Sudbury’s Benita Dellelce has taught thousands of young people proper etiquette, how to sit and stand straight, walk with confidence, how to dress and how to look their best. More recently, she has offered classes in makeup, wardrobe, entertaining, skincare and personal presentation for women.
“I try to help a person be more confident,” she says.
In addition, she has co-ordinated and choreographed many fashion shows, pageants, photo sessions – including ones for Sudbury Living. Dellelce has hosted the Faces of the North model search in the community for years bringing international scouts from top agencies to Sudbury.
But bad things happen to nice people. In May 2016, Dellelce had to close her business, Charm Plus, in a hurry and with little notice.
The complex where the business was located, at Barry Downe Rd. and The Kingsway, was undergoing major renovations. Those renovations caused some structural damage and it wasn’t safe to remain open.
After 35 years of long hours, Dellelce suddenly had a lot of time on her hands. Within a year, she was back in business. This past May, she opened Charm Plus Beauty & Barbershop in the Lexington Hotel on Brady St. (The Lexington was originally the Northbury Hotel.)
The shop offers hair services, waxing, and makeup applications and lessons. Charm Plus also has its own exclusive line of hair and skin products and makeup.
Dellelce inherited the entrepreneurial gene from her parents. Her father, the late Nick Dellelce, was a businessman and property owner. Her late mother, Diane, was a member of another business family, the Scagnettis. Her brother, Perry, is a Toronto lawyer and is the business partner of Wolves owner Dario Zulich.
“My mother was an inspiration to me,” says Dellelce. “She was a detail person. She came from a business background. She wrote a column for the local newspaper and organized fundraisers and many fashion shows.”
When she was still in elementary school, she and her sister, Dena, started taking charm classes with Florence Gauvreau. She continued at the Gauvreau school while she attended Marymount College.
After graduating, she attended a modelling/acting school in Toronto. Then in November 1981, at the age of 20, and during one of the lowest points in the city’s economic history, Dellelce opened her modelling and charm school downtown on Elm St.
“People told me I was crazy,” she remembers.
Within two weeks she had 80 students. For the next 15 years she taught as many 25 classes per week.
“I had 200 to 250 students every year. The average girl would stay with me for four or five years. It was like the students belonged to Charm Plus.
“Many of the male students have told me the (self-improvement) courses helped them later in life,” she says.
In 1999, Dellelce, who is a professional make-up artist, bought a beauty salon in the Supermall, eventually moving the salon and school in 2007 to the ill-fated building on Barry Downe. Six months after moving in, a driver crashed into the front window of the shop.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Charm Plus models were in high demand for fashions shows as well as local television commercials and newspaper advertising. When someone needed models for a brochure or promotion video, they called Charm Plus.
“Today there are not the same opportunities for local (modelling) work. Chains and box retail stores don’t do fashion shows. There is more shopping online,” says Dellelce, who will be co-ordinating the fashion show for Sudbury Living’s bridal event in January.
These days she only teaches one day a week and occasional seminars. She is philosophical about the decline in the number of students and suggests there are more extra-curricular activities available for young people than there were in the 1980s.
“Girls can now play soccer and hockey or take gymnastics after school,” she says.
Dellelce keeps in touch with many former students – she is often asked to be a bridesmaid at their weddings. They continue to get their hair and makeup done at Charm Plus, and many send their children to the self-improvement classes.