Friday, August 30, 2013

Gala celebrates America

International House, which provides services to Charlotte’s growing international community, normally devotes its annual fundraiser to shining a spotlight on the culture of a different country. But in honor of the nonprofit’s 25th gala on Oct. 23, the theme hits closer to home. Titled “America the Beautiful,” it will showcase regional American cuisine, dancing and entertainment. 

"We thought it was time to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of the United States," says Ally Yusuf, International House's marketing and communications director. 

Four hundred guests are expected to attend. Ernest Perry is the gala's honorary chair will be the live auctioneer, a job he's famous for, so come prepared to turn your wallet over to him. Among the items that guests are already excited about bidding on is a special piece of jewelry designed by Donal Haack Diamonds that ties in with the party's theme and will be unveiled during the evening.

All the proceeds go to the wide variety of services International House offers from language classes to diplomatic programs through the State Department that bring visiting professionals from other countries to Charlotte to see how their counterparts here do their jobs. 

The gala runs from 6:30 p.m. to midnight Oct. 23 at the Westin, 601 S. College St. Tickets are $150 per person. Details:

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Honoring the late, great President Wireman

Charlotte is thick with Queens University of Charlotte alumni, including me.

A big topic of conversation among us last week was the generosity of Sandra and Leon Levine and other donors who made our alma mater’s Levine Center for Wellness and Recreation a reality when it opened recently. We are all jealous it wasn’t there when we were at Queens!

Talking about Queens brings back many fond memories for those of us who had the pleasure of going to school there when the late Billy O. Wireman was president. (His photo is above). He was a real father figure to us all and we completely respected him, but he was also a lot of fun. He was so forward thinking, intelligent, charming and a great role model.

He has not been forgotten by his Queens family or business leaders in our community. That's why on Sept. 30, the college’s McColl School Alumni Association hosts its annual Billy O. Wireman Memorial Golf Tournament at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. The $175 fee covers all fees including lunch, snacks and beverages. Details:

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vine videos spotlight stylish shoppers

This month for my Street Scene column, I decided to head to SouthPark mall one recent weeknight in search of stylish shoppers. The whole point of the column is to show what people are wearing when they're out and about. There's a slideshow at that has pictures of everyone I interviewed and details about what they're wearing.

Names that kept popping up over and over among the young people I took pictures of are American Apperal. When it comes to kicks, I was surprised that two brands that were popular when I was younger - Converse and Doc Martens - are still going strong. And the high/low trend is not going away: stylish people of all ages are mixing inexpensive pieces with a few investment purchases.

Here's Vine video of everyone who's featured in the slideshow:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Charlotte designer launches perfume line

I have seen many of Charlotte designer Luis Machicao's gorgeous clothes on the runway at charity fashion events, so I was curious when I received an invitation to a major announcement from his label on Aug. 22 at Blue restaurant uptown.

When I arrived, Luis was looking sharp as ever in a super stylish outfit surrounded by models wearing some of his beautiful creations. He also designs men's suits. Here's a photo of the models:

Among the guests was beloved WSOC-TV "Action 9" consumer reporter Don Griffin, a fan of Luis' line, who was there with his lovely wife Claudia celebrating the news.

And wow, what news it was: Luis is launching a perfume line that he created in France. He'll be debuting it there when he's part of Paris Fashion Week.

Here's a photo of Luis with the bottle for the Machicao femme line for women (he also has a homme line for men):

Here's video of the moment he announced the launch:

Luis was born in Peru, but trained in Paris, so he's almost giddy with excitement over returning to Paris to not only show his clothes, but launch another of his dreams that has come true.

It took a lot of hard work for him to get to this level, and I admire the way he dreams big. Congratulations, Luis!

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Making Charlotte more beautiful

Liz Hilliard and her daughter Clary are definitely doing their part to make Charlotte more beautiful. The successful businesswomen light up any room they're in with their passion for the healthy, positive lifestyle they promote through the fitness regime they created called The Hilliard Studio Method. Approachable, kind, inspiring and supremely fit, they are the best advertisement for their business.

In honor of their studio moving to a new location on Fenton Place off Providence Road near uptown, they're offering free classes Aug. 22-24 only. Class size is limited, so you absolutely must register in advance. You might see a waiting list for classes, but Liz says not to let that discourage you because people change their minds and move to other classes, so be patient and maybe you'll luck up with a spot.

For details about their fitness philosophy, their healthy lifestyle tips and to register for one of the classes, go to

To see Liz in action making one of the Hilliard Studio Method signature smoothies on WCNC-TV's Charlotte Today show, go to

Follow Olivia Fortson on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, August 19, 2013

Video from the Great Gatsby Gala

There's a big push on at the Observer to have video to go with our stories. I enjoy it, although there are times I'm hoping someone who reads lips isn't standing near me when I start shooting because it can be difficult to switch between taking photos and videos with my iPhone all while trying to write down notes. Sometimes I'll let my favorite cuss word slip out when I get frustrated with the process.

It makes me almost look forward to the day when we'll have microchips implanted on our bodies and all I have to do is look at something and think to myself "shoot video" or "shoot photos" and it will be done.

In the meantime, here's video I shot from the Great Gatsby Gala.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A don't when couples say "I Do"

A recent story in the New York Times confirmed a trend I had heard about: Brides are banning cell phones at their ceremonies. The reasons range from fear (they don’t want a family member who wasn’t invited to see the pictures on someone else’s Facebook page) to vanity (they want to have control over how they look).

But ultimately, the article said the bans are because guests are supposed to be witnesses to the vows, but how can they do that if they’re too busy trying to get a photo or video?

In another publication, I read that wedding cell phone bans are also spreading because brides become upset when they get their professional photos back and realize they can’t tell who was there because almost every guest is holding a cell phone up in front of their faces.

So, before you watch a couple say “I Do,” don’t bring your cell phone.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rock it like Miranda Lambert

Jewelry from Nina Nguyen has been featured in Lucky, Shape and The Knot magazines, and on ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today show.

The designer's star rose even higher when singer Miranda Lambert wore a pair of Nguyen's earrings on the Season 4 premiere of The Voice to sing with her husband and fellow country super star Blake Shelton. 

Here's a photo of the cute couple at an awards show:

According to a press release, Nguyen's 2013 line features fossilized  stones that slowly develop through the planet’s natural processes. Her favorite raw materials include geodes and stalactites.  She also uses druzy stones, which are created naturally over millions of years. (The earrings Lambert wore were druzy stones set in oxidized silver and retail for $295).

Nguyen will be in the Charlotte area Aug. 16-17 for two trunk shows at Brownlee Jewelers. She’ll be at the Park Road Shopping Center store in Charlotte from 1 to 6 p.m. Aug. 16 and the Huntersville store at 9763-B Sam Furr Road from 1 to 6 p.m. Aug. 17. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Children of Vietnam and Care Ring. 


Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, August 9, 2013

Daniel Coston's newest book

So many of the photos from parties that run in my columns in the Observer and SouthPark magazine are taken by Daniel Coston, who has many fans among my readers.

If you’re one of them and are looking for a great hostess gift, I highly recommend his newest book, “North Carolina Musicians: Photographs and Conversations.”

It features 140 of his photos and 19 of his interviews with bands including the Avett Brothers and Carolina Chocolate Drops. Another well-known Charlottean, Meg Freeman Whalen, wrote the forward.

It’s available at Park Road Books, and

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nick Cannon at Office Depot Aug. 9

Nick Cannon, the actor, comedian and host of “America's Got Talent,” will help the Office Depot Foundation donate 3,500 new sackpacks with school supplies to Charlotte-area children and non-profits at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Office Depot store at 9610 Pineville-Matthews Road.

Cannon, who's married to singer Mariah Carey, grew up in this area and considers Charlotte home. (The photo above was taken of the couple a few days ago at the NYC movie premiere of the film "The Butler.")

The nonprofit organizations, schools and agencies scheduled to receive sackpacks on August 9 include:

·         The Arts Empowerment Project
·         Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Activities League
·         Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
·         A Child’s Place of Charlotte
·         Learning/Help Centers of Charlotte
·         Trips for Kids
·         YMCA of Greater Charlotte

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Great Gatsby Gala

Break out your fedoras and flapper dresses. This is the 25th anniversary of the Great Gatsby Gala, a 1920s themed black tie, costume gala to benefit the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National MS Society. 

This popular party (last year’s event raised more than $100,000) features music, dancing, a silent auction and food from some of Charlotte’s best restaurants. 

 It’s from 8 p.m. to midnight Aug. 10 at Wells Fargo Atrium, 301 S. Tryon St. VIP tickets (includes a reserved table) are $250 for two. Individual tickets are $75 per person in advance or $100 per person at the door. Details:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson