Tony Knisely ’09 wouldn’t take no for an answer. Faced with a tough job market, the music performance major turned rejection into opportunity and a high-profile modeling job in the New York City.
Now a resident of Manhattan, Knisely seems worlds away from his tiny hometown of Risingsun, Ohio. “Back home my nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away, now there’s like a thousand people in a quarter mile,” said Knisely, who recently landed employment as a floor model for clothing giant Hollister. Today, he regularly travels around the country to model in photo shoots.
After graduation, he decided to forge a new path after a conversation last May with Dr. Daniel Schuetz, his former vocal professor at Heidelberg.
“For 25 years, my brother, Christian, modeled with Eileen Ford and Elite. I told Tony to talk to my brother before making any modeling-career moves. [Christian] told Tony to go to the open-call in Chicago held by David Love of Elite. Tony went, and the rest is history,” said Schuetz.
As the story goes, it all might not have happened if Tony had not managed to wedge his foot in the door by taking initiative.
“Initially they told me no. ‘We’re going to pass on everyone we see here today. If you want to make it as a model, get used to rejection. You can try this place, this place and that place, have a good day.’
So, I walked up to [David Love], because I had just driven five hours and he wouldn’t look at me, let alone talk to me, so I asked for a piece of paper to write down those contacts. He said, ‘Everyone else can go, you can stay.’ I talked to him for an hour and he ended up signing me.”
Knisely has since appeared in the Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly. He is the face of the Moncler Fall/Winter 2010-11 campaign (including a full-page advertisement in GQ magazine) and is currently featured on a billboard on the lower east side of Manhattan for Ferragamo.
His reaction to his success: “I work at Hollister as a floor model and on my lunch break, I went out and walked around and there I was on a billboard about two blocks away from my store. Crazy.”
Though his modeling career is taking off, Knisely still finds time about once a month to return to Ohio to play drums and sing with his band, Constricted. “I didn’t tell anybody [that I started modeling]. I was trying to be tough and play in this metal band. The last thing I want to do is be a pretty boy. Honestly, for months and months and months, I barely told anyone. My mom kept telling people, that’s how people started finding out! I never dreamed I’d live in New York and be a model.” While not part of the plan, Knisely capitalized on his opportunities.
Knisely credits his brothers in the Excelsior Men’s Society for helping him learn discipline, which he needed to drop 40 pounds for his new career. Knisely had bulked up to a muscular 195 pounds while at the Berg. Standing six-feet tall, he has slimmed down to a toned 155 pounds and become a vegetarian to help his advancement in the modeling world.
“You have to take a chance and get out there if you want to make it. I haven’t made it yet, but I’m lucky enough to be working. It’s an investment,” Knisely said.
Knisely is currently signed with Click Model Management, based out of New York City.