ST. CHARLES – Daniela Kapusta wasn’t even supposed to be a part of a fashion show in November. But she seized her first modeling opportunity and has watched it become much more.
The 17-year-old St. Charles resident said she was helping out with the Live Out Loud Charity Fashion Show, which featured her friend, 15-year-old Claudia Sitko. A model didn’t show up, and Kapusta was given the chance to step in. Chicago photographer Thomas H.P. “Jerry” Jerusalem took note of Kapusta and Sitko at the show and offered a photo shoot.
The resulting shoot – which featured the girls wearing vintage clothing in and around a 1960s Mustang for a Route 66 road trip theme – ended up being featured on the Vogue Italia website.
“It was always a dream of mine, but I never thought it was possible,” Kapusta said, adding that the fashion show “was basically the first modeling thing that I had ever done.”
Jerusalem made no promises that the photos would be accepted by Vogue Italia’s editors when he offered the shoot. Sitko said it was a thrill when it happened.
“I was at school when I found out, and I was freaking out,” Sitko said.
Live Out Loud is a charity organization focusing on suicide prevention. The teenagers were among more than 160 models in the show. Sitko featured clothes from her mom’s boutique. Karla Sitko owns Claudia’s Closet LUX Boutique and Consignment in downtown St. Charles, which she opened in April 2011.
Karla Sitko said beauty queens frequent her shop, including Miss Florida and Miss Illinois. It was Miss Midwest Madeline Cole of Elburn who was in the shop recently looking for formal wear.
Cole and her mom introduced Claudia Sitko to the founder of Live Out Loud, Sherrie Gearhart, which eventually led to her being in the fashion show.
“After the show, a bunch of pictures wound up on Facebook,” Karla Sitko said. “Kim Cole [Madeline’s mom] then suggested to the photographer [Jerusalem] that Claudia would be excellent for a photo shoot.”
For the shoot, Claudia Sitko and Kapusta modeled clothing from Claudia’s Closet. Their hair and make-up were done by Paty Ramirez and Taisha Davilla of One Salon and Bridal in St. Charles. Both St. Charles businesses were credited in Vogue Italia.
“I’m very excited,” Karla Sitko said. “Our store went global. One Salon went global. How huge is that? ... It just puts [us] on the map. We’re the place to go.”
Kapusta said she was supposed to help girls get dressed and fix up hair, just help in any way she was needed. She is grateful that it worked out so well. On Wednesday, she said she had just finished her third shoot, in Naperville.
“It all happened with people believing in me and opening doors and giving me opportunities,” said Kapusta, who added she would have friends who are studying in the beauty field do her hair and makeup in hopes that others might be able to embrace a similar chance.
The shoot might help open the door a little wider for Claudia Sitko who’s aspiring to be a full-time model.
“I want to keep doing shoots,” she said.
She said her eyes are distinctive, which Jerusalem commented on. During a shoot, models are sometimes asked to think about a story so that they talk with their eyes. But it can be difficult to portray the right persona.
“You just kind of go with it,” Claudia said. “You can’t overthink it. You have to be relaxed. ... You just have to [do] different things with your body that look unusual.”
She’d like to try out for the TV show “America’s Next Top Model” but she said she’ll have to wait until she’s 18. If Claudia Sitko is selected for America’s Next Top Model, she’ll join ranks that include Geneva native Alexia Tomchek, who competed on the show in 2010.
Claudia Sitko already would have a little bit of a leg up on some of her competition as one thing the models compete for is a feature in Vogue Italia. Karla Sitko said six photo shoots with various local studios were lined up for Claudia since the Vogue Italia publication.