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Local News

Villa Park welder works the model runway

VILLA PARK – Walking down the runway in the Buckingham Ballroom at the Allerton Hotel in Chicago, Joe Dolecki remained calm and collected, despite the presence of seven judges critiquing his every move.

“The practice run made me nervous, but after that, it was easier than I thought,” said Dolecki, 21, a Villa Park native and one of seven semifinalists in the Mario Tricoci Mario, Make Me a Model competition.

Dolecki, a 2010 Willowbrook High School graduate and a welder by trade, entered the contest last month after being encouraged by his mother, Debbie.

“My girlfriends have said for years that he could be a model,” she said, adding she saw a television commercial advertising the competition.

This is the sixth year Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas has offered the contest, which is open to men and women older than 16 years old who are not currently signed with a modeling agency. Since its inception in 2008, the contest has drawn more than 2,500 contestants and 26 finalists, nearly all of whom have secured contracts as working models.

What began with roughly 400 candidates was whittled down to 41 following an interview process, Dolecki explained. From there, the remaining participants competed in a runway event March 13, where they performed before a judging panel.

Seven semifinalists were chosen and are currently soliciting online votes that will count for a portion of each contestant’s score, along with their scores from training and makeovers.

The five finalist will compete in a fashion show grand finale event May 16 at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St. in Chicago.

Dolecki works as a welder at both Hi-Speed Welding Inc. in Westmont and American Metal Installers & Fabricators in Villa Park.

Roy Splingaire, owner of American Metal Installers & Fabricators, is Dolecki’s boss, but also a friend.

“He’s a nice kid and I’m just trying to help him along,” Splingaire said, sitting next to Dolecki Monday afternoon in the shop.

As a senior at Willowbrook and a captain on the Warriors’ wrestling team, Dolecki was encouraged to put together a modeling portfolio and agreed to have professional photos taken. But from there, the portfolio sat dormant, Debbie said.

“Joe didn’t know where to go with the portfolio, but now it’s come full circle,” she said. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If not, it was just a fun ride.”

Dolecki has made friends with several of the contestants, and said that it would be nice to make a career out of modeling if he were to go further in the competition.

“I didn’t know I looked that good,” he joked. “It’s been a good experience and it gets me out of the shop.”

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How to vote

To vote for Joe Dolecki in the Mario Tricoci “Mario, Make Me a Model” competition., visit

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