Friday, November 30, 2012

Anatomy of a Party: Jazzy Holiday Luncheon

I've got the Christmas spirit now after attending the Jazzy Holiday Luncheon on Nov. 30 at the Westin. The 32nd annual fundraiser for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is so popular it was sold-out. The 500 guests were some of Charlotte's leading arts patrons, business people and philanthropists. It was fun to see them dressed up in festive attire.

Here are videos from the event:

Here are some of the details that made the event special. They might just inspire an idea for your next party.

Registration began at 11 a.m., but guests weren't seated in the ballroom until 11:30 a.m. To entertain them while they mingled, Santa roamed around the crowd and asked guests what they wanted for Christmas. It was cute to hear them joke around with Santa about their Wish Lists. Johnson C. Smith University President Ron Carter wants a Jaguar. I hope he gets it. He has been especially nice this year.

The center booked the fantastic band A Sign of the Times. In the lobby beforehand, three of the band members performed, then later joined the full band on stage. That was a nice touch.

Once the doors were opened, the ballroom was decked out for the holidays, but in a sophisticated way because the colors were red, white and black. Soft red lights created a lovely glow, and a red damask print was projected onto the ceiling.

The menu included food that was in season - an absolutely delicious sweet potato souffle with grilled chicken on top that came with an an optional maple syrup glaze. The dessert was pecan pie.

A highlight was the presentation of the Gantt Center Legacy Award. This year, awards were given to Belk for its commitment to philanthropy; community leader and retired arts educator Jeanne Brayboy; and On Q Productions’ artistic director Quentin “Q” Talley.

All the recipients kept their acceptance speeches brief, amusing and sincere with meaningful appreciation of how important the center is to all of Charlotte.

Jessica Graham of Belk made the crowd giggle when she charmingly worked in that she hoped the guests would add a little modern, Southern style to their holiday (Modern. Southern Style) is Belk's catchphrase.

Q brought the crowd to its feet after his spoken word poetry rap that included a line that made everyone bust out laughing: "(This award is) for those of you who say I love what you're doing, but I haven't seen you in the theater yet." That's a great reminder that it's nice to tell people things, but it's actions that really count. 

And retired educator Jeanne Brayboy quoted a famous poem about how if you have two loaves of bread, sell one to buy hyacinths to feed your soul. "My soul is fed every time I visit the Gantt," she said.

Seeing what everyone is wearing is always a perk of going to social events. Here are just a few of my favorite looks from the luncheon.

Portia Kee is wearing a handmade shawl from Dubai that a friend gave her as a gift. She had a sprained ankle and couldn't wear her normal heels, but her flats looked so cute. You'll never believe this, but they're fancy Crocs. 

I loved Rosa Williams red jacket with military accents and the way she paired it with bright golden yellow.

The orange red of Amanda Gray Williams' dress from the Limited looked modern.

Award recipient Jeanne Brayboy's granddaughter Jiana (being held by her mother, Cheryl Brayboy) looked so adorable. 

Herb Gray's outfit from Paul Simon was so stylish.

And Felicia Gray looked stunning in this Isaac Mizrahi suit. 

Follow me on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meet Dr. Kulbersh

There are many wonderful plastic surgeons in our area, but I do want to let you know about a new one who has recently moved to Charlotte. 

Dr. Jonathan Kulbersh of Carolina Facial Plastics and medical director of A New You Medical Wellness Solutions is from the Carolinas, but he trained with one of the most well-known facial plastic surgery practices in Beverly Hills. He received his training under Dr. Paul Nassif (from "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"), who is his mentor, and Dr. Babak Azizzadeh. 

Dr. Kulbersh says his speciality is "obtaining natural-looking results for aging faces through rhinoplasty, face lift, eye surgery and 'bruiseless' facial injectables."

In an effort to give back to his new community, he's partnering with United Family Services  to help the victims of domestic violence by lending his expertise to help victims of abuse. 

Throughout the month of December, he's also donating 10 percent of all fees and revenue from A New You Medical Wellness Solutions to United Family Services Domestic Women's Shelter.

I've talked with Dr. Kulbresh and his new wife, Sara, at several events (yes, I asked: Dr. Nassif was a part of their wedding). The photo above is of the newlyweds at a recent March of Dimes benefit.

You can meet Dr. Kulbresh and learn more about him, his work and United Family Services during a Grand Opening event at A New You Medical Wellness Solutions office Thursday, Nov. 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. at  2835 Providence Road. Reservations are required: 704-910-6924. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Be a Santa to a senior

My heart goes out to all the seniors in Charlotte who are living alone and struggling to make ends meet. Here’s a great way you can help them over the holiday.

Home Instead Senior Care is making sure isolated seniors receive gifts and companionship through its Be a Santa to a Senior program.

Here’s how it works: Through Dec. 14, trees will be up in Dilworth Coffee locations with ornaments that have the first names of seniors and their respective gift requests. Once you buy the gift, return it wrapped to the store with the ornament attached. They’ll be collected and given to residents and members of Friendship Trays and the Charlotte Housing Authority.

These are the Dilworth Coffee locations with trees: 1235-B East Blvd. at Kenilworth Commons; 110-A Matthews Station St. in downtown Matthews; 3565 Matthews-Mint Hill Road in Mint Hill; Dilworth Coffee inside Belk at SouthPark mall; 5815 Prosperity Church Road at The Shoppes at Highland Creek.

Organizers say the need is especially great this year.

Details: 704-344-0801;

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble, gobble

On Thanksgiving Day, my official greeting to family and friends is "Gobble, gobble!" instead of hello. It's a lot of fun. Try it.

And speaking of hello, Nov. 21 is the 40th annual World Hello Day. I would never have known that if I didn't receive a press release from EarthCam, which has street cameras all over the world that stream video live.

The statement says, "this celebratory day was begun in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel in the Fall of 1973 and has since then been observed in more than 180 countries." Obviously it hasn't really helped, but it's a nice gesture.

To celebrate the day, EarthCam has asked people where they have street cameras to wave or to stop and say hello to family and friends. Below are the links to four of its street cams in Times Square, New Orleans, Miami and London. Too bad they don't have one set up in my hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. There would be lots of people stopping to say, "Hey, y'all!"

I went online to watch, and to be honest I didn't see anyone who even realized the cameras were there. But, if you're a people watcher like me, it's really fun to get a live glimpse of another city. Times Square is as bustling as you would imagine. In New Orleans, I saw an SUV come thisclose to hitting a delivery truck - that was scary. In Miami, a lot of the men are super good looking and dress well. I couldn't see much in London because it's nighttime there.

If you're having a slow day at work and want another video to watch, I highly recommend a hilarious one the Observer wrote about this week. It was created by a Gaffney, S.C., native and three of her friends (one is from Spartanburg, whooo!, but to all of them I say, "Hey, y'all!" Yes, we really do say that. A lot.). They absolutely nail the funny things Southern women say. It's bawdy in places, but it's a hoot.

The only two things I couldn't relate to are the use of the word "dern" (I say dang); and the Bless Her Heart sequence. (I didn't grow up hearing anyone say that -whether they meant it as serious or sarcastic, so I'm puzzled as to why it's become such a Southern cliche). If you need to perk up your Thanksgiving gathering, share it with some of your family members who you think may appreciate its humor. Here's the link to the story and video:

The only thing I'll add is that when us Southerners say our prayers on Thanksgiving and every day, we always thank God for living in America, and then we thank God for living in the South. Wait. Why am I lying? We give thanks for living in the South first.

Gobble, gobble y'all!

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, November 19, 2012

When technology fails

In the last blog I wrote, I talked about how I was going to Tweet live from celebrity designers Cortney and Robert Novogratz's talk at the Mint Museum Uptown. Unfortunately, the technology gods had other plans.

As we were all packed into the museum's auditorium, I was trying to Tweet, and nothing would happen. In the meantime, Cortney and Robert were saying some really interesting things and I couldn't switch over to video because my Tweets were still trying to go through. (I learned later it was because I didn't have a wi-fi connection in the auditorium.)

I finally gave up and decided to switch solely to video and I caught some fascinating footage of the duo speaking about their love story and what it means to them to be from the South. But they weren't using microphones so  my video camera didn't pick up what they were saying.

Having no luck with all my modern means of reporting, I reached into my bottomless pit of a purse for my reporter's notebook and pen to take notes the old-fashioned way. I had especially picked out a stylish notebook for the event. I dug and dug and couldn't find it. That, and the curse word I let slip because I was so frustrated, were starting to annoy the stranger seated next to me, so I stopped.

Based on my memory, here are my impression of the couple and the event. First, let me get this out of the way even though I feel weird saying this, but it's true: they are a very sexy couple. Cortney has a dynamite figure. She's a natural beauty and was dressed NYC chic in a short black dress with leather sleeves, black tights and high heeled black booties. Robert has great style - a mix of preppy and edgy - with his rolled up jeans, collegiate jacket and tie. They definitely turn heads when they walk into a room. (Later this week, I'll have a slideshow of photos Daniel Coston took for my Scene & Heard column).

It's so funny their love story started at a party in Charlotte. One of the amusing tales Robert told was of the moment they met, which they say was love at first sight for both of them. At a party in the early 1990s in the Dilworth neighborhood, Robert walked over to Cortney and asked her what she was interested in. She said she wanted to be an actress or a model. Because she's not super tall, he told her to stick to acting. "If I was a model, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you," was her reply. Seeing that funny but fiery part of her personality is when he knew she was the one for him.

During their talk, these are the things they said that really stuck with me:

  • Your eye doesn't lie, and always go with your gut: If you can't afford a designer or decorator, learn to trust yourself. If it looks and feels right to you, then it is. Your home should be a reflection of you, not someone else.
  • To stay relevant, you have to keep up with what the younger generation is doing. Whenever you get the chance, ask a young person you know what is "hot" right now in music, books, movies or art. 
  • Expose your children to as much culture as possible so they can learn what they like. Visiting museums is one thing they think is crucial.
  • Art in schools is imperative. Do all you can to help schools offer arts programs to students.
  • If you're doing something in your life and it doesn't seem to be working, don't be afraid to switch gears and try something different. Don't waste time going down a path that isn't right for you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Home Neat Home by Novogratz

I'm so excited about husband-and-wife design team Cortney and Robert Novogratz's talk on Nov. 15 at the Mint Museum Uptown as part of its Contemporary Architecture + Design series. The event starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $10; $5 for museum members; free for students with a valid ID.

The Novogratzes became a familiar name in design circles in 2010 as their reality TV show, Bravo’s “9 by Design,” followed the busy designers and their seven children in New York City. The next year, their current show, “Home by Novogratz,” premiered on HGTV. Now in its second season, that show focuses on their interior design projects.

The popularity of the show and the couple’s emphasis on home and family – combined with their signature mix of vintage and modern style – has allowed them to create a lifestyle brand. They have a paint color line for Stark, a furniture and accessories line for CB2 and a new book, “Home by Novogratz.”

What I didn't realize until I talked to them recently is that Charlotte is at the heart of this couple’s story.

Robert grew up in Virginia and moved to Charlotte in 1986, right after college.
“I was a finance guy – I worked for Smith Barney – and bought my first house there in the Eastover neighborhood in 1990 for $75,000,” he said by phone from the Novogratz fort in Greenwich Village. “I was young, just 26, and I had more fun in Charlotte than I did in college.”

In the early 1990s, Cortney, a Georgia native living in Miami, came to town for a party hosted by her sister, a teacher who was renting a house in Dilworth. It was love at first site for the couple.“I had a great life in Charlotte, I had success in finance, but Cortney wanted to live the big life in New York,” he said. “But it was in Charlotte that my love of home started.”

On Nov. 15, they plan to talk about how the South has influenced their style and to show photos from some of their work. They’ll also discuss the new book, which breaks down the details of 20 projects that have names such as Hipster Haven, Brooklyn Modern, Seaside Cabana and Last-Minute Nursery.

The book includes each project’s budget with a list showing how the money was spent.
“My parents in Columbus, Ga., looked at that and said, ‘Oh, we could have had that done here for much less,’ so you have to take that into consideration because most of our projects are in New York or the West Coast, where it’s more expensive,” Cortney said.

Before beginning a project with a client, Cortney is adamant about one thing that doesn’t add to a budget: clearing out the clutter.
“We all have too much stuff,” she said. “If it’s something you’re not using and you just can’t give it away, put it in storage. Instead of spring cleaning once a year, I do a big sweep through our house every three or four months.”

Here are their tips for decluttering:

  • Does it bring beauty to the space? If not, get rid of it.
  • Does it hold special meaning for you? If not, get rid of it.
  • Can you actually use it? If not, get rid of it.
  • Spring clean every season. Every three or four months, do a massive home purging.
  • If you have attachment disorder with your stuff, have a friend or even a professional help you decide what needs to go.
  • You can sell almost anything on Craigslist (just don't be greedy when setting the price).
  • If you just can't part with something but it doesn't work in your space, put it into storage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Krushing on Russell Simmons

One of the perks of working for the largest newspaper in the Carolinas is that you get to interview a lot of famous people. Meeting Russell Simmons last week during his Argyleculture menswear line launch at Belk at SouthPark mall was one of my favorite celebrity encounters. 

I interviewed him several days before his Charlotte appearance via phone while he was in his Seventh Avenue headquarters in New York City. He is incredibly smart, funny and authentic. But actually sitting next to him and talking behind-the-scenes at Belk was thrilling for me.

I find him to be one of the most fascinating people of my generation because he's such a creative, visionary thinker. That's something I admire more than his bank account or his status as a living legend in the hip-hop community. 

Going back to his Krush Groove days (what a fun movie), he's always been one step ahead of what the future was going to look like. 

Before I met him in person, I had hoped to work in two personal things that I thought he needed to know. With his interest in multiculturalism, I wanted to give him my brief "Redheads are the ultimate minority" speech. (We're all descended from Vikings, so watch out. We may only make up one percent of the world's population, but we raise half the hell). And I wanted to give him my two-minute pitch for the sequel to Krush Groove. It's brilliant, I swear. It has a message behind it that young people especially need to hear. Russell, please have your people call my people! 

I never got around to that because time was limited and it would have been unprofessional and unkind of me to start talking about myself while a line of fellow journalists were waiting for their time with him. That's what blogs are for. 

Plus, another Krush interrupted us. Russell is so nice and accommodating that he moved his chair all the way over to mine so we could have our picture taken together. While he was doing that, we heard a very loud crushing sound. Russell had left his phone by his chair and we both thought it was history, but it turned out his chair legs missed the phone but hit the base of Argyleculture backdrop he was sitting in front of. "Everyone thinks I'm a yogi but I would not have been calm if that was my phone," he said, referring to his devotion to mediation and yoga.

I'm trying to train myself to shoot videos from events I attend, so here's what I have from Russell's appearance:

I also shot pictures and Tweeted live from the event, which is my new obsession. Here are some of my favorite photos that capture the mood of his live appearance. 

I love this fan's style - who knew red plaid, a camo print and neon Nike's could look so great together.

Louis Langston of @amped4acure wears a bow tie with everything as part of his signature style. 

Teacher and model Andrea Jackson, whom I mistakenly called a mom as well in one of my Tweets (she was telling me that she's a mom to her students, not that she was a mother now). She was very gracious about my error. "I do want to be a mom one day," she said sweetly. 

Larry Cornwell looking sharp. We have exchanged emails and phone messages over the years about events he's involved in, but I had never met him in person. Terrific guy, and he and Andrea are part of the Flight 1118 Fashion Show. It's from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge; proceeds benefit Crisis Assistance Ministry and Metrolina Food Bank. Here's a link to the Facebook page:

Love the look of this super cool duo. Yes, he's wearing a vintage Members Only jacket. 

Russell Simmons was so attentive to this young fan, but he cracked everyone up when he checked the label on the boy's argyle sweater. That's why admire Russell so much - he's always thinking. 

Russell with the future screenwriter of his Krush Groove sequel that's destined to be a megahit.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Holiday House is filled with inspiration

Holiday House, presented by the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance and Endowment (MMAE), is open Nov. 9-11. It features decorations from 15 of Charlotte's top floral designers displayed in a private home in the Sharon Hills neighborhood off Sharon Road. It also includes a Gift Shop.

The address is 6304 St. Stephen Lane. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 9-10; 1-5 p.m. Nov. 10.  Admission is $15 at the door. Proceeds benefit the health projects of the MMAE, a nonprofit organization whose members are mainly the spouses of doctors. Among their projects is providing schools and law enforcement with life saving AEDs, a device that can help someone who's going into cardiac arrest. Details:

After attending last night's preview party, I can tell you that Holiday House is bursting with decorating ideas. Here's video from the party:

Before we get to the inspiration portion of this blog, here's a very important public service announcement:

Do not wear stilettos to Holiday House. The home is beautiful, but the walk to the front door is up a short, but very steep, driveway. I had on a fabulous new pair of shoes with a very high metallic heels and I didn't think I was going to make it.
Also (and I should have remembered this), it's a common rule when someone is nice enough to open their home to the public for a tour, they don't want their floors damaged by any kind of pointy shoe. So once I made it inside, I was asked to take off my shoes and wear disposable booties.
I checked my shoes and had a wonderful time. But when I left, I had to take my heels off again to get down the drive or I would have wiped out. They have a handrail you can hang onto, but when you're wearing ridiculously high heels it doesn't matter.

Now I'll jump right into photos of some of my favorite ideas from the preview party. You'll see some food in these photos, but please know that was only for the preview party. During the public tour, just the decorations and arrangements will be on display.

Members of MMAE made all the delicious food, but they wanted to enjoy the party so they hired a crew to come in and take care of all the dishes. That's an option that hostesses who love to cook, but hate to clean up, should always consider. You don't have to hire a caterer to do the food - you can also hire them to just serve and clean up.


White and silver mixed with glass and a reflective surface makes a simple but beautiful display.

A modern take on traditional Christmas colors.

Crystals mixed with natural branches - and a few dollops of fake snow - add to the wow factor of this dining room chandelier.

Elizabeth House Flowers created this stunning Christmas tree bursting with orchids.

These cake pops rolled in shimmering sugar looked beautiful standing in red goblets filled with "snow" (coconut flakes) to help them stand up.

Two turtledoves made from squash.

The shades of purple on this dessert from Wow Factor Cakes looked so right amid the white, silver and sparkle of the dining room. Fun fact: Carrie Underwood ordered a custom cake from Wow Factor for a party she threw for her crew after her recent Charlotte concert.

The vegetable tray was accented with stars made from turnips.

Follow Olivia Fortson on Twitter @oliviafortson

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Leave your shoes at the door for this gala

This first-time gala is also the first time I've heard of a fundraiser in Charlotte where guests are required to not wear shoes. It's a brilliant idea when you understand the backstory. 

Called The Barefoot Gala, it's hosted by the Samaritan’s Feet Women Ambassadors. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Marriott City Center uptown. The goal is to raise awareness about children in need here and around the world, but especially in Africa where many children go without shoes. 

The Women Ambassadors of Samaritan’s Feet was founded by Tracie Ohonme in 2011 as an extension of the Samaritan's Feet nonprofit her husband Emmanuel Ohonme started in 2003 to inspire hope in those in need by washing their feet, giving them a new pair of shoes and encouraging them to believe their dreams can come true. (Emmanuel's photo is above.) 

Here's the story behind Samaritan's Feet: When Emmanuel was 9 and living in Nigeria, a stranger from the U.S. gave him a pair of shoes. He had only owned one pair before that gift - some flip flops that he only wore to school so they would last longer. The rest of the time, he went barefoot. Years passed and he was recruited to play basketball in the U.S. and moved to North Dakota. He studied international relations and economics, married, had children and moved to Charlotte. But along the way, he never forgot the stranger who gave him the luxury of a much-needed pair of shoes. So he and Tracie came up with the idea to find children who were barefoot like he was, wash their feet to show them love and then give them a pair of sneakers. 

The goal of the gala is to secure funds to build a school for orphans in Burundi, Africa, and to provide shoes to needy children here and in Africa.

Guests will check their shoes at the door, then enjoy the gala. The evening includes a silent auction ranging from jewelry to art and getaways. The live auction items will have sports fans cheering: A VIP Final Four Experience, and a VIP Superbowl 2013 Experience. 

Tonia Bendickson will be the emcee of the evening that features a performance by the Indigenous Drummer Boys of Atlanta, and recognition for Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown who'll be honored for her community leadership, support of children's charities and her mission work in Africa. 

Tickets are $100 each and a few are still available. Details: 

If you can't attend the gala, but still want to offer your support, here's how your monetary donation will help, including buying a brick to build the school: 
Uniform & Shoes for One Child …. $30
Buy a Brick … $50
Tuition for One Child for One Year … $100
Outfit a Classroom … $1,000
Build a School … $100,000

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pin Up, Pin Down will be a knock out

Fashions inspired by the 1940s and 1950s but with a modern twist will roll into 10 Park Lanes on Nov. 11 for Pin Up, Pin Down, a runway show to benefit Levine Cancer Institute’s Carolinas Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

It starts at 6 p.m. at the bowling lanes on Montford Drive. At 8:15 p.m., models will turn the lanes into a runway as they show off clothes from area boutiques. There's also a silent auction with donations from Tiffany & Company and The Palm. 

Among the shops sharing their interpretation of the modern day pin-up girl are Blush, Blvd at Southend, Vivian B, Vestique, Summerbird, JT Posh, Sloan, Nordstrom and Solstice. Merritt Rea of FashionFrontRunner is in charge of the styling and production.

Tickets are $10; a VIP table is $200 and includes a bottle of Mo√ęt rose,  a gift bag and appetizers. Details: