John Casablanca’s Tina Kiniry: From aspiring model to business owner


Tina Kiniry was just a teenager when she first arrived at Connecticut’s John Casablancas Modeling and Acting Agency back in the 1980s.

And when she arrived at the then-location in New Haven for the first time, it wasn’t even somewhere she wanted to be.

Tina Kiniry, owner of John Casablancas Modeling and Acting Agency.

But as the years went on at JC, she got her share of modeling gigs. She then started working within the agency itself, first as a part-time employee, then a full-time employee.

In 1990, Kiniry bought the business and eventually moved it to its current locale in Rocky Hill, Conn., where JC now serves clients from across New England.

“I honestly didn’t seek it out,” said Kiniry in an interview at her office as classes were underway in the rest of the building. “My mother did. My mother and my sister. My sister always wanted to model. She set up the appointment. My mother spoke up about me at the appointment and said, basically, ‘If you like Lisa, you’ll like Tina, too.'”

“I went in; I had an interview,” said Kiniry. “It sounded a lot different than I thought it would be like. It sounded like a lot of fun.”

What JC offered wasn’t too far afield from Kiniry’s initial interests even if she didn’t seek out the opportunity.

“I always had been interested in possibly being on TV, maybe broadcasting. But I was actually too shy to do anything like that,” she said. “I thought the program would help with my confidence.”

Kiniry’s work in the program paid off.

She said, “When the program was over, I started booking local jobs. I made my money—well, my mother’s money– back in a couple of months.

A proud mother also helped open up another door at JC.

“My mother was at the (John Casablancas) office bragging about me because I had just gotten an award from my other job,” said Kiniry. That gave someone at the agency an idea. They offered her a job there.

“I thought they were crazy,” said Kiniry. “I was just 16.”

Since she first arrived at JC and since she bought the business, Kiniry said the modeling and acting industries have changed considerably.

“Thankfully, a lot of the changes are for the better. Diversity for one,” said Kiniry. “When I started in the business, there was very little of that.”

Another change has been the rise of importance of social media. “Social media is a necessary thing; it’s a helpful thing, if you embrace it,” she said.

“The mechanism (of getting work) has changed,” said JC’s owner. “It used to be we were sending pictures out in the mail. And I was literally faxing models’ (comp cards) to Paris, Milan… Faxing their pictures. It seems absurd now.”

However, Kiniry added, “So much of it hasn’t changed.”

“You still have clients who walk in your door, who have their dreams and hopes right on their sleeves,” said Kiniry. “They trust you. They want to do something with us. Your job is to help them.”

When an actor or model gets signed by JC, there is sometimes a misconception that they should immediately be booking work.

However, Kiniry explained, “An agency doesn’t get you work. An agency promotes you. The person who is actually landing the job is the talent. They’re first landing the job because they’re the right type. And their skills are there…. The client is the one who is paying for them.”

“There’s effort involved. There’s skill involved. You have to give it time,” said Kiniry.

You don’t just get a job because you’re pretty and you want a job, Kiniry explained.

“Some of my biggest success stories are people who it didn’t happen for them right away. People didn’t see (their potential). So we had to go at it and at it and at it .Switch things up and go at it again,” said Kiniry.

“But if you’re determined, and you like what you’re doing, then it’s all worth it,” said Kiniry.

“We want our people to like this. We don’t them in it just for the paycheck.”

As the owner of Connecticut’s John Casablancas, Kiniry said she’s excited about her clients who find success.

“The superstars are obviously exciting.” However, Kiniry said, “I’m equally excited about the local jobs (clients book)… Those are really important wonderful opportunities.”

And she’s equally excited when her clients are able to achieve their career goals.

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Here are some of the success stories that have come out of Connecticut’s John Casablancas.

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