian. Personally, I felt if anyone other than myself deserved it, Kitty did. As I understand it the instructors literally fought with Anrol so Kitty would be awarded Valedictorian. If you'd like to ready Kitty's side of things you can do so here: http://kittypicadilly.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/my-cws-truth-many-of-you-who-read-this.html
Does all that sound to you as if I am bitter and angry over not being awarded Valedictorian? Sorry to disappoint you. I'm not. It was simply another nail in the CWS coffin. Oh and btw... I'm no blogger either. Before attending UCWS I had never blogged in my entire life.
In a nutshell here is how things at CWS work. First, in order to be in a fashion show, you have to join one of the photo contests in order to be able to do the required stylings. The cost for one vote? 25Ls. Oh sure you can "double" your votes on certain days between certain hours... do you have two or three hundred US dollars or more to spare every month? Notice I said 200 or 300 US DOLLARS... not Ls. Why? Well, not only do you have to be entered in at least one "photo contest" to be in fashion shows (that only pays 200Ls per show) you have to be in one of these "photo contests" to have a chance at being in a pageant. See where this is going? Not only do you have to do the required 2 stylings per week to be in a fashion show you are also required, by Anrol, to attend no less than 2 practice sessions per week. We're talking anywhere from 4 to 8 hours per week. Not counting the time spent working to style the themes and coming up with a description that also has to meet certain criteria plus putting together pose sequences, buying additional poses because the ones you already have just do not fit the theme or the outfit, etc. etc. etc. For me all that time added up. I was spending anywhere from 12 - 14 hours a day on this stuff and more at times. Don't forget I was still in class, plus helping others, still having to write blogs which I had never done before, still practicing daily on beach and dome formations, plus the styling formation which you are not taught as part of the classes you paid for. Those are done separately and are "free". Free? That's a laugh. Nothing at CWS is free. You will pay for it one way or another. Unless you stop drinking the koolaide (as it was so aptly put on Agency Report) before it's too late.
As for how the voting works... out of curiosity I logged in on my main, popped over to the voting area and dropped 100Ls on my photo expecting the vote count to go up by 4 since its supposed to be 25L per vote. I got a whopping ONE vote for 100Ls. 100Ls divided by 25Ls equals 4. Hmmm... Needless to say I didn't ever vote again. The so called boost voting? Two votes gets you one boost vote but only if you drop a minimum of 500Ls. I still have all of the CWS the notecards I was given. I'm not deleting anything. Instead I am boxing everything to do with CWS in one box and keeping as a reminder to myself and for future reference.
Don't get me wrong. The school at CWS is a very good one and I did have fun. I enjoyed the school very much as well as learning what had changed since 2005. The instructors run the school and for the most part Anrol does stay out of it. She's already gotten your 10.5K Ls. She is simply lying in wait for you to graduate so she can scam hundreds of thousands more Ls out of you. That is, if she doesn't pounce on you before you graduate. There are those models at CWS that will dump as much as 400 US dollars a month or more trying to be in the top 10 of those photo contests so they can be in a pageant... and then dump a few thousand more Ls on the pageant itself, if not several tens or hundreds of thousands of Ls. $400US is a half month's rent for me. Is the 10.5k Ls for just the school worth it? For some it may be, for others like me who have limited income or low income... I would recommend looking elsewhere. Better to be safe than sorry. Was Debbie's sponsorship for me to attend classes and graduate worth it? I have to answer that "yes". Oh, did I forget to mention that after you pay the 10.5K you also have to pay for the Huddles, walks, and mandatory poses IN ADDITION to the 10.5K? No? Well, now you know. And something else, after graduation, you have to buy even more mandatory poses for more formations. Where do all the Ls go for these purchases of mandatory poses? You guessed it! Anrol herself. In fact the mandatory poses you need to purchase after graduation, you have to ask Anrol for them.
Something else you should know. It's a somewhat minor thing but one that needs to be mentioned. Keep in mind that all these "little things" add up to something much bigger. Anrol believes she has the right to dictate to you and all CWS models as to whether or not you can hide the CWS groups on your profile. Even if you happen to experience the server glitch that sometimes occurs where all or some of your groups that are NOT actually hidden show as hidden... Anrol will try to tell you that it is part of your "contract" that you must display the groups at all times. I never signed a contract of any kind. I was never provided with a copy of this so called contract nor has one ever been shown to me. There is no contract, written, verbal or otherwise. It's just another one of Anrol's control tactics. That's right. I said it. Here let me rephrase it for you. Anrol Anthony is a scam artist as well as being a control freak. If you do take classes at CWS do not allow yourself to become another one of her co-dependants. Take your classes, do the homework, graduate (with honors if possible) then get the hell out! And if you do hide the groups, stay as far away from Anrol as you can. In fact, do yourself a favor, don't enter any photo contests or any stylings while you are taking classes.
While I did spend somewhere around 50K in Ls on poses, outfits, accessories, etc I was one of the luckier ones. As of October 25, 2012 I am no longer a CWS model. I completed all the stylings I had scheduled for myself (with a little help from friends, thank you so much) and attended a "seminar" offered by Anrol on the 25th. The first of its kind. What was the seminar about? It seems Anrol has had a "change of heart" and wants to help her models find work outside of CWS. *coughs* The exact opposite of her previous policy of not allowing "her models" to work outside of CWS. Her "advice" on auditions was actually good but it's also common sense. But that was just the first part of the "seminar". The second part... how to earn 25,000Ls per month blogging. Get 5 designers to subscribe to your blog and charge them 1000Ls for each blog (5 per designer per month) you write about their creations and you can earn 25k Ls every month! Good luck with that. But before you start you might want to check out just how many people out there are doing the same thing... and how long they last. Very few do this long term and even fewer make any money at it. By the way, Anrol plans on holding these seminars once a month from now on... but!... they are only for Advanced or "Doctorate" students of CWS and limited to 18 people. There were 12 of us at the first one. And the "seminar" was done in voice. Draw your own conclusions.
There is so much more I could say, so much more of my story that really should be told... However, I'll just leave things as they are. I'd much rather put it all behind me and move on. Hopefully I will be able to do just that and not have to spend any of my time filing ARs and dealing with griefers. Now that I have thrown off the yoke of oppression, the sensation of freedom is exhilarating and I intend to revel in every moment of it.
So... what's next for me? Am I giving up on modeling? Far from it. I have applied and been accepted at another school and will be taking intermediate and advanced classes. On top of that, I've been hired as an experienced model at an agency. Not bad for someone who hadn't auditioned since 2005.
Onwards and upwards!
P.S. Those of you who did drop Ls to vote for me on the International Model photo contest... I'm sorry you wasted your Ls. Had I known you were going to I would have told you not to. Thank you for your support.