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Behind the Glamour: Models Rocco di Cardielli and Starr Dalton Share Their Experiences

by Mellissa Thomas


We see a model at (literally) face value — not necessarily thinking twice about him once we turn the page or click away. We walk by her plastered figure at the bus stop, flick over to the next channel when his well-dressed lips convince us to buy something we won’t need, glance at her billboard glare for a few seconds, and keep it moving.

We’re even complacent with live fashion shows, paying more attention to what the models are wearing than the models themselves, or silently hoping one will stumble so we can giggle to ourselves and share the blooper on YouTube the next day.

Ever wonder what happens when the cameras stop clicking or rolling? Isn’t there more to what we see than fierce eyes and makeup?


Why We Gloss Over

Modeling seems like one of the easiest and most fun jobs in the world: you show up for a photo shoot or fashion show, get primped and made up, and show off in front of a camera or on a catwalk. It’s every girl’s dream (and some guys, even) to be the darling of millions, so naturally, we have a secret desire to try it.

But the word “model” usually brings one of three thoughts to mind: skinny women and muscular men, unfair and seemingly unattainable good looks, and for those of us with business knowledge, being a slave to a brand or company. So while we may want to try it, we latch onto any one of those three things as a cause for envy or disdain (think weight issues and insecurity), and lose our appreciation for it altogether.

Plus, we’re bombarded with hundreds of thousands of ads and images every day — and the models that come with them — so we grow numb and forget something very important: there’s a person there.


So Who is It?

five male and female models wearing DOFW shirts

Rocco Cardielli (2nd from right) and other local models promote Downtown Orlando Fashion Week.


A model can come from almost any background or skill set. Some are flight attendants (like the gorgeous Katharine Seay (far right, above)), actors, athletes, veterans, even designers. Just ask Starr Dalton (below), who attended Winter Park Tech for interior design, put her degree to work as designer for Ethan Allen, and still does independent consultation. Ask Rocco di Cardielli (second right, above), a UCF double major who works in design and show engineering for Disney.

How did they start? Cardielli’s start proves that friendly concern goes a long way. Back in 2003, he was in a store and noticed a gentleman had some trouble finding something, so he spent the next hour helping him. When Cardielli clarified he wasn’t a store employee, the stranger was blown away. He introduced himself as a casting director, offered Cardielli a chance to work on television, and gave him his card.

Cardielli, a little skeptical, did nothing with his card until two months later when he saw it in his school bag. He finally called the number, which was a talent agency, and learned the agency had been expecting his call, thanks to the casting director.

Dalton started print modeling in 2012 and got her first runway gig in the VH2 Fashion Show December that year. However, she fell in love with the fashion world permanently during the Premiere Orlando International Beauty Event at the Orange County Convention Center in June 2013. According to her story on the Presage Entertainment Network blog, she and her colleague Vanessa were recruited to be presentation models for Babyliss, a hair stylist group.


Starr Dalton


They not only modeled hot hairstyles for the group, but they had to learn a dance routine overnight to perform at the show. She loved the lights, cameras, and excitement, and has since modeled for House of Jkare (pronounced ja-KAR-ee).


How’d They Find Work?

There’s the organic way, which involves networking and learning of new opportunities, and the talent agency way.

Dalton, who wields managerial expertise, became a House of Jkare model during the process of coordinating the event. As designer Mike Ratliff’s right hand, she recruited investors, sponsors, vendors, photographers, musical talent, designers, and models for the fashion show. “I wanted the girls [the models] to take me seriously,” she explained, “so I decided to model.”

She networks and researches runway shows that stand out to her and gets on the catwalk, including the “Fashion for Forces” show in August, which raised funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. In July, she modeled for L’Guerre’s Glam Squad Competition.

Cardielli’s done print ads for Wein Fragrances (Europe), American Crew, local businesses, and other larger projects. He did runway modeling for a year, but preferred and stuck with print work.


What Can Models Do?

According to Dalton and Cardielli, modeling is more than just looking sexy in a picture or strutting down a catwalk. Models are versatile.

While Cardielli prefers print, he’s also done some acting, and is currently a brand ambassador for Geico. Dalton’s in the same boat, with a music video and four beer brand ambassador gigs under her belt: Miller High Life, Medalla Beer, Coors Light, and Killian’s Irish Stout. She’s currently filming “Room 236,” an indie Mafia-style film noir.

“Once you learn a character, it’s fun,” Cardielli said of acting in a recent phone interview. He went on to explain the difference between acting and modeling. “When you’re acting, you’re becoming a personality. When you’re modeling, you’re selling an image.” He illustrated the point with his seductive Wein Fragrances ad. “We did the shoot, and there is no perfume bottle in that ad, it’s just me.” He added that modeling, especially print modeling, is very specific. “You need this height, this weight…and you either fit the part, or you don’t.”

He also mentioned that with print modeling, a model must spend hours posing in the mirror. “You have to wear the clothes, the clothes can’t wear you… When you show up at a photo shoot, the photographer expects you to know what you’re doing. Oh, he’ll pose you, no doubt, but you have to know how to give him the look he’s looking for. The smallest change in your face or body angle can change the entire meaning of a picture.”


That All Sounds Good, But Unrelatable…

Not counting the international supermodels, models struggle, just like we do. It’s not flashing lights and bright smiles all the time.

(Actually, the superstars count too — we just don’t hear about it too often.)

To make ends meet, Dalton works for a temp agency as an accounts receivable clerk for electric companies near her home during business hours Monday to Friday. Her networking and fashion gigs happen at nights and on weekends, including promoting her hair accessory line, Starr Flowers.

Dalton and Ratliff attended an event at Cape Canaveral, to which she wore a flower accessory in her hair. The other women found it so desirable, some wanted to buy it off her. Ratliff persuaded her not to sell it, but instead start her own line. Her initial flower accessories include the threads he uses for his House of Jkare designs, setting her line apart from the usual artificial flowers made from plastic.

Any entrepreneur knows the rigors of starting a business from the ground up, especially a fashion line, and Dalton’s been so busy making sure ends meet that her Starr Flowers line, though a year old, isn’t quite ready to take the market yet.

Cardielli, on the other hand, faced a weight problem. “I’d gone out with some friends one night, and the next morning, I looked at a picture and thought, ‘Who is that guy?’ I couldn’t even recognize myself — I had a double chin and all that.” Coupled with being a diabetic since 2000, the weight led him to change his lifestyle. From the end of 2007 to early 2008, Cardielli shed a whopping 127 pounds the old fashioned way: diet and exercise. Thanks to the weight loss, he seldom uses insulin.

He also shared why he sticks with print modeling: he was too short and not young enough for runway modeling. However, he made sure to interject a mini public service announcement: “Models come in all shapes and sizes. No one should be discouraged by that.”

Once he lost the weight, his agent got him back into print work, and he started acting.


What Drives Them to Continue?

It takes a certain type of person to last in any facet of the entertainment industry, let alone modeling. Dalton’s drive is simple: “I have a passion for anything artistic,” she told DOFW. “I like to surround myself with creative people.”

While her fashion portfolio is growing, she also continues to find fulfillment in interior design. She was previously hired to design two Habit for Humanity homes. “It was such a rewarding experience,” she said. “The first client actually cried when she saw [the completed home].” For Dalton, there was something powerful about creating a new, comfortable, welcoming abode for someone who had recently lost everything to a disaster.

Cardielli, a natural performer since childhood (a skilled pianist from four years old without lessons, and violinist) seemed built for this. His father was a flamenco dancer, so he grew up in a musical home, and his last name is actually Italian for “golden finch”, a bird with a melodic voice, close to that of a canary.

He appreciates the fun of being a spectator, and feels good about giving others that same feeling. His next goal? TV anchor. “I’m quick-witted and quick on my feet,” he said. “I’d love to do that.”

Dalton and Cardielli’s ardor for what they do and their personal struggles remind us that the next model we see is more than just a pretty face…there’s a person there. And she’s not much different from us.



P.S. It’s a small world: The DOFW team met both Cardielli and Dalton at a downtown Orlando event September 27, 2013. Cardielli was helping his friend with event setup, and Dalton hosted the event.



Starr Dalton photo by Simone Star Jones of Allure Photography.

DOFW promo photo featuring Rocco di Cardielli and Katharine Seay taken by Chris Duroseau for Downtown Orlando Fashion Week.



Mellissa Thomas headshotAbout the Author:
Downtown Orlando Fashion Week Chief Editor Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.

She’s currently available for hire, writing content for websites, blogs, and marketing material. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books.

She has published three books, all available on Amazon.com, with her fourth, “Faded Diamonds”, set to release on Amazon.com and all digital devices in early January 2014.



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