Catherine De Orio stars in our fall gala guide.
“Check, Please!” host Catherine De Orio could hardly be described as shy. She’s spent the summer in front of the camera, filming her second season of the hit WTTW restaurant review series, slated to premiere Oct. 17. She’s spoken before crowds of thousands as an event emcee; in her previous incarnation as a lawyer, she argued in front of her fair share of intimidating judges. Going about her day-to-day life in Chicago, she’s often approached by fans of the show angling for restaurant recommendations. (“I’m like a one-woman Zagat guide for friends, family and strangers I meet on the street,” she jokes.) During our interview, she characterizes herself as a “Midwesterner” who’s “really chatty and open.” But when the Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center approached the effusive De Orio to model in their Oct. 2 philanthropic fashion show, she was totally terrified.
“It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘I’m walking in high heels, everyone’s staring at me, please don’t let me fall,’ ” De Orio says, laughing. “Although I guess it’s cool to do that now. I could be the next Jennifer Lawrence.”
Don’t let her fear of the catwalk fool you, though: De Orio is an old pro when it comes to fashion. “Casual” is hardly in the West Loop resident’s vocabulary — she arrives at the Splash photo shoot fresh off an afternoon flight, sporting Christian Louboutins and a stunning Alexis Bittar ring. During her college years, “it was a big joke,” she laughs. “My friends were like, ‘One of these days I’m gonna catch you in sweats and take a picture of it and post it everywhere.’ I said, ‘Good luck with that. I don’t even think I own sweats.’ ”
De Orio steps up her style game even more when it comes to getting ready for the multiple galas she attends each year. (Aside from Rush, she’s involved in a number of local charities, including The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, Step Up Women’s Network, The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation, The James Beard Foundation and Kendall College Trust). Though she keeps her makeup simple — a smoky eye and a neutral lip — she prefers to sport something a little unexpected. “I wear black almost every day of my life, so I use the galas as a time to wear color,” she says. “I like the idea of standing out.”
It’s something De Orio does effortlessly on “Check, Please!” even as a relatively new host. “The first year I was trying to get my bearings, figure out the flow,” she says. This season, fans can expect things to be “a little more fun,” she says with a grin. “There’s a little more dissention in the group. I’m getting more comfortable with that.”
As for her relative discomfort on the runway? “Rosé would steady me,” she jokes. “Just one glass to steady the nerves and then I’ll go up there.”
Photographer: Ramzi Dreessen
Hair and makeup: Milian Bonillo
Both: Emporio Armani, 25 E. Oak; Armani.com
Both: Thorin, Lulu’s on the Avenue, 900 N. Michigan; Lulusvintagestore.com