“Kind, loving, respectful and true to themselves” — that’s how Grace Hyatt of Wantagh described the 17-year-old Soldo quadruplets of Massapequa when she nominated them for Newsday’s Project Prom. And yes, James, Alexa, Robert and Nick (born in that order) won the competition this year, and they also won our hearts.
Hyatt, a longtime family friend wrote, “Only three days after their 15th birthday, their amazing father James Soldo died of a sudden heart attack.” Financial hardship compounded with shock and grief. “All of the quads work part-time to help their mom,” Hyatt wrote. “They often need to make choices between doing what teenagers want to do and doing what they need to do.”
Nonetheless, she wrote, “these are amazing kids who never complain.”
Newsday received more than 100 deserving entries to Project Prom, the annual contest that culminates in readers voting on what the winners should wear to the prom — Newsday buys the look (or in this case, picks up the tab for the dress and rents the tuxes) for the winners.
The Soldos’ teachers validated our choice and echoed Hyatt’s sentiments.
“They’re all-around salt of the earth, nice, good, kids,” says Joseph Cuomo, the quads’ guidance counselor at Plainedge High School in North Massapequa. “Everything with them is a bit colored by their dad, so it’s something extra special at the end of high school, and that’s great for them.”
Nick’s English teacher, Keri Garcia, says: “Nick is so selfless. He’s always there for friends and family. He deserves to be pampered and have something special done for him.”
And English teacher Michele Molitor says the siblings have “faced and overcome hardships in their lives.” She says they’ve “never asked for anything special and are helpful to others.”
A DAY OF SHOPPING
On the morning of her 50th birthday in early April, the quads’ mom, Judy Soldo, felt sad. Not because she’d hit the milestone, but because her late husband wasn’t there to share it. By early evening, though, it had turned into a truly happy birthday, during which she spent time with her kids as they relished Day One of Project Prom — shopping for their outfits.
First up, it was Alexa’s time to shine as she took center stage in the dress department at Bloomingdale’s at Walt Whitman Shops, where she tried on about 20 dresses, twirling, swirling, posing and even busting a few dance moves for her family as they winnowed the picks down to two. The boys perched on a couch just outside the dressing room, where they gave thumbs up (mostly) and an infrequent thumbs down as she emerged. Alexa trusts her brother James’ fashion sense the most. “He helps me pick out the outfits I wear to work,” she says, so he was often the final answer on the dresses.
From there it was on to MyTuxes at Gino’s Galleria in Farmingdale, where the brothers definitely perked up (there had been a bit of fidgeting during the dress shopping). The guys’ choices showed a bit of daring.
James’ date is wearing emerald green, so he chose complementary accessories for one of his looks. Nick and Rob surprised their mom by opting for some real swagger.
“I thought the boys would all choose black, conservative tuxes,” their mom says. They didn’t, opting instead for picks that ranged from polka dots to purple paisley.
They cleaned up so perfectly that MyTuxes owner Joyce Pannone suggested they model at one of her tux fashion shows. (There was blushing.)
“I felt Jimmy (her husband) was with us the whole day,” Soldo said as the day wound down. “He would have loved it because he loved to see his kids happy.”
GLAM SQUAD MEETS QUAD SQUAD
A couple of days later it was time for the fab four’s photo shoot at the Newsday studio, where they received the full-on star treatment. Beauty and fashion experts including hair stylists and a makeup artist from nuBest Salon and Spa helmed the makeovers. There were dresses, sparkling shoes, bags and accessories for Alexa and a rolling rack filled with swanky tuxedos for the fellows along with a photographer, videographer and even a crew from News 12. It was lights, camera, action and, for five straight hours, a serious taste of the limelight.
“I definitely enjoyed it,” Rob says. “But it was a lot more work than I thought it would be.”
Alexa liked the glam and, even more, the togetherness. “I loved getting the hair and makeup — and getting to dress up with my brothers was really special.”
VOTE FOR THE DRESS AND THE TUX
Now it’s up to you readers to pick the group photo in which you think the Soldo quads look best. They’ll wear the outfits featured in the winning photo to their prom at the Bourne Mansion in Oakdale June 20. The quads are counting on you. “I’m trusting the readers, 100 percent” Alexa says.
Classic with a twist sums up the Soldo pack here, with looks that merge modern and retro
DOTTED FEVER James wears a pin-dotted jacket with a black shawl collar and black piped pockets. His emerald green bow tie is meant to match his date’s dress (Couture 1910 by FCGI).
ENCHANTED EVENING A dreamy, slim fitting white dress with a mermaid hem boasts sparkly pastel floral appliqué and a plunging illusion neckline (By Avery G).
COBALT COOL Rob dons a modern, super-slim jacket in brilliant cobalt featuring a contrasting black shawl color and pocket piping (Couture 1910 by FCGI).
SECRET SPARKLE Get up close to Nick’s classic tux to see it’s shot with silvery thread to give a subtle shimmer and features a peak lapel. The gold-meets-taupe pocket square and bow tie are meant to match his date’s beige-gold dress (Larr Brio Couture).
Team Soldo goes slightly more traditional with one exception.
FOREVER GREEN James wears a granite gray slim-fit jacket featuring a two-button front with a notched lapel and collar with satin trim paired with a satin green vest, bow tie and even a matching flower lapel pin (Allure for Men).
PLAID MAD Rob is all-out classy in this subtle black and charcoal plaid jacket with a one-button shawl collar and a silvery gray pocket square (Ike Behar Chet).
DAZZLING DIVA Allover sparkling dark pewter beads and sequin embellishment add nighttime drama to this column gown, which features a sophisticated high slit in the front (Mac Duggal).
PURPLE POWER Nick rocks a classic dinner jacket, although this one is done up in purple paisley and features a black satin shawl lapel (Mark of Distinction).
Prom dresses: Bloomingdales, Walt Whitman Shops, Huntington Station
Tuxedos: MyTuxes at Gino’s Galleria, Farmingdale
Accesssories: Shoes, bags and jewelry, Nina Shoes
Hair and makeup: nuBest Salon and Spa’s Mervat Girgis, Brandon Maranzano and Samantha Marie Catapano
Stylist: Corinne Mangino/ Samantha Brown Style