Journalist Loretta Grantham is forging a new path – on her terms – and charging full speed ahead.
Directed & Edited by: Tamara Boxx for LUXYMOM® | Photography: Tim Gibbons | Styling and Wardrobe: Tamara Boxx and Libby Romano for LUXYMOM® and Natalie Rogers for Audrey’s of Naples | Featurette: Loretta Grantham | Hair and Makeup: Sara Frank for The Salon at JW Marriott Marco Island | Location: Wing South Airpark
With prestigious names like New York Post, Newsweek, Boston Magazine, The Palm Beach Post, and Palm Beach Illustrated frosting her resume, it would be easy to assume Loretta Grantham might be inapproachable or haughty, a victim of assimilating to fit an image of the successful hierarchy. Buy this dress, drive this car, act this way to get the prize – the standard-issue thoughts of most professionals clawing their way to the apex.
But this not Grantham. In fact, she is the exact opposite.
“She’s quirky”, says Jan Tuckwood, author, and longtime senior editor of The Palm Beach Post. “The most endearing idiosyncrasy she has is her obsession with peanut M&Ms,” she laughed. “She always has them with her.”
Indeed, I have never really met anyone like Grantham – a woman who can have me belly laughing, but at the same time mentally ordering a mini glossary to keep up with her extensive vocabulary.
Ironically, I don’t feel incompetent – she is just that magnificent with words. A fabulous mix of intro- and extrovert, she can charm the testiest subjects through her elegance and sniper-precision humor.
It is a whirlwind chatting with Grantham. I had previously only brushed elbows with her at events, so I had no idea what personality to expect. It was glorious! She is uncensored, a wealth of knowledge, and so wonderfully carefree.
During our interview, she would start off on one subject and we landed somewhere completely unrelated, fully enjoying the ride to get there. It was like she was beating a deadline to get me information. I found my creative soul-mate – not only in our creative styles, but how and why she operates like she does.
Born in Fort Benning, Georgia, into a military family, it is safe to say she was introduced to the idea of hard standards from the beginning. Her father, known as “The Colonel,” was the epitome of a military parent – expecting the same punctilious behavior from his family as he did from his troops. If you are a military brat, you know exactly what that means – folded bed corners, immaculate household, crease-free clothing, skirts to the fingertips, and acute attention to detail. Your life runs by the clock, and precision is everything.
This type of structure can extinguish a creative flame like gale-force winds to a flickering candle. It isn’t easy to conform to such rigid and tedious boundaries when you are born to see life differently and question EVERYTHING.
And although she became proficient in some military mindsets such as integrity, she was adamant that she could be herself and still make life’s deadlines.
When she told me that she started driving a school bus for her high school at sixteen, I was truly taken aback. Listen, I can’t even back my husband’s trailer into our driveway, let along even dream of driving a bus.
She was tactfully disrupting the social order of things, putting a new narrative on what is the safe and normal in small town America, or for her, Greenville, North Carolina. “It was a little outrageous for a girl to drive a big bus, but I loved it” said Grantham. “We had to keep it at home to maintain and store the bus and it drove my mother nuts” she smiled coyly.
Grantham went onto the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where one of her professors would lift her talents, and submitted her articles and essays to The Washington Post for a Summer internship position. As destiny would have it, she would be working alongside legendary editor, Ben Bradlee.
She was in the perfect setting to learn and absorb every bit of wisdom she could gain access to. You see, when Bradlee took over The Washington Post in 1965, his vision was to create a newspaper that combined compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces. A hybrid of magazine and newspaper, if you will. This was perfect for Loretta – a wonderful place to nurture her love affair with the written word.
Less than one month after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism in 1987, she was recruited by The Palm Beach Post to be a copy editor and worked nights editing news stories and designing the front page.
It would seem that life had deadlines in place for her progression, and she met each challenge full speed ahead.
In 1990, Grantham wrote a piece on a New Kids on the Block concert at the former Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami with the lead, “They came, they saw, they screamed, they screamed, they screamed. Imagine about 53,000 teenage girls all finding a spider in their hair at the same time. That’s how they screamed. It wasn’t a bug. It was a band.”
This caught the attention of one Jan Tuckwood, the features boss at The Palm Beach Post at the time.
Now, imagine being Grantham at this point – head down in her little cubby where she could recluse in solitude and drown out all the noise that trigger her idiosyncrasies – and of course, she had her peanut M&Ms as well.
All of a sudden you hear, “Where is Loretta Grantham?” She smiled and laughed, “Jan hunted me down in the newsroom. She loved the story and made me fashion editor that November.”
“Loretta is extraordinary for several reasons,” says Tuckwood. “She loves words and is precise about her words. Her sentences are taut. There’s no flab in her sentences. This is hard to do, and rare.”
Building on that exact sentiment, Tuckwood had the idea to start a column in 1995 called, “Lunch with Loretta”. “She was flying and needed a safe place to land. I wanted to provide a place where she could have the freedom and confidence to explore her creativity and writing. I was going to be the supervisor without an ego so she could use her personality and purpose to shine.”
Grantham began interviewing folks like George Clooney (1998), Halle Berry (1997), and many more megawatt names, but what made it a hit was her approach. “I’d do unexpected activities with them or talk about topics in ways that other writers didn’t – i.e., getting Helen Rosburg, a Wrigley heiress, to chew gum blindfolded and identify it,” she laughed.
Grantham’s life was turning into a race – a fast drive down the autobahn but with twists and sharp turns along the way. She would leave the Palm Beach Post twice in pursuit of unexplored opportunities such as freelancing for the illustrious New York Post, Boston Magazine, and Palm Beach Illustrated.
She also became a contract writer and communications consultant for clients that included the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, among others. Ultimately, she would leave her familiar stomping ground of Broward and Palm Beach Counties and come to find herself in Naples, Florida, where she would become Naples Illustrated Editor in Chief in 2018.
For the next nearly two years, she would live by sweet tea and deadlines at blinding speed. She created masterful and engaging spreads, which built her a legion of fans. I will admit I drooled over some of her creative pieces, even when I was working for a competing publication. Guilty as charged.
In May of 2020, she parted ways with Naples Illustrated and began focusing her energies on another true love – cars and the open road. On any given day she is at a new location exploring cars, befriending strangers, driving along side-roads looking for the next great location, or charming the pants off of the auto industry.
She is now traveling full speed in her own direction, which is deliciously undecided. Today, she is simply enjoying existing without a deadline.