Southern Comfort

Southern Charm, just released, is super socialite Tinsley Mortimer’s salacious debut novel about “Minty Davenport’, a Southern girl who transitions from Charleston debutante to Page Six “It” Girl. If that story sounds all too familiar, then pull up a chair, because most of the novel is a thinly veiled ‘fictional’ story is based on both Mortimer’s real life and composites of people and characters she has met along the way. Our girl-on-the-go Jennifer Roosth caught up with this charismatic blonde to ask a few questions and get the low down on the high life…

Photography Courtesy of JSquared Photography

This Southern girl is not afraid to stand out, though and Tinsley-as-author concept was originally born out of the idea for a style guide to Mortimer’s girly-girlish pink and poufy skirt, lip-glossing, curly blonde ways (which once made her feel like a fish out of water among the minimalist NYC crowd who wore mostly black). “I feel like what you wear affects how you feel, so I dress in what makes me feel most comfortable, most like myself,” she said in our exclusive interview with the author.

However, as tabloid and society column history has it, Manhattan press and photographers decide that this pink fish with the unusual first name would be a star. In fact, in the book, Mortimer traces “Minty’s” moniker to a childhood nickname explaining that she loved starlight mints. It turns out there a similar story behind Mortimer’s first name.

Tinsley is my great grandmother’s last name,” confides Mortimer. “In my family and in South, there is a habit of using family names, both because of family pride and wanting to preserve heritage and tradition, and also because girls often lose their last names in marriage and this gives the name a way to stick around.  In school, I was the only Tinsley in my class, and I loved being different. For the book, it was actually a friend from Dior who gave me the idea for “Minty.” It was her grandmother’s governess’s daughter. I felt it was unique, Southern, fresh and fun.”

We meet “Tripp DuPont”, the dashing and well-bred New York insider who falls head over heels for Minty (Topper Mortimer is Tinsley’s real life soon to be ex-husband. He is from New York’s Upper East Side and attended Lawrenceville boarding school with Tinsley); “Richard Fitzsimmons”, a well-known society photographer with an eye for the next “it girl” (what would NYC society be without Patrick McMullan!); and “Farrah Hammer,” the Page Six reporter who immediately begins writing about Minty, the “sassy southern deb” (columnist Paula Froelich wrote about Tinsley and her crowd during Froelich’s tenure at the New York Post).

“With a novel, I had the freedom to create characters who could do – and say – whatever they wanted. And, New York is a city I know so well, which makes it a great backdrop for a project like this,” enthuses Mortimer.

Soon after moving to NYC from Richmond Virginia, Tinsley was quickly involved in the frantic and glamorous world of high society. “When writing this book, I realized that so much of who I was, was connected to my having grown up in the south,” she says.  “Being from the South, I was used to being open and warm with people. Also, getting involved in charities that I was passionate about seemed natural to me since my mom and grandmother had always done that sort of thing. I worked at Vogue and Harrison & Shriftman, and I think that public relations is a great way for young, Southern girls to find an entrance to the city, because many of the same personality traits that are common in the South (being friendly, social skills one might practice in a sorority) are helpful in P.R.”

We wanted to know what her style inspirations are these days. Mortimer confidently reveals there are many. “Everything inspires me,’ she says.  “It can be a shoe or a color or even the city itself. I only wear my own handbags, so I basically design for what I would want in my own wardrobe. I like girly styles and colors and bows, but I also like a little edge. So some of my bags are very structural, some have 80s studs, and then some are comfortable with fringe.” She goes on to say, “Confidence will be your best accessory. You will feel friendlier and more like yourself, which in turn, will make your night better.”

Constantly attending events like she does, we couldn’t resist knowing her favorite cocktail and late night snack. “White wine,” she admits. I started drinking white wine because at weddings and debutante balls, they only served white (red stains clothes, furniture and teeth), and then it just became habit. I love Hypnotiq liquor with champagne to give it some color. And late, I go for sweets, cupcakes or Krispy Kreme donuts.”

Real or fiction, Southern Charm gives readers exactly what they want– an insider’s tour of the exclusive New York high society social scene, ripe with all the fashion, drama, and comic missteps that come with it; Tinsley (and Minty’s) life is a fashionable modern fairy tale, a combination of Cinderella and Gossip Girl, with a sweet, Southern twist.