Olivia Fortson: My favorite things . . .


December 2, 2019

Olivia Fortson has been a part of Charlotte’s media scene for decades, perhaps most notably as social editor at The Charlotte Observer, where she covered fundraisers, style and fashion for 23 years. “When I was growing up in Spartanburg, S.C., I always knew I would live in Charlotte — it’s my New York City,” Fortson says. “And I always knew I wanted to write about the best Charlotte has to offer as a way to inspire myself and others.”

Fortson’s latest passion is The O Report, her website and annual magazine that covers fashion, beauty, health and more for men and women 50 and up.

“Now that I’m in my 50s, I want for myself what I want for everyone else — to look and feel my best no matter what my age is going forward.” Along with running her business, Fortson is president of Charity League, a 98-year-old women’s philanthropic organization that serves local children.

“But all that do-gooding aside, I would be lying if I didn’t mention how much I love Charlotte’s shopping and dining options, too,” she says. “The small-town South Carolina girl in me has never gotten over the excitement of living in a big city.”

Most visited place: 

History and art are two of my interests. I get both of them at once whenever I visit Mint Museum Randolph in the Eastover neighborhood, where I live. If my creative batteries need recharging, all I have to do is walk through its glorious collections and exhibits. Some visitors don’t realize the back of the museum is the facade of Charlotte’s original U.S. Mint built in 1837 during the Carolina Gold Rush. It’s such a special place for me to connect with Charlotte’s past and present that it inspired the plot of a novel I’m writing. 

Dining out: 

Fenwick’s is my club. It’s the size of a trailer, but that’s part of its charm. Owners Don and Catherine Rabb have created a beloved restaurant that serves great American food with a Nawlins flair (Don is from New Orleans). The fried shrimp is my weakness. … When I feel like splurging, I can’t resist the crabcakes at The Palm. My caricature is on the wall, and it’s funny when a diner will do a double take and say, “Hey, that’s you up there!” … I crave the tacos with soy crumbles from The Tipsy Burro. I appreciate that this cantina is packed with cool memorabilia, including signs from the Double Door Inn and Jack Straw’s that remind me of the Charlotte I used to know. 

Beauty must-haves: 

It’s been a gift to be born a redhead, but it does have its challenges. My thick ginger locks require extra care and no one knows that better than my longtime hair stylist Nikki Wilson of Salon J Marco. She’s been my best friend since we were roommates at Queens University of Charlotte, so she’s seen my hair in all its phases. … My monthly tinting sessions with brow and lash expert Shana Mills, co-owner of Apothic Spa, are a necessity. … I trust my fair skin to the lotions, potions and nonsurgical (so far!) treatments from Charlotte Plastic Surgery. It’s important to me that its doctors and nurse injectors are nationally acclaimed and that the practice has been in business for more than 65 years. … I try not to wear a lot of makeup, yet I love going to Ulta at Cotswold Shopping Center in search of new products

Cocktail crazy: 

Do not come between me and The Punch Room’s Fiesta Punch. The fresh orange and lime mixed with tequila, beet ginger kombucha and jalapeño is an incredible combination, but I prefer it without the cilantro garnish. 

Rise and shine: 

I can’t start my day without two large glasses of water with a lot of lemon, a vigorous game of ball with my dog, and reading The Charlotte Observer newspaper. I’m old-fashioned and prefer the print version, but my husband John, a Charlotte native, reads it online. I try not to be a bossy boots, but don’t kid yourself that you can be an informed citizen if you don’t read your hometown’s daily newspaper. 

Shop ’til you drop: 

SouthPark mall is my happy place. When I was growing up, driving to Charlotte to shop there was such a big deal. No matter how many times I enter its doors I’ve never lost that initial feeling of awe. Some of my favorite stores are Dillard’s for its great brands including Karl Lagerfeld Paris; St. John Boutique and its classic investment pieces with a modern twist; L’Occitane for its natural French perfumes and lotions; Neiman Marcus for luxury bags and shoes; Athleta because the athleisure movement is here to stay; and Paul Simon Women, where style-savvy Angela Knowles has helped me pick out some of the most-loved pieces in my wardrobe. 

Off the grid: 

Business owners never really get a day off, but sometimes I have to step away to stay sane. My husband and I will take a day trip to visit our farm in Chester, S.C. There are no buildings, just peaceful rolling land. It’s special to me because he went through a lot of red tape to have a lake built on the property, and he named it Lake Olivia. (Yeah, he’s awesome.) If we have a few days to spare, we head to his family’s vacation home on a mountain range high above Lake Lure. There’s no Wi-Fi, so it’s one of the few places I can truly disconnect. 

Most overlooked: 

Il Grande Disco bronze sculpture near the corner of Trade and Tryon Streets is more than a great work of art. It marks where Charlotte’s original builders used the Masonic principle of the perfect square to create our city’s original four squares (or wards) as an ode to God’s divine creation of the universe. So many people walk right by this spot without realizing how important it is to Charlotte’s physical and spiritual history. 

Words to live by: 

One of my favorite former colleagues, Richard Maschal, used to tell me, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” It’s a reminder to always do your research and don’t just immediately accept that the information being given to you is the truth. SP

compiled by Whitley Adkins Hamlin

Know of a Charlotte tastemaker or person of interest we should feature here? Email whitley@thequeencitystyle.com.

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