Friday, May 31, 2013

The little farm stand that could

If you need something special for your next party, or a unique gift, I highly recommend dropping by the Common Grounds farm stand. 

It just opened for the season on the front porch of Thies Mortgage at 119 Huntley Place off Providence Road in Myers Park. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursdays only through September. 

Ted Boyd (photo below) of Charlotte Center City Partners is Common Grounds new board chair.

The small stand is very popular, so get there early for the best selection of its weekly offerings of produce, flowers and herbs grown in the Charlotte area. The stand also has great artisan prepared foods including cheeses, dressings, slice and bake rolls, BBQ sauces and honey. The photo below is of volunteers Lisa Gardner and Paige Waugh with some of the stand's gorgeous flowers.

Here’s the most delicious part: The stand is run entirely by volunteers and all the proceeds go to help the homeless through the Urban Ministry Center. In the past four years, the volunteers have raised an astounding $175,000 for the cause. Now that's what I cause using greens to raise some green. 

For a complete list of the stand’s offerings, a recipe of the week and more details, go to

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Take a dip

Dips and parties go hand in hand, so I was thrilled to learn about two new ones Observer Food Editor Kathleen Purvis found at Harris Teeter.

One of them, Big T Crab Dip, she read about in Garden & Gun magazine and it’s possibly the best commercial crab dip I’ve ever tasted. (Kathleen thinks it would be great in baked stuffed mushrooms).

The other she found on her own and if you love caramelized onion, it’s out of this world. Called OMG (for Onion Made Goodness) it’s from the same company that makes my favorite store-bought pimento cheese, Palmetto Cheese. I’m already contemplating an experiment using OMG instead of mayonnaise in my next batch of deviled eggs.

And speaking of deviled eggs, I've learned over the years that if you need to bring a dish to a potluck, family reunion or other gathering, you can never have too many deviled eggs. I brought a batch of 24 to a recent family reunion and set it beside about five other plates of deviled eggs. They were all devoured. It's one of those Southern staples that people can't get enough of. There are all kinds of things you can add to them, but I keep it easy. I fill mine with just the yolk mixed with mayonnaise, a little bit of salt and a lot of black pepper. I sprinkle Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning (available at most grocery stores) on top for extra flavor and color.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My So-Called Blog

The Showtime series "Homeland," starring Claire Danes, filmed a scene in the Charlotte Observer's newsroom yesterday. Even though we all really did try to work, it was a big - and exciting - distraction to have Hollywood come to your desk. So, to make up for all the gawking I did yesterday, I thought I would at least try to turn my observations into a blog. I had to name it honor of Claire's breakthrough role as Angela Chase in the mid-1990s teen drama "My So-Called Life." 

(One of our photographers actually caught me in mid-gawk in this photo. That's me in the bright blue jacket with the red hair.)

Our pop culture writer, Théoden Janes, wrote a really fun story about the experience that you can read online:

Here's a link to the slideshow our staff photographers T. Ortega Gaines and Robert Lahser took of the behind-the-scenes action:

Here are my behind-the-scenes thoughts:

Give them props
I was absolutely fascinated by the way the show's props team cleared off several desks in the newsroom and completely recreated them to resemble the desks of some of my more creative colleagues. There were fake Post-It notes, fake family photos, fake papers strewn about. Their attention to detail was astounding. I kept going back to look at their handiwork. I truly think they may have worked the hardest of anyone on set because they had to decorate the desks early before anyone arrived, then pack everything back up and make sure the desks they used were left exactly as they found them. 

Like a family
The area in front of my desk was a hot bed of action. At any given time, there were about 20 crew members and extras standing around. Everyone was very nice and interesting to talk with. I was especially impressed with "Homeland" executive producer Lesli Glatter. She was so friendly and respectful toward all of us newsroom employees. Several of the crew members told me that the great working environment on the set is because of Lesli's talent and kind personality. "We're like a family and she's a big reason for that," he said. "We all love her." (The photo below is of Lesli talking with Claire)

You call that flipping out?
I have never watched "Homeland," but I've read enough about it to know that Claire Dane's character is always flipping out over something. Claire is a serious and talented actress, so she seemed to be in character the whole time. I personally didn't see her really interact with anyone on set other than Lesli, the executive producer. I truly do not think it's because she's a diva. I think she was staying in character and interacting with anyone else would cause her to lose her focus. Her behavior made me respect her even more. The only time she snapped at us was during her first rehearsal when some newsroom staff couldn't contain their excitement and started taking photos of her on their iPhones. She yelled out, "I'm working!" and Lesli immediately rushed to her side and as nicely as possible told everyone to stop taking pictures. Throughout the day, we watched her flip out, as the short scene calls for her to do, and I had to laugh to myself. I've worked in this newsroom for more than two decades and I can assure you that I've seen flip outs of epic proportions and her scene, as entertaining and as well-acted as it was done, doesn't come close to a true, old school newsroom outburst.  (The photo below is of Claire rehearsing her scene with Lesli in the background.)

Union life
The incredible camera and lighting equipment that was wheeled in here was unbelievable. Some of it probably cost more than most people's houses. Everyone working on set has to be part of a union, and to watch how that works up close was a real eye-opener. One of the crew hung around all day until the camera operator needed an attachment. Then he sprung into action and in less than 30 seconds he placed it on the camera and went back to sitting around again. I would think that if the cameraman needed something he would be fully capable of walking two steps, putting it on, and getting back to work. But it just doesn't work that way in unions, I guess. It was clear that everyone on set was on top of their game or they wouldn't be working on a hit series, but that was a very interesting detail I won't forget. I also won't forget how uniquely good looking the cameraman was. I was ready to knock the union crew member out of the way so I could jump up and help him out. He should really be in front of the camera, not behind it. Forget pictures of Claire, I wish I had taken his photo. 

That's a wrap
The first crew members arrived here around 8 a.m. and they wrapped up around  8 p.m., I'm told. I had left by then. By 6 p.m., I had had enough. I really thought if I heard that short scene run threw one more time I was going to go insane. I couldn't get out of here fast enough. Today at work, we were all quoting the dialog word for word. Every single person I met on set was gifted at what they do and I got the feeling they are well compensated for it, but the patience you have to have to deal with the monotony and repetition of it all is a unique gift they have or they wouldn't be able to do what they do. 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tahira Benjamin's summer Splurge picks

Editor's Note: Stylish Charlotte Latin senior Tahira Benjamin takes over this blog to write about her favorite summer picks from the new boutique Splurge (

If nothing else, the sweltering heat is proof that summer is fast approaching but is your closet ready? Whether you're completely reinventing yourself for the season or adding just a handful of accessories to freshen up your current pieces, it's time to treat yourself to summer goodies! 

Finding a store offering styles to fit various tastes and shapes is often a challenge but one of my favorites is Splurge, a posh boutique nestled in the Myers Park Shopping Center. Even before you have the chance to thumb your way through the racks you'll notice the store's immaculate decorations, from the modern chandelier in the front, to the charming sitting area in the back -- both telltale signs that you're in the right boutique. There's a lot to look at but because clothing is organized by article (dresses with dresses etc.), great looks are easily found. Don't believe me? I pulled and styled five fun, summery looks in about an hour, so half of your work is already done!

One of the lovely store assistants, Mary Katherine Edwards, modeled this white leather laser cut Tracy Reese dress ($348) that puts a hipster spin on the classic white summer dress. The zippers give it a lot of edge but the laser cut leather tames it so much that it could qualify as Sunday best. Also, there's no need to fear overheating because the leather is very light. The dress is styled with a coral and grey necklace ($48) to add a gentle pop of color, dramatic enough to be the focal point of the outfit while not taking away the spotlight from the dress. This outfit is easily dressed up when worn from day to night; opt for a strappy sandal for a casual day look and high-heeled sandal for night-time. 

Splurge matched this Annie Griffin turquoise silk top with ruffle ($196) with Annie Griffin's "Patton" flame stitch short ($176), making day wear feel airy and comfortable but also a notch above casual. To add a pop a color, I pulled a yellow crossbody with edgy gold hard wear ($36). The outfit is great for anything during the day, from running errands to grabbing lunch with friends. Individual pieces themselves are great for deconstruction, as the blouse and shorts offer plenty of versatility. 

I found this darling yellow and grey striped 209 long maxi dress ($109) equipped with a bright yellow braided belt, putting a Grecian twist on a classic stripped maxi. Maxis for summer are a gift from the fashion gods; not only do they keep you cool, they flatter so many body types. This maxi has slits cut to the calf that are provocative but not high enough to be overly sexy (barely PG-13)!  Also, the colors compliment nearly any skin tone given how the brightness of the yellow is tamed by the grey so whether you've had the opportunity or not, you'll look like you've spent time in the sun.

In case you're spending time by the pool or the beach this summer, I pulled this fun Echo orange and white patterned tunic ($78) and styled it with a turquoise beaded necklace ($180) great for looking glamorous while covered up. After a dip in the pool (or ocean), cover up in this eye-catching tunic before throwing on the necklace which shimmers. Even if you won't be donning this outfit seaside, it looks great with skinny jeans--either white or light wash are perfect for summer.

Keeping day-to-day storage in mind, I pulled this mint Botkier crossbody ($325), great for days and nights when space isn't as much a priority as style. The color is bright but not overwhelming and works perfectly for nude solids that need a pop of color.

I fell in love with this see-through travel bag by British designer Jim Thompson from his line "No. 9" ($57), not only because it's one million times more stylish than unsightly Ziploc bags but also because it has A LOT of space and comes with two smaller bags. Thompson's prints are inspired by the far east and hand-painted with watercolor.

My absolute favorite look is this Mark and James striped grey, light grey and light pink dress ($295) that I styled with two tortoise necklaces (long necklace priced at $48). The billowy skirt of the dress and pink stripes make it very fun and girly, but the contrast of the grey stripes give it an edge that I wanted to bring out by mixing patterns with the tortoise necklaces. Tortoise accessories are very useful in that they can be mixed with a number of fabrics but tend to work better with tamer ones. Here, the tortoise adds a focal point that compliments the pink and grey stripes rather than clashing.

Now that you've got the perfect outfits for just about anything you're doing this summer, it's time to make plans and get out there! If you're contemplating what shoes to wear, minimalist footwear is in. So put on your outfit, strap on your white high-heeled sandals and spend your summer in style. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mayorial memories

On May 21, the Observer is hosting a public forum featuring five former Charlotte mayors: Gov. Pat McCrory, Richard Vinroot, Rep. Sue Myrick, Harvey Gantt and Eddie Knox. (Mayor Foxx will be in Washington, D.C. preparing for his Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. transportation secretary, but word is he may participate via video.)

The historic event is free and open to the public, but you must register in advance.  It starts at 7 p.m. at Central Piedmont Community College's Dale F. Halton Theater in the Overcash Building, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. The moderator is Steve Crump. Audience members will be allowed to ask questions. For information, or to register, go to 

Harvey Gantt was mayor when I moved to Charlotte. When he had just left office and Sue Myrick was elected mayor, one of my best friends lived in a house in Fourth Ward that was right between the former and current mayors. I was over there all the time - we were young and fun and it was the place to hang out. Having Sue Myrick, a Republican, on one side, and Harvey Gantt, a Democrat, on the other, made it even cooler.  We kept expecting some political blow out, but that never happened. That was my first observation that Charlotteans, even though we may disagree, we put a high value on being at the very least cordial to one another. 

When Richard Vinroot was mayor, I went to a movie at the Manor with the same friend who lived between Myrick and Gantt. Mayor Vinroot was sitting alone in a seat at the end of the aisle so he could stretch out his long legs. I think he must have seen us whispering with excitement that we were at the movie with the mayor and he struck up a brief conversation with us. He was so easy going and friendly, and he treated us as if we were important. It made a huge impression on me that a mayor would take the time to genuinely interact with us. It's a feeling I remember to this day every time I'm lucky enough to see him out. Little things really do mean a lot. 

During "Mayor Pat's" many years in office, I would see him out at countless events. He was always so much fun - especially when he would take over any available drum set and start playing at parties. How many elected officials do you know that have that kind of joie de vivre?

When it comes to Mayor Foxx, you may love his politics or hate them, but anyone who's been around him knows he's a nice man with a quick smile and outgoing personality.

My biggest fear about Charlotte is that we're allowing cordial relations among our elected leaders and us as citizens to slip away. We have a long history of working together in this town and of being friendly to one another no matter what. That quality is one of the unspoken reasons people and businesses flock here. It's an invisible thread that holds everything together and without it we're nothing special no matter how many new skyscrapers or coliseums we have.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tell it to the occifer

The Observer recently ran this photo of a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission officer taken by Observer photographer Todd Sumlin during a press conference where officers from state and local agencies announced a DWI/BWI (Boating While Impaired) initiative on N.C. waterways and roads beginning Memorial Day Weekend. 

The third annual "On the Road, On the Water, Don't Drink and Drive" campaign, as it's called, is a chance to remind everyone that drinking and driving is a bad idea. 

Of course, when you add too much alcohol to a situation, bad ideas can suddenly seem like good ideas, so please know yourself, know how to drink like an adult and plan ahead. 

If I know I'm going to go somewhere and probably have more than two drinks (which is my personal limit - everyone has to figure out that number for themselves) and I don't have a designated driver, I have zero problem taking a taxi. I have heard some people say it would go against their image to show up to an event in a cab. Tell that to the occifer (which may be the way you pronounce officer when he or she pulls you over). If you want something more chic, use a car service - Charlotte has many great ones.

Drinking, cutting loose and having fun is part of our culture. No one, especially me, is trying to take that away from you. I have way too much German and Irish blood in my veins to tell anyone over the age of 21 they shouldn't drink. Just please don't get behind the wheel of anything - from your lawn mower to your boat to your tricked out Mercedes - if you've had too much.

I could tell you horror story after horror story about those who have gambled that they could make it home and lost. I'm not even going into the tragedy of what would happen if you had a wreck and injured or killed someone. That's a whole other level of horror.

I'm just talking about the nightmare that awaits when you're pulled over, arrested and taken to jail. In case you didn't know this, the mug shots of those arrested in Mecklenburg County are one of our most popular features online by far, and almost every media outlet carries them. So, looking uncool in a cab or having people you know and do business with seeing your mug shot? Is there really a choice? And that doesn't even begin to cover the lawyers fees, court appearances, fines and having your license temporarily taken away. 

You may think those are vain and shallow reasons, but we all know not to drink too much and drive and it still happens so if vain and shallow works, I'm fine with that. 

If you disagree, tell it to the occifer.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Dancing With the Stars" pro part of dance festival

Angela Prince, the organizer behind SouthPark's first outdoor dance festival, filled me in on all the exciting details about Dancing with the Queen City Stars. The benefit for the Humane Society of Charlotte is from 5 to 9 p.m. May 18 at Morrison, the shopping center at the corner of Colony and Sharon Roads. (The rain date is from 3 to 7 p.m. May 19).

Queen City Ballroom, Morrison and Earth Fare are sponsoring the event that will be held on what Angela says is a huge, in-the-street dance floor in front of Earth Fare. The celebrity guest is professional dancer Brian Fortuna. He starred in one of the first season's of "Dancing with the Stars," then switched to the British TV version, called "Come Strictly Dancing." (The photos in this blog are of Brian Fortuna.) Maria St. John of DanseDahling DJ Services will be the DJ. Emcees are WSOC-TV meteorologist Vicki Graf and Tommy Ballard of Hendrick BMW.

There is so much going on at this fundraiser that it's amazing that tickets are $5 (they can be bought in advance at Queen City Ballroom at Morrison, or at the event).

Here's the tentative schedule:

5 p.m.: The festival begins.

5:45-8 p.m.: Introductions and a street dance class with Brian Fortuna. Ballroom, swing and Latin dance performances by Queen City Ballroom professionals and amateur dancers. Two "Dancing For The Dogs and Cats" contests, where area dancers can earn their 60-seconds of dance fame for the Top Dog Award and Top Cat Award while raising money from the crowd. Then Brian Fortuna will do dance demos for the audience and host a Q&A about what it's like to work on dance TV.

8-9 p.m. Street dance party where everyone can join in the fun.

Interwoven in the festivities are surprise performances by some of Charlotte's best-known celebrities. They have donated their time over the past four weeks to learn a dance routine at Queen City Ballroom. We don't want to give all the surprises away, but two of them are WSOC-TV morning news anchor Sarah Rosario and Kat Country 96.9 FM talk show host Meg Butterly.

For more information, tickets or to register for the 60-seconds of fame “Dancing for the Dogs and Cats," contact Queen City Ballroom at 704-541-5440 or email  More details are at or

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The amazing Sherry Pollex

The Observer's beloved and acclaimed NASCAR reporter Jim Utter has magic. He mentioned my name to the organizers of Catwalk for a Cause, a fundraiser on May 15 for the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation. The next thing I know I'm sitting at Mimosa uptown with the NASCAR driver's longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, Martin's p.r. person Traci Hultzapple and Lisa Hughes Kennedy of Toyota, the event's major sponsor. What a great group of women! Thanks, Jim.

Sherry had a day filled with media interviews, so I was really appreciated being included in her media tour for the important and exciting event. (The photo above was taken during their interview with WCNC-TV.) I had never met her before, but I had heard what a kind, caring person she is. And I knew from seeing photos of her that she is beautiful. I was expecting the best and I got even more. Bottom line: Sherry Pollex is an amazing woman.

For details about the event, go to

Sherry loves fashion (she owns Lavendar boutique in Mooresville), so she came up with the idea for Catwalk for a Cause because it merges two of her passions: style and raising money to help children through the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation. The first event in 2009 was held at a country club. From there, it's grown into a huge production. This year's event is being held at Michael Waltrip Racing in Cornelius and tickets sold out almost instantly. The 450 guests have already generated around $60,000 through advance ticket sales. The evening's fabulous silent auction items will bring in even more. Even if you don't have a ticket, you can still bid on items online. Among the celebrities expected to attend are  NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick along with reality TV star Emily Maynard.

I was struck by Sherry's natural beauty. It's also clear she is fiercely independent, a smart businesswoman and that she has a big heart. It was very touching to hear how much thought she and Martin put into the children's causes they support. The proceeds from Catwalk for a Cause go to a fund that helps families with children being treated at the Levine Children's Hospital. One of the neat details about Catwalk for a Cause is that a portion of the runway show features  children who are fighting cancer. For Sherry, and Martin, that's an incredibly emotional moment that's meaningful to them and the children. Here are photos from a previous event:

The fund at Levine Children's Hospital is just one of the many recipients of the foundation. Martin and Sherry really work hard to identify and fill needs involving children's causes. They are in the process of opening a children's wing at a hospital in Martin's hometown in New Jersey.

"We've been together for eight years. My mom told me that she thinks God put us together because my heart goes with his talent," Sherry said. "Without racing and what Martin does, we couldn't help children and our community the way we can now. It's one of the things that bonds us and keeps us grounded."

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Read more here:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Okay Gatsby

After attending an advance screening of Baz Luhrmann's new movie version of "The Great Gatsby" last night at Phillip's Place, I didn't make eye contact with the cheerful movie studio staff who were hanging around the exits asking everyone what they thought about the film. I didn't want to burst anyone's champagne bubble with my personal take on the film, which opens later this week.

What I really wanted to say to the perky volunteers is that I could relate to the fickle and careless main character Daisy Buchanan because Baz Luhrmann and his team had spent years and millions of dollars creating the film and presented it to me, and as the credits rolled I shrugged and was ready to move on to the next thing. It wasn't great. But it wasn't horrible. It's more "The Okay Gatsby."

There are parts I enjoyed, mainly because I'm fascinated by the era of the Roaring '20s. But I couldn't muster any emotion for the characters. It might be because I'm such a fan of the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version from 1974. There were subtleties in that film that immediately gave you a reference for the true nature of the characters and what motivated them. I also think the 1974 version did a better job at showing the destructive madness of both the wild mass parties at Gatsby's estate and the smaller hotel parties where alcohol and anger merged into chaos.

I feel like the pretty little fool that Daisy Buchanan hopes her daughter will grow up to be because I have never asked to be invited to a screening before, but I had bought into the hype about the film and I was convinced that it was going to be a big influence on fashion and entertaining. I just don't see that happening in an organic way. I see the studio who made the film trying to make that happen.

I do hope it creates a a resurgence of interest in the era, which is a good thing because I think it helps us put our own changing times into perspective. I have a fondness for the 1920s because I grew up on the campus of the exclusive women's school Converse College where my father was head of fundraising. He loved his job and his Converse "girls" as he called them, even if they were in their 70s or 80s. My favorites were the women  I would visit with him who were in college during the booming part of the 1920s. Through their stories, I gained a personal understanding of just how scandalous that era was based on past generations, and how we really haven't seen a cultural and social revolution that big since then. The hippies were amateurs compared to party people in the '20s, and they didn't dress as well.

When I went through my punk rock stage, always in the back of my mind was knowing that whatever I could come up with wouldn't have been as shocking as going from long dresses to exposing your knees in short flapper dresses. Of going from having long hair that to bobbing your hair. Of  women drinking and smoking in public. Of an era when cars and phones and plane travel and skyscrapers reshaped the world.  It was wild, and excessive and the ladies who lived through it were so much fun. They knew how to have a good time and were dismayed at how boring young people had become. My streak of blue hair and a safety pin worn as an earring would not have raised an eyebrow with that group of wonderful ladies.

I was hoping that with the modern soundtrack to the film, which I really liked, that the wild party scenes would have a flair that would show just how the times had changed. Instead I got fireworks and confetti at Gatsby's parties and a pillow fight in a pivotal hotel party scene as the big "wow" moments. There was no sense of danger or self-destruction or of being in a bubble that was about to burst.

There was one unexpected moment in the movie that I did find incredibly inspiring, courtesy of actress Elizabeth Debicki, who played Daisy's friend Jordan Baker. She's a stunning vision when she walks across the veranda at one of Gatsby's parties in a gorgeous embellished black dress with a black veil. That amazing costume would be enough on its own, but what made it memorable was the way she confidently walked  in it and the sultry look on her face. It was a flashback to the glamour and seduction of actresses in the old films I love so much. It was probably my favorite five seconds of the film and I would watch it again just to see an actress who could own a slice of the screen they way she did in that moment.

I have been obsessing over the pearl and diamond ring-to-bracelet that actress Carey Mulligan, who plays Daisy, wears on the movie poster and on the cover of the May issue of Vogue magazine. Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin, designed the costumes and worked with Tiffany & Co. on a collection of fine jewelry based on the film.  I went to this morning to see how much they cost. They are $75,000 each. If you can afford one, you should really go ahead and buy two because it makes the look. Because I'm not married to a bootlegger, I'll be hoping I can find a less expensive knock off of that look. The collection is absolutely stunning and if I could afford it I would be at the store at SouthPark mall right now ordering my favorite pieces.

One of the most fabulous and stylish people I know is having a Great Gatsby themed  party in a few weeks. The movie did get me even more excited about attending the party. So for that, Baz Luhrmann, and for at least trying to bring some sophistication back to the cinema, I do say, "Thanks, old sport."

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, May 3, 2013

Old-fashioned fun May 18

Old-fashioned fun is part of the charm of the annual Family Festival at Historic Rosedale Plantation.

It's May 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the historic plantation that's on Tryon street just three miles from uptown. If you live in the area and haven't visited it yet, this event is the perfect excuse.

Some of North Carolina’s best artisans will be selling their crafts including potters, wood turners, quilters and jewelry makers.

Costumed re-enactors will be roaming around and among the children's activities are free pony rides.

Tickets are $10 per person, or $25 for a family, and are available online at

Rosedale is one of Charlotte's few historic homes still surviving. Please consider attending as a sign of support for it, and all the volunteers who work so hard to maintain its beauty. The home and the families who lived there played important parts in our city's history that shouldn't be forgotten.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thank you, Vincent Longo

It has been several weeks since Vincent Longo was in Charlotte. I owe him a big thank you, so this is my public ode to his artistry.

The famous makeup artist was here as the guest of Jeffre Scott Apothecary, a cosmetics boutique that carries his Vincent Longo makeup line. While he was here, he taught a makeup application seminar at the Duke Mansion, then met with his fans at a reception in his honor at Jeffre Scott Apothecary.

Here's the feature I did advancing his visit:
Here's the coverage of the event:
Here's the slideshow of photos:
And finally, here's the video from his appearance on WCNC-TV's "Charlotte Today" show so you can see him in action:

I didn't even know he had a makeup line until I was looking for a really good concealer and Amy Grigg at the apothecary suggested I try his brand. I love it so much - it's truly the best concealer I"ve every used. It comes in both a small compact with a mirror, and a pen form that's great for touch-ups.

That discovery made me extra excited to interview Vincent before his trip here. I was so impressed with how extraordinarily friendly and energetic he was on the phone. He has an Australian accent that's so appealing. (He lived there until he was a teen and his Italian immigrant parents moved back to Italy.)

Longo is based out of New York City now, but he also keeps a house on the Italian coast near his close knit  la famaligia. When he entertains in New York, he enjoys cooking healthy meals for dinner with friends. In Italy, he entertains al fresco and is more likely to indulge his love of pasta.

The reason I want to thank him is that right before his visit, I was becoming very discouraged with how I look in the photos I'm under pressure to Tweet of me with any visiting celebrity who comes through town that crosses my path. I think part of the problem is that I wasn't wearing enough makeup, especially eye makeup. Thanks to Vincent's seminar, I have really taken it up a notch and I'm so happy with the results.

His philosophy is to enhance your best features to maximize your own beauty so you can be more confident and empowered. I'm not going to lie - to do all the steps he taught us takes a while, but it's worth it if you want to look your best. On many days it's not necessary. If you're just running errands, or you've got a slow work day that's free of  important meetings or functions, you don't have to be as detailed.

Here are the three main tips that have made a difference to me:

1. A primer is a secret tool of makeup artists. It evens out your skin and prepares it for foundation.

2. When you apply foundation, press it on with a sponge, then twist the sponge. Vincent describes the motion as being similar to the painting term stippling. Almost every technique he taught us involved pressing the product into the skin, then blending. Gently pressing really helps the product adhere better.

3. Making sure your eyebrows are groomed properly for your eye shape, and that they're filled in. I often didn't fill in my brows, or wear any eyeshadow, eyeliner or mascara. Now  I do all those steps and it makes an enormous difference, so thank you Vincent, and thank you Jeffre Scott Apothecary.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson