Franklin Park girl pursues Miss Teen dream in dad’s memory
Marilynn Morelli, 16, will be competing with 60 other girls in her age category in the Chicago round of the Miss Teen USA pageant next month. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:16AM
Starting when Marilynn Morelli was 9, her father, Craig, used to take her to modeling agencies and see if he could get her signed up.
The Franklin Park girl thought it would be fun.
“You get to walk in front of all the people and wear pretty clothes,” said Marilynn, now 16, who attends East Leyden High School.
Craig Morelli, called “Tree” due to his 6-foot-8 height, worked as a tile contractor and belonged to a motorcycle club. But he had some experience in front of the camera too. He had appeared in several movies as an extra.
“He always tried to be a biker in every biker movie because of his height and because they were all bikers,” said Claudine Morelli, Marilynn’s mother.
Last year, Craig was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The cancer spread to his lymph nodes, esophagus and stomach and he died on Jan 11.
Since then Marilynn and her mother have continued to check out modeling agencies. It wasn’t going so well.
“They always want you to give them money,” Claudine said. “If they’re reliable, you shouldn’t have to pay. They want you to put up thousands of dollars.”
A couple weeks ago they got an application in the mail for the 2012 Miss Teen Pageant. Marilynn entered. There was an initial interview at a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove on April 30.
“We went home and they sent me a letter saying I was accepted and to find some sponsors and good luck,” Marilynn said. She was one of 300 finalists — out of 720 applying — for the Chicago area competition, according to the letter.
Every participant has to find enough sponsors to pay $495 “for the costs associated with participation in the 2012 Miss Teen preliminary pageant,” according to paperwork sent with the letter.
Marilynn’s employer Gianni’s sponsored her along with Grandstand Pizza and a group of Chicago firefighters who ride motorcycles and are friends with Claudine.
There was a three-hour training on May 13 where Marilynn was given tips on what to say to the judges during an interview, to smile, how to walk and where to stand.
The next step is the Chicago area competition. That takes place on June 3 in Cicero. The winners in three age divisions get flown to Orlando for the national competition.
The Miss Teen pageant is composed of a casual wear and formal wear sections plus an interview with judges the day before. It’s the formal portion, specifically using high-heeled shoes, that has Marilynn most concerned.
“I’m just practicing my walk to make sure I don’t fall on stage,” Marilynn said.
And she’s doing it for her father.
“I always wanted to do that when my father was around,” Marilynn said. “I figured I’d do it for him.”