Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guest Post: Review of Christa Meola's Paris Workshop Retreat

After reading Christine's review of Christa Meola's Paris Workshop Retreat & Mentoring Program, one fellow attendee also decided to post her own review online on DWF.  Tricia's review can be seen on Christine's original review here on Photo Lovecat.  Sigrid Cardona was originally going to share her review as a comment on Christine's post, but it is too long to post in the comments so she emailed us asking if we would allow her review to be published here as a guest post since she does not currently have a blog.  We all heartily agreed to allow her this chance for her voice to be heard as well.

Sigrid's Review:  

I can attest to EVERYTHING that Christine has stated. I too was at the Paris workshop with Christa Meola. I completely agree with Christine in her disappointment in this Workshop.

I am a newbie to photography workshops. My dream was always to go to Pasadena Art Center to learn photography but I never had the cash to do such a thing. So recently I had been wanting to up the ante in my photography and wanted to learn from a great Boudoir photographer. I stumbled on to Christa Meola's website and the images just blew me away! I knew I wanted to bring my images to that type of a caliber. I read that she was doing a workshop and figured i could REALLY learn how to do this properly.

And in response to the Anonymous folk who questioned in the comments WHY SPEND SO MUCH MONEY... because in ANY Career you need an education. What the hell is wrong with spending money on education????? Yes true you don't have to pay, and instead can take years to learn this on your own. I and many others have chose to PAY for an education and learn from real photographers that want to teach and help you get to the next level in your career. But the blame should not be put on us because we wanted to LEARN. INSTEAD why not ask, "WHY didn't the instructor and in this case Christa Meola teach us anything or at least follow through with what she was suppose to

Now let me back this up for just a second and let everyone here know that during the workshop, and even when I came home, I was content with how the workshop went. I was never personally offended by Christa. And while in Paris I had a conversation with Christa where she didn’t know why most of the girls on the trip where upset. I tried explaining to her from what I had gathered of why they were upset. I even defended Christa when we came back from the trip when all of us Paris attendees had a discussion about the trip.

My thoughts of the workshop began to change when I read Christine's post and I realized that there where many discrepancies in what happened and what was actually supposed to happen in Paris. I must
remind you all that I was a newbie and I had never attended a workshop. So I really didn’t know what to expect and really didn’t set any expectations.

When I came home I learned about Creative Live and have been Intensely watching every live event ever since. Then Christine’s post came to light and it hit me! Christine opened my eyes to what really happened and DIDN'T happen in Paris.

Now also let me tell you that I didn’t just hop on a bandwagon either, after taking all these online Live courses with industry greats such as Sal Cincotta, Jared Platt, Sue Bryce and now Joe Buissink, I now
have realized how a photography instructor NEEDS to instruct and how much is possible to learn from a 3 day workshop. I can honestly say now that I did not learn anything concrete from Christa’s work shop, but instead learned a lot from my fellow attendees.

After editing my images from Paris I have also began to feel bad at the fact that we did not really get any Boudoir or Fine art models. Our supposedly Fine art model was an older drunk lady who NO ONE could tame. In my group more then half the girls just quit trying to photograph her because there was no point! I also just learned that one of the models we can’t even use on our portfolios because she was under age. There really was no Boudoir models nor where there any real fine art models. There was no teaching of how to pose the models until after all the models had gone and she showed us with a fellow attendee who so kindly decided to pose. I struggled through the photo shoots and received help from my fellow attendees because Christa was not around. I was also asked to be a model because we had a shortage of models, which in turn caused me to miss one hour of photographing.


• 3 day workshop not 5 days
• No real fine art models or Boudoir (some models refused to be photographed in lingerie or nude); one of our models was DRUNK; one of our models was under age; one of our models an attendee and I found on the streets of Paris and asked if she would model because we had a lack of models from Christa Meola; attendees were asked to model due to lack of models
• There was no teaching BEFORE models showed up on how to deal with them or even how to pose them or to work with natural lighting.

• No structure in teaching. There was no set plan or agenda of what we where supposed to be taught. The few lessons or I would more accurately call them “Conversations” about subjects where all during
lunch while eating.
• Organization was pretty darn bad. She really needed an assistant.

The lack of structure, organization and concrete teaching from this workshop is definitely very disappointing. For me personally it is disappointing because I know that my family helped me so much to go on this trip and that is not to overshadow any of my fellow attendees, because I know each and everyone of them had their own struggles and sacrifices to make this trip a reality. I truly hope that our voices are heard and that no one else has to be put through something like this and lose their money like we did. I have not spoken to any of Christa’s other workshop attendees or know how she performed in
previous workshops. After getting to know Christa Meola a bit during the trip I don’t think she maliciously or intentionally botched this workshop. I sincerely hope that this was a one time screw-up for her and she will be more organized and have a full lesson plan and be prepared if she does do any future workshops, because not all of her attendees are going to be Newbies like me and they will hold her accountable for her mishaps. Hopefully we will all get an apology if she decides to own up to her faults in this workshop and by that I mean an apology for her lack of teaching, structure and organization and not an apology for how we felt about the trip.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Christa Meola's Paris Workshop Retreat & Mentoring Program

I attended Christa Meola's Paris 5-Day Workshop Retreat in May, 2012 as part of her mentoring program. As the mentoring program (and my review of it) is tied to the workshop retreat, I will be discussing both in this post.

UPDATE: AUGUST 6, 2012: Christa Meola's response can be found in the comments. (August 6 at 4:25pm.)

UPDATE: AUGUST 10, 2012: If you are a member of DWF, you can see another workshop attendee's review (Tricia), corroborating this post - the post is available by clicking here.

For those that have inquired, the PDFs are now available also of the Mentoring Program Promotion email and the Paris Workshop Promotion page from Christa Meola's site. All testimonials on the Mentoring Program document are not from past mentoring clients, but rather people that did her Online Workshop.

UPDATE: AUGUST 12, 2012: A third review from Catherine Schultz has been added in the comments below. A fourth review was too long for comments, and was instead added as a guest post here on PLC from Sigrid Cardona.

UPDATE: AUGUST 13, 2012: A fifth, extremely extensive review from Taranjit has been added in the comments below.


Presenter: Christa Meola, guest speaker Carla Coulson

Date: May 1-5, 2012 (4 days)

Location: St. James Hotel, Paris, France

Price: $4500 for the workshop alone; the workshop was included in $10,000 price for mentoring (along with a long list of other items.) I cancelled my mentoring immediately after the workshop, and paid a total of $3914 out of the $10,000.

Included: 4 nights of hotel (not the 5 expected), "models", breakfast buffet for 4 days, 30 minute mini boudoir session with Christa for regular workshop attendees -- Mentoring clients were told that they would have a boudoir session valued at $3000.

For mentoring clients, additional items were included - the $3000 boudoir session, the $4500 workshop, a portfolio review, a branding call, 6 mentoring calls, watching Christa do a boudoir session with a client, and more.

(Mentoring Program Promotion (testimonials at the end are from past Online Workshop participants, not past Mentoring clients) and Paris Workshop Promotion.)

Workshop Bonuses: Ticket to Crazy Horse Burlesque Show; were told we would have a private tour guide for two museums, but did not. Two splits of champagne and a box of macaroons were in each room upon check-in; we each received a small notebook.

What I Expected: An opportunity for the mentoring clients to get together and advance their mentoring experience, growing their businesses at a more rapid pace. Building business foundations, discussing pricing, marketing, getting published and other advanced business topics.

I expected the workshop to be heavy on business topics and "classroom" learning, with only minimal if any model shoots.

Expectation Met? NO.

The Positive: The women who attended the workshop with me are amazing. I've learned so much from them, I'm inspired by them, and I look forward to a great future with them. They are all wonderful, and I think the world of them.

Key Reasons for Expectations Not Being Met:
(Post updated to add this section on August 8, 2012.)
- The 5 day workshop was 3 days, not 5.
- Only 4 nights of hotel costs and breakfast were covered, not all meal costs as implied in her literature about the workshop for mentoring clients.
- Literature promised models for this "Fine Art Nude and Boudoir Workshop," leading to the expectation that all models would be either nude or wearing boudoir-appropriate clothing. In reality, there was 1 nude model, 2 lingerie models and 4 models fully clothed in "street attire."
- Did not cover the materials she said stated in promotional literature that she would be covering, had no presentations prepared for teaching them to us, and no "classroom" room for us to learn in.
- Included for mentoring students a "valued at $3000" boudoir session (her rate for a normal session); instead delivered a 30 minute mini session instead of her $3000 session. Alerted mentoring students 3 weeks before the workshop that it was only 30 minutes, but they could add another 30 minutes for $1000, even though her stated "extra outfit" rate is $195.
- Mentoring program promotional materials stated monthly calls; once in the program it was revealed that there were 6 calls instead of 12.

This is probably going to be the longest post I've ever written on PhotoLoveCat, but this workshop deserves an extensive review.

This is also a very difficult post to write, as prior to the workshop I admired Christa Meola and what I perceived as her business practices.

I applied and was accepted to Christa Meola's 2012 mentorship program. I was very excited about this opportunity and viewed it as a great way to push my career to the next level, as I have moved my business to have a full time focus on boudoir in 2012.

When you applied for the mentorship, you did not know the price. There was a long list of items involved in addition to the mentoring calls themselves, which included a 5 Day Workshop Retreat in Paris and a boudoir session with Christa valued at $3000, along with a number of other items. These two items are key to this review. Once accepted, the price was revealed. *UPDATE Aug. 7, 2012* - once the price was revealed, you then had the opportunity to sign up. That was when you committed to mentoring. (Christa told me on two occasions that she had only accepted 5 mentoring clients, but through the comments of this post it seems that she offered to accept more, but they turned her down.) *End of editing to original post*

While it was a high price, I felt that the opportunity to take my business to another level would help me cover the costs.

- Mentoring Calls: The mentoring documents stated that there would be monthly calls. (See PDF linked above.) However, once in the program, I was informed that there would be six calls instead of the twelve calls from the promotional materials. I only participated in two out of six mentoring calls with Christa; I opted to save them for after the workshop, as I felt I would need more help then. On the two calls I had with her, we discussed pricing information that conflicted on the second call dramatically with what she said on the first. Instead of having a program for mentoring clients, all calls were "what do you need?" -- a challenge for someone being mentored, as they don't know what they need.

- LIVE Workshop & Paris Retreat -- a Fine Art Nude & Boudoir Photography Retreat “The cornerstone event of the [mentoring] program where the most magic happens! …You are responsible for your own airfare and any spending money needed for lingerie, perfume, and extra croissants.” “You will receive personal coaching from Christa while you shoot and be granted use of all images for your blog and portfolio. Christa will share in-depth info on how to work beautifully with natural light, the art of coaching & posing models, creating high-end sets & styling, creating amazing relationships with clients, pricing, post production, branding & more.” (Directly from Christa's mentorship literature.)
NOTE: We were told this would be a FIVE Day workshop & retreat.

Some of these areas were the exact reason why I applied for the mentorship program. I wanted a push to my work. I was excited for MONTHS about this workshop & retreat. Instead, nothing promised happened in Paris. -- The "five day" workshop was three days. Three & a half if you consider the time we spent from 6pm - 11pm the first night, Tuesday May 1st. Wednesday May 2nd, Thursday May 3rd & Friday May 4th were days with events scheduled. There were no workshop events scheduled on May 5th.

-- The wording in Christa's literature implied it was all inclusive. "You are responsible for your own airfare and any spending money needed for lingerie, perfume, and extra croissants." Yet when I asked  in Paris about included lunches and dinners, Christa laughed at me and said, "OH NO! I couldn't afford THAT!" I guess we were supposed to eat "extra croissants" for all of our meals?

-- Prior to the workshop, I tried several times to raise the issue of the 5 days vs 3 days, it was pointed out to me on the phone that we would be working with 9-12 models, photographing a lot of fine art nudes, getting lots of coaching. This did not happen. I was also told that Christa would be packing in "so much" teaching, we would be simply exhausted. The only times Christa taught were over dinner Tuesday (May 1 - while many had jetlag from arriving that morning in Paris), and at lunch on Friday - a meal specifically "optional" as she said you would not be teaching over lunch & dinner. These were the ONLY teaching times.

-- As a response to my question about the 3 day vs 5 day issue, I was told by Christa several times how we could get together on Saturday & Sunday following the workshop as she would be in Paris for several days afterwards; however when I asked to make plans she declined to do so. Meeting with me personally was supposed to help with the missing two days from the workshop for me, but did not help anyone else attending.

-- Things were not "packed in" but rather at such convoluted times that there was no way we could not be exhausted & drained by the end. Shoots started at 9:30am, days ended at midnight or later. The early-risers among our group missed any late-night conversations because they were in bed by 10 or 11pm.

Food: -- We were told in advance that there would be food options for all price points (which confused those of us that were in the mentoring program, since we were told we only needed money for "extra croissants"); some attendees were on a tight budget and this was brought up in advance on our planning Facebook Group. Yet Christa made people feel bad if we chose to take the subway over taxis, and if we did not want to spend 30-50 Euros (or more) per meal.

*Update on Aug. 7, 2012* I've been asked to provide a summary at this point, so that if you do not want to read the full post, you do not have to.

None of the proposed business topics were covered. This was not the "cornerstone of the mentoring program", and out of the 12 attendees, only 5 were in the mentoring program.

None of the coaching, posing, working with clients materials were covered. She did a 30 minute demo of how she shoots on the last day (after all model sessions were done), which covered very basic topics. At the lunch meeting later that day she answered questions - no prepared material - about pricing and marketing, meanwhile making snide comments about the 6 workshop attendees who were not there because (a) they did not want to have to pay 60 Euros or more for their lunch and (b) they were doing their own booked photo shoot. She stated how they weren't doing what was best for their business.

There was no instruction style of teaching in a private space where the group could learn and ask questions. Christa presented twice in public spaces in French restaurants.

I did not attend the workshop expecting it to have any photo shoots, as I have a portfolio already; other attendees were anticipating the sessions though.
- An attendee had to go out on the streets of Paris hours before the workshop started to find models for the next two days.
- Of the models we had, 1 was a fine art nude model, 1 was a model represented by Ford modeling agency. The other 5 were not professional models.
- We had 1 model that was willing to pose nude - for a Fine Art NUDE & Boudoir workshop.
- We had no models that would pose outdoors in lingerie, a specifically promised style of shoot we would be doing.
- Out of the 7 models, only 3 would pose in lingerie or nude. 4 were fully clothed.

Christa provided no assistance with shoots other than criticizing remarks questioning why we were photographing certain ways. She offered no posing or other tips. She did visit our room during our hour long shoots for 5 minutes at most. (There were shoots in 2-3 rooms in the hotel at once.)

The boudoir session was presented as being valued at $3000 for mentoring clients - Christa's normal rate for a 3 outfit, no time limit session with a 5x5 album - were instead 30 minute sessions, rushed, and overlapping with other photographer's sessions. My session was scheduled for after the workshop, and I opted not to do my session due to the rude treatment I had received from Christa up to this point. I did not feel that it would be the empowering experience I expected, and had also no information on what time my session was at or where it was taking place as late as 10am that morning.

I would NOT RECOMMEND a workshop or Christa's Mentoring Program.

I have outlined all of the extensive supporting details below, including a day by day breakdown. These are only the highlights in this summary.
*End of Aug. 7, 2012 edit to this post. Continue reading if you would like further details.*

Day 0 - Tuesday, May 1st:

-- I arrived on May 1, and was surprised to learn when I met up with three of the attendees for lunch and a leisurely afternoon before things began at 6pm that they had been asked, on a French national holiday, to go out on the relatively empty streets to try to find models for us to work with the next day. Models should have been booked & paid for in advance through an agency for people attending a $4500 workshop.

-- We had been told repeatedly that it was "our trip" to Paris too, that we could do whatever we wanted, and that anything on the timeline in italics was "our choice" -- yet I was publicly chastised for being late to what was a welcome cocktail hour when I had to wait for a Metro train during rush hour.

-- After chastising me, Christa went on to state again that *all meals* and *all activities* were optional, and she would NOT be teaching during those times.

-- She asked us not to be late because it is her pet peeve -- and then asked us to be understanding as things changed on the schedule, expecting us to extend a courtesy to her that she couldn't extend to us when we were late for any reason.

-- I've attended many workshops, and normally they start off with everyone introducing themselves. While most of us had been in the Facebook Group, many people did not use their photo as their avatar, so we didn't know who was who. At no point did we have a "go around the circle and introduce yourselves" - and we went straight from the cocktail hour to dinner.

-- Dinner was in a public space in a restaurant (not a private room, as those are rare in Paris) which was quite noisy. Christa then taught to a long table of people. I had the benefit of having my notebook with me, and the fortune of being seated right across from her. Most people at the table could not hear, and did not know to bring anything to take notes with.

Day 1 (Wednesday), Morning:

** This was the day she should have demonstrated posing for us, "how to work beautifully with natural light, the art of coaching & posing models, creating high-end sets & styling, creating amazing relationships with clients" -- before any of us ever picked up a camera. Instead, we went straight in to working with models and other workshop attendees.

-- My roommate & I were never informed that our room would be used for one of the model rooms. When we found out that morning, we had to stop getting ourselves ready for the day to prep the room for people to photograph in it. (Including securing our own valuables and personal belongings, as a model was left alone in our room.) We should have been notified in advance that our room would be used. UPDATE on Aug. 7, 2012: Clarification - as the St. James is a gorgeous boutique hotel, each room is different. We knew that our rooms were being used, and that Christa had visited each room to select which 3 rooms to use as the "sets" -- we discovered from an attendee (not Christa) in advance of about 30 minutes before the start time that our room had been selected. We were not opposed to the room being used, but did expect the courtesy of being notified.

-- We had one professional fine art model to work with, one "model" that was a 20-something woman found on the streets of Paris by a workshop attendee, and then we photographed another workshop attendee. While the workshop attendee was great to photograph and is actually more in line with my target market, they were not Fine Art / Nude models. It also meant that those attendees did not get to photograph one model.

-- The professional art model was modeling in my room, and she drank our champagne and ate our food. Because of this, others had issues with her being drunk - I fortunately was able to push past this and get her to focus on me (although it was so stressful to do I managed to snap at another attendee when I shouldn't have.)

-- The art model was the only model willing to pose nude. The other workshop attendee was fantastic about being photographed and ok doing "implied nudes", the third model did lingerie only.

-- At no point did Christa coach our group. She did step in to the room we were working in twice, criticized poses, stating "she didn't think that was flattering", but that was the only time she was in the rooms while we were shooting. She never asked to see the photographs we took, gave no critique or assistance, and did not talk at all about the "Fine Art" side of things.

Day 1 (Wednesday), Afternoon:

-- We had been told at dinner on Tuesday night that we would be working with nude & boudoir models at the banks of the Seine. The three models we worked with were great as models, but fully clothed. NOT fine art nude or even boudoir. After being told for months about the boudoir sessions we would be doing outdoors, this was very misleading and disappointing.

-- One model was underage, and many workshop attendees can't use any photographs of her on their site because of this fact.

-- One of these models was, in fact, a professional hired photography model, represented by Ford. As far as I am aware, she was the only professional photography model.

-- Again, no coaching for our group, although Christa did criticize if she felt we weren't moving on fast enough to a new pose. We had worked within our group to give each other a chance to pose and a chance to get photos in each setting. Christa specifically called me out at one point for "shooting the same thing" towards the end - not realizing that I had not been able to get a shot at all because our group was large at that time and the space was tight, and I was trying to work with the group so everyone could get the shot they wanted.

Day 1 (Wednesday), Dinner:

-- Christa had planned dinner at the St James Hotel where we were staying, yet did not know that the prix fix menu was 75 Euros with a wine pairing, and had to negotiate another option for the number of attendees that did not drink. (Or want to pay 75 Euros for dinner.)

 -- When some of us said that we were going to leave to get food for less than 27 Euros (the entree only rate), she told us not to go because you didn't want the group split up - a complete contradiction to the fact that all meal times were supposed to be free time if we wanted to eat on our own.

 -- When another attendee & I asked a clarification question about the itinerary, she asked us with a harsh tone, "Have you READ your itinerary?" Yes, we had. We were jetlagged, and it wasn't clear so we asked a question about it. Plus we just wanted to confirm that was the plan. We were then told that the itinerary we had was no longer going to apply, that we would get new ones on Day 2 - but we never again had an itinerary.

 -- When the attendee who had been sent out to the streets to find models told Christa that she had two models confirmed for day 2, Christa made her cancel them stating that she would have three models there already. The attendee asked if they should come as backup, and Christa said no because she didn't want to have to pay them. (This all happened next to me at the dinner table.)

 -- During dinner, Christa approached our table and gave us the option to skip the Musee d'Orsay so that she could do a demo shoot for us. It was unclear why both couldn't take place since the Musee d'Orsay was the guided tour that we were looking forward to doing, and the demo shoot could also take place. However, the other table had already voted, so the majority wanted the demo shoot and the museum trip was cancelled.

 -- For those of us that flew to Paris on the 1st (Day 0), or for those that were used to going to bed by 10 or 11pm, having our guest speaker, Carla Coulson, start to speak at 10pm was entirely too late. Add to that having it in a dark bar. Out of all of the lectures at the workshop, hers was the most well prepared and the most valuable - I just wish it could have been at 7pm, not 10pm and in a private space. Carla had notes prepared for her talk and gave a very informative presentation. Sadly, I was nodding off at the end as jetlag took over. I would love to hear more from Carla in the future.

Day 2 (Thursday), Morning:

 -- Started late - we were told it would start at 9:30, but instead it started at 10:30.

 -- Told we would be given a new itinerary reflecting the changes from the night before but we never were.

 -- We only had two models to work with -- which would not have been the case if Christa had allowed the other two confirmed models come to the shoot.

 -- Again, we had been told that these would be Fine Art nude models, and that we could photograph nudes in the private gardens on the property. When asked, the models would not do either nudes or boudoir. The first model told us specifically, "no boudoir, no nudes." The second model did agree to model lingerie, but only indoors. She did not have lingerie with her, but the same attendee that had gone out to find models for us had brought lingerie with her, and the model wore it for us.

 -- I was told weeks before the workshop that there would be 9-12 models total that we were working with; we had 7 models and one workshop attendee to photograph. While I did not attend with the intention of building my portfolio, many other people did. This was our last official model session time.

Day 2 (Thursday), Afternoon:

 -- We went to the Musee Rodin for a tour. We had been told originally that Christa would be hiring a private tour guide. When we arrived in Paris, she said that she couldn't find one for us for this museum, but she knew the Rodin so well she would be our guide. We had to cover the cost of our own tickets to the museum. As we advanced through the museum, Christa did not wait for the group to gather to speak, instead speaking to whoever was closest to her and no one else. When she went in to the main building, she left half of the group outside, trying to figure out where to go. It was by no means comparable to a guided tour as she had told us in the weeks leading up to the workshop was going to be one of our "surprises".

 -- There was one statue inside the museum where Christa did take the time to talk with several groups of people about how if it was a model you could photograph it. That was the only time she accounted for people to catch up, and not all made it.

 -- Buying our museum tickets would have made more sense then buying splits of champagne and macaroons for us; especially as several people had pointed out in advance on the FB group that we didn't drink.

Day 2 (Thursday), Evening:

 -- Crazy Horse Show -- a definite highlight of the trip. If you are in Paris, go to see the Crazy Horse Show!

 -- Once again, rude comments from Christa afterwards, as one attendee wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower at night and another attendee & I offered to take her there. Christa asked how many times we were going to go to the Eiffel Tower, and then made a snide comment about how it didn't hold that much interest for her. It was rude, especially as we offered to go with the attendee so that she was not walking alone through Paris with thousands of dollars of camera gear. Plus I like the Eiffel Tower, especially at night.

Day 3 (Friday), Morning:

 -- Again, prepped my room for shoots to take place in there. (All three days.)

 -- The day started late again, although we no longer had an official itinerary.

 -- Christa announced at breakfast that she would be talking about marketing, pricing, etc. at lunch at the Baccarat Room -- adding at the end of her statement the very pointed comment that this was the *only* time she would be covering those subjects, so if people didn't attend lunch they weren't going to hear about the topics. Teaching should have been done in a private space, where budget wasn't a concern, and where everyone could hear and have an engaging dialogue. All three times that any teaching was done, it was in a loud space, and twice over "optional" meals.

 -- Christa originally cancelled the Musee D'Orsay visit so that she could demonstrate how she does a session. She demonstrated with my roommate for roughly 10-15 minutes in our room. She demonstrated for another 10 minutes with another attendee in the garden. She then made a point to ask that attendee to stay out there longer so Christa could do more work with her, while we were dismissed. It was unclear why she didn't work longer with my roommate indoors (as that would have been the best area for the most instruction, pose options, etc.). The instructions outdoors were very minimal - using the sheer dress to get light through it and having her turn to face the light. There was no sense to how Christa would do a session.

 -- At this point, the attendee that had scouted models had two more women come to the hotel to model a anyone that wanted to stay behind was welcome to photograph them. Attendees who photographed them paid for the models themselves.

Day 3, Afternoon:

 -- Baccarat Crystal Room: another meal that was in the 60+ Euro range. Fortunately, due to having a migraine I had eaten before arriving there, so I only had dessert. It was still 26 Euros for dessert and Evian water.

 -- I felt odd going to a high-end restaurant in Paris and only having dessert, but if I wanted to hear the only topics I came to Paris to learn about, I had to do it over lunch. I wouldn't have ordered anything at all, but the waitress clearly would not find that acceptable.

 -- During the talk that Christa gave, she insulted five times that I counted the people who did not attend the lunch. I was so offended by this, I actually wrote down some of the things that she said as I was taking notes. The key point was that they could have been there at lunch learning about the business side of things but instead they were back in the hotel photographing a model - and how Christa was "over" taking photos and didn't even want to pick up her camera.

This solidified her complete lack of professionalism for me. Especially since my own "valued at $3000" boudoir session was supposed to be the next day - and here she was telling me she had no desire to do it, in addition to insulting all of my peers who were doing their best to salvage a very lackluster experience.

-- I am a kinesthetic learner and an extensive note taker; reviewing my notebook, I only took 4 pages of notes from what Christa covered, the whole extent of the "cornerstone of the mentoring program" and when we were going to dig in deep on business. In contrast, I took 8 pages of notes when our guest speaker, Carla, spoke on getting published at the end of day 1. Carla had prepared notes; Christa was speaking off the cuff and answering questions that the 5 of us at lunch asked, with no prepared presentation on this, a key topic of the workshop.

 -- After lunch there was a large afternoon gap - where we could have easily done the originally cancelled Musee d'Orsay tour with the professional guide, or even better where Christa could have taught to the group in a private setting in the hotel. She opted to go to the spa for a massage.

Day 3 (Friday), Evening:

 -- Dinner at the Grand Colbert: I think Christa thanked half the table for attending, but I'm not sure because she stood up and faced just them - never speaking towards the half of the table I was at. It was very clear that Christa was "over us".

 -- Christa told us all pointedly how she had thanked the hotel for us, and seemed surprised that we had all been thanking the hotel all along, because we hadn't been thanking her.

-- This was the only time Christa said "farewell" to the group - there were no activities for attendees on Saturday morning other than hotel checkout. This was the end of Day 3 of a FIVE DAY workshop.

Day 4 (Saturday), morning:

 -- I had requested originally that my boudoir session be the last one of the day because Christa had said it would go longer as a mentoring client. Instead I was double booked with another attendee, and after asking several times I could never find out exactly what time I was supposed to be there for my since we had both received conformation emails for the exact same time. More importantly, I was never told WHERE to go for my session.

 -- By that point, I opted not to investigate further because with the level of disappointment I was feeling as a whole about the workshop, I knew I would never be happy with the photos.

 -- As part of Christa's online workshop, she talked about how she pre-planned sessions with clients, asking them what their vision was for a session, and things like that. While my session was "Valued at $3000" and her regular sessions at the time that I signed up for the mentoring program were just over $3000, I expected a FULL session, and to be treated with the same regard as a regular client. When I received the email 3 weeks before the workshop telling me to sign up for my 30 minute session time, I questioned this via email, and Christa's initial response was to tell me to not attend the workshop because she didn't want me to come with a negative attitude and influence others.

I had already purchased a non-refundable plane ticket and had been looking forward to the workshop for months. I explained to her that I in fact had a very positive attitude about attending & had been looking forward to the workshop, and just wanted clarification. The issue was settled when she said she would do a longer session with me - but when I brought it up in Paris she said it would be a normal session, and by the time Saturday & my session arrived, she had dropped the ball on so many other things - really, the workshop as a whole - that I was shattered and had no desire to do such a vulnerable thing as a boudoir session with her.

We were told that if we did not do the session in Paris, it would not happen at a later time.

Conclusion:  There was no In-Depth explanation of “creating amazing relationships with clients, creating high-end sets, styling" - as Christa advertised, and only extremely limited, very basic information on coaching and posing.

I should add that I've attended and hosted (for other speakers) many workshops over the years, and I do have a high expectation of workshop / retreat hosts, especially for a workshop that costs $4500. I expect the workshop presenter to be professional and courteous. At nearly every meeting with Christa, she was rude & dismissive. She repeatedly blamed her assistant Ursula for the lack of models instead of resolving the issue -- if she told us anything at all.

The workshop was poorly organized, and if we questioned anything for clarity we were treated like misbehaving children for asking. We were scolded for not having the itinerary memorized, then told we would have a new one, and then never provided with one.

There was no personal coaching, no instructing our groups.

I left Paris feeling as though I had funded a grand vacation for Christa and a trip where she could go buy $300 underwear (which she told us about over dinner), but couldn't hire models for us out of the funds we paid.

She made a point of commenting when Carla came to speak on how great it was that one person's family chipped in for her to attend -- ignoring that ALL of our families sacrificed for us to be there. She may have an unlimited budget (I can only assume since spending money seemed to be no issue for her) -- but many of us did not.

"Boudoir Session with Me -- Need I say more? $3,000+”
-- I actually used the boudoir session with Christa as a BIG selling point to my husband. She was well aware of how angry I was when I then received an email that this would be a 30 minute session. Only once I pushed the issue did she mention that she planned to give the mentoring clients files (which was the price difference) - but none of the other mentoring clients were ever told this in advance of the workshop. As I cancelled my session, I do not know if the files were delivered.

 -- From the documentation, it was written as though the workshop attendees who weren't mentoring clients had mini sessions. It was a bait & switch for those of us that were mentoring clients.

 -- In addition, in the orignal mentoring documents the boudoir session was sold as if we would get THE Christa Meola experience. That she would talk to us in advance about our goals, our plans, the "story" of our session, just like she mentioned in the online workshop. She did none of those things for the mentoring clients who were expecting to receive something valued at $3000.

 -- Christa said repeatedly in her online workshop how she educates clients all along on her pricing, but we were also never given a pricelist in case we did want to purchase anything from her. (Prints, albums, etc. from our sessions.)

 -- Due to Christa's attitude towards us workshop attendees, it was clear to me that doing a session with her would not be the experience I had been told it would be when I signed up in January. This was a huge disappointment, as I had been working hard for 4 months to prepare for my session - working out, spending a significant amount of money on outfits and makeup. She made me feel small and insignificant, not empowered -- and no woman should go in to a boudoir session feeling that way. EVER.

Below is a reconciliation of what the mentor program advertised and what I paid for and received by the time I sent the above information to Christa at the end of May, 2012. (this version has been slightly edited from what I sent to her - to which she never responded.)

In that email, I also stated to Christa that I would not be continuing the mentorship program and I would be paying no additional funds beyond what I had already paid to date.

- Online workshop - $495
- Call 1: (1 hr) - $500
- Call 2: (1/2 hr) - Rushed, completely conflicting information from what was given on previous call, focused more on how I should not "talk so fast" even though I was short on time. No value.
- Paris Boudoir Workshop & Retreat - did not meet the mark on any of the selling points, one "fine art nude" sessions, very limited boudoir. Only teaching at meals. = $200 to account for fees paid to models
- Paris Workshop Hotel + Buffet - 4 nights at $250/night (my half of the room based on the online advertised price of approximately $500/night at Oyster) + $25/day for 4 meals, not buffet. (Ordered off the menu, told to take from buffet but that they would not be charged at buffet rate by hotel staff.) = $1000 + $100. = $1100
- Boudoir Shoot with Christa = $0
- Crazy Horse Ticket = $140
- Total = $2435.00

 Payments Made by Me
Nov. 2011 (Black Friday sale of online workshop) = $495
Jan. 2012 = $863.92
Feb. 2012 = $851.33
March 2012 = $853.47
April 2012 = $851.20
Total Paid to Date = $3914.92
Difference = $1479.92 in my favor

As of this time, I have not sought a refund for the balance of monies that I have paid.

Recommend? I would not absolutely NOT recommend working with Christa Meola in any workshop or mentoring capacity, based on the experience that I had.

Note: I want to reiterate that this is my views on MY experience and I realize other attendees may have had positive experiences with the Christa Meola Workshop and Retreat.

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.