Friday, November 21, 2014

Thank you, Michael Tarwater

As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to share a small gesture of kindness that was meaningful to me. Photographer Daniel Coston and I were covering a party attended by Carolinas HealthCare CEO Michael Tarwater and his lovely wife, Ann. For more than a decade, Daniel and I have been out and about chronicling Charlotte’s social scene. I tell him all the time that I could not do my job without his great photos.

As we were talking to the Tarwaters, suddenly Michael turned to Daniel and me and said, “Would you like for me to take your picture?”

Daniel and I were struck by his kindness because in all the time we’ve worked together, no one has ever thought to take a photo of us together. Michael borrowed Daniel’s camera for a second and the photo turned out really cute, especially since Daniel was wearing one of his signature vintage hats. So thank you, Michael. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Here's Michael's photo of Daniel and me:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy "Thanksforgiving"

I'm always amazed at the number of pitches I receive from p.r. people outside Charlotte promoting their clients. I already get enough from p.r. people here in town, so if it's from outside this area it's often doomed to the trash bin.

But this one caught my eye and I think it's worth sharing since Thanksgiving is a week away.

The p.r. person for Sherly Sulaiman, a clinical hypnotherapist and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, sent an essay written by Sulaiman titled "Thanksforgiving."

 Sulaiman lives in L.A. and her practice, New Stress Relief is in Santa Monica (

I just hope no one in my family thinks I'm the "Aunt Wendy" Sulaiman uses as an example in her essay!

Here's Sulaiman's "Thanksforgiving" essay:

For many of us, spending time with certain family members can reopen old emotional wounds, even if we thought the scar tissues had healed for good. The holidays seem to be a particularly vulnerable time for old scars and delicate hearts. It is during these times of joy and giving, that we need to also be generous when it comes to forgiving.

Everyone has at least one person they still need to truly forgive. We may know intellectually that forgiving is ultimately better for us, but unfortunately we don’t always practice what we know to be better. While we’re constantly letting go when we excuse friends, colleagues or strangers for irritating or even offensive behaviors, when it comes to certain family members or loved ones, letting go may not come so easily.

There is an aunt in my family (I’ll call her Wendy) who “means well” when she criticizes our appearance, our significant other, our work, or other things she finds counter to her strong opinions. Her untimely remarks can feel like her pumpkin pies, presented as something sweet, but after several servings, we’re left with an ache and a heaviness in our belly that’s hard to digest. Many of us have an “Aunt Wendy” in our lives.

Unfortunately, it can be the actual person or simply a reminder of them that can emotionally trigger us. During holiday gatherings, we’re often exposed to other people’s issues, as well as the dynamic of various relationships, and our own issues. Now that can be a LOT of issues in one room.  It’s hardly surprising that people experience so much stress, anxiety and depression during the holidays.

We need to access some mental and emotional tools to prepare us for these gatherings.  Most of us know that we want to cultivate calmness, stability, detachment and healthy boundaries, especially with our families. Sometimes, we overlook that the key to unlocking the doors to these powerful tools is forgiveness. And other times, we simply resist it.


There are several possible reasons:

1. We think it means condoning the “bad” behavior that hurt us.

2. We see it as a threat to our values. For example, forgiving someone for cheating on us may unconsciously represent a compromise to the value we place on loyalty or honesty.

3. We may feel forgiveness makes us appear weak or “the loser.”

4. We lose a form of protection that prevents us from being hurt in the same way again.

None of these are true. Forgiveness sets us free emotionally and mentally. It allows us to see people for who they are and not who they were or who they remind us of. We can enjoy the present moment as it is, unburdened by fears of the past. This helps make gatherings with family and loved ones an enjoyable experience, from an authentic place.

We can decide to let things go, the same way we do on a daily basis with friends, colleagues and strangers. During challenging “forgiveness crossroads,” I tell my clients to consider these two questions: “Is my desire for happiness and harmony stronger than my attachment to my past suffering?” And, “Is it more important or me to have peace or to be right?”

Forgiveness allows us to choose peace, happiness and harmony over resentment and fear. When we let things go from a space of love and compassion, it’s easier to understand that “Aunt Wendy” is who she is and is simply doing the best she can. We appreciate the time and effort she took to bake those pies…and we enjoy every bite.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Louis St. Lewis, what you doin' up in here?

Acclaimed artist and bon vivant Louis St. Lewis, who grew up in Wadesboro before he left to conquer the international art scene, is returning to Allison Sprock Fine Art Nov. 18. Now living on a farm outside Chapel Hill, St. Lewis will be at the gallery at 600 Queens Road from 6 to 9 p.m. to talk with guests and show some of his newest works. Details:

I met him when he visited the gallery last year and he has one of the world's great personalities and the talent to back it up. There's a reason why his works are in the collections of Oprah Winfrey, Christian LaCroix, former Vogue editor  AndrĂ© Leon Talley and the late Maya Angelou as well as museums including the New Orleans Museum of Art.

I can't wait to walk in and say, "Louis St. Lewis, what you doin' up in here?" That's one of his many funny sayings. Try using it sometime instead of the usual party chitchat introductions when you walk up to a stranger and ask how they know the host. Instead, in a very exaggerated Southern accent, just walk up to someone at your next event and say, "What you doin' up in here?" It's a much more fun icebreaker.

His mixed-media collages are based in mythology and religions. Another fan of his, Andy Warhol, once commented that St. Lewis' work was “like Hieronymus Bosch meets MTV."

But it's Louis St. Lewis' bright spirit that's the true work of art, so if you get a chance drop by.

Here are some of his creations:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Holiday fashion at the Southern Christmas Show

"All Aboard for Christmas!" is the theme of the 47th annual Southern Christmas Show featuring 6 acres of holiday crafts, gifts, decorations, festive food, art, entertainment and more.

It’s open daily through Nov. 23 at the Park Expo and Conference Center, 2500 E. Independence Blvd. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. all other days. Admission at the door is $11; $3 for 6-12; free for 5 and younger with a paying adult. Advance tickets are $9.50 at participating Harris Teeter locations with a VIC card. Parking is $7.

The show really does have something for everyone on your list, but the organizers sent over photos of some of the fashion items that are creating buzz among shoppers:

Colorful kicks from Birdstone Gardens, exhibit space 2124.

Hair bling from Lashes and Cosmetics, exhibit space 2006.

Handmade items of recycled cashmere and wool sweaters and scarves from Angella Eisman, exhibit space 119.

Handbags that are functional art pieces from repurposed items at Rediscover Handbags, exhibit 904.

Happy shopping!

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Art. Music. Fashion.

The stylish and lovely Irina Toshkova of The New Gallery of Modern Art let me know about a collaborative event the gallery is part of.

"Art. Music. Fashion." is from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Bubble Charlotte champagne lounge, 210 E. Trade St. It's hosted by the gallery along with Bubble Charlotte, the women's boutique Lipp and the men's boutique Silverfly.

The works of artist Robert Mars are the inspiration for the fashion show featuring the newest looks from Lipp and Silverfly.  Mars is the subject of an exhibit on view now at New Gallery of Modern Art. Mars is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York who uses paint and vintage paper. His works chronicle America's fascination with popular culture and celebrities, particularly from the 1950s and 1960s.

The party is free. Guests can enjoy appetizers and a complimentary glass of champagne, plus the first 100 people receive a gift bag.

I also encourage you to check out The New Gallery of Modern Art, which specializes in modern and contemporary art. It's located at 435 S. Tryon St. across from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Details:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, November 10, 2014

Holiday House opens Nov. 14

A historic Myers Park home is the site of the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance & Endowment’s (MMAE) Holiday House. Visitors can tour the circa 1924 home at 2148 Selwyn Ave. Nov. 14-16.

The home, owned by Drs. Amy and Sidney Fletcher, will be decked out for the holidays by some of Charlotte’s top interior and landscape designers, florists and home decor retailers. Pianists from Presbyterian Hospital’s team of volunteer musicians will perform.

Proceeds from ticket sales and the event’s gift shop will benefit the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance & Endowment, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of Mecklenburg County’s residents.

A press release from the MMAE detailed highlights of the home’s history: Prior to the Fletchers, owners of the home have included several Charlotte families as well as Old Dominion Beverage Company (1943) and Queens College (1962). The home was a Queens dormitory before becoming the President’s home in 1967. The late Queens president Billy Wireman and his wife, Katie, lived in the home.

When I was a student at Queens, I remember attending several parties at the beautiful home when the Wiremans lived there, so I’m excited about getting a chance to go inside again.

Participating designers include B.home, Cammie Stutts, Cottage Chic, Dunlap Interiors, Flowers by Lingky, Flowers Plus, Frontgate, Kelilabee Flowers, Katie Emmons Design, Natalie Wilson, Party Blooms, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, The Royal Gardens and Scott Sistaire Landscaping and Design.

Among the gift shop vendors are Angelika’s Fine Swiss Bakery, Art Marble Wineglasses, The Buttercup, Cottage Chic, Discovered Traditions, the Gift Shop at Temple Beth El, Donna Murphy’s Animal Menagerie, Eva Crawford Art, Flowers Plus, For Goodness Cakes, The Gifted Box, Kaitlyn Rae Fraser Pottery, Kathy Mansfield’s Jewelry, Lisette Pottery, Multiple Blessings, Natalie Wilson Interiors, Pottery Barn Kids, The Purple Rooster and The Royal Gardens.

Tour hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 14-15; noon-5 p.m. Nov. 16. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Blacklion locations, online at or at the door during tour hours.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, November 7, 2014

Decor ideas for a rustic chic Thanksgiving

Rustic chic decor is so hot right now, but its casual elegance is not always easy to pull off. Some push it too far into the country/tacky category.

The decorating committee for Wing Haven's recent fundraising Farm to Table dinner got it just right. Volunteer Nancy Lowry spearheaded the decorations and raided her family’s farm for decor that included pumpkins carved into serving bowls.

It's my turn in the family rotation to host Thanksgiving this year, and I'm using these photos taken by Daniel Coston at the Wing Haven event as my inspiration. I hope the pictures inspire you, too.

But first, here's a photo of just part of the gardens that make up Wing Haven. It was taken that night right as guests began arriving. Talk about inspiration! If you're interested in visiting, here are the details:

Now on to the rustic chic decor:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Light Factory's 32nd annual Art Auction

The Light Factory, a nonprofit museum of contemporary photography and film, reopened recently at its new home in Plaza Midwood at 1817 Central Avenue.

On Nov. 15, it hosts its 32nd annual Art Auction featuring works from acclaimed artists including Annie Leibovitz, Jock Sturges, Simmons B. Jones and Constance Thalken, among others. It begins at 6:30 p.m. with a silent auction; the live auction starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $40 for members, $50 for nonmembers. Details: 704-333-9755;

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy advice from Betsey Johnson

Yesterday I had a really interesting phone interview with designer Betsey Johnson in advance of her visit to Charlotte. The popular designer will be greeting fans on the third floor of Belk at SouthPark mall from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 15.

She travels with her own DJ. Don't you love that? I have my fingers crossed that she'll do one of her famous cartwheel/split combo while she's here!

Her already large fan base has grown tremendously because of her recent stint on "Dancing With the Stars." She made it through 4 weeks of competition before being voted off. Viewers who weren't already familiar with her were wowed by the 72-year-old's youthful persona, flexibility and positive attitude. She had nothing but wonderful things to say about the experience, and she's excited to be returning for the All-Stars show on Nov. 25 during the finale.

Here's a photo of Betsey with her pro partner for the show, Tony Dovolani, who she says is now a dear friend.

She was an incredibly wise and kind person to talk with, and I can't wait to share the full interview in next week's Style section in print and online.

One thing she said stood out to me. It's her thoughts on being happy. She broke onto the fashion scene in New York City in the 1960s, was married to Velvet Underground member John Cale briefly and has survived and thrived since then in the brutal fashion business. Even though she's had tremendous ups and downs, her positive outlook has never wavered, nor has her belief that your happiness is up to you. Don't look to anyone else to give it to you.

"I was born a positive person," she said. "Almost every day, I wake up and go, 'I'm happy!' On a day when I wake up and I'm not feeling that great about things, I say to myself that I'm going to make it a happy day. I'm going to change it around. You have to make it happen."

Then she gave this really funny example that's filled with the whimsy she's known for: "If you love wearing a bikini all the time and that's what makes you happy, you need to figure out where you can live where you can be in a bikini all the time," she said.

Follow Betsey on Twitter @xoBetseyJohnson

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson