STAFF REPORT – Since the time she was taught how to write expository material and fiction, Olivia Cameron has been scraping characters together and creating stories for her family and friends to enjoy. While her mother was applying her makeup, Olivia would sit on the bathroom floor, chewing on a wad of watermelon-flavored gum and reading her stories out loud.
From creating stories of rescue dogs and mysteries to writing news reports for the Boca Beacon, Olivia has never let the ink dry. Among all things, she has a passion for the fine arts.
As a 3-year-old, Olivia picked up a pair of ballet slippers and attended her first studio dance lesson. Thereafter she practiced ballet throughout her high school years. She stitched unbreakable bonds along the way. “Each of my friends was unique in the style of dance she clung to,” she said. Olivia danced pointe, jazz, lyrical, tap, and in her last two years at a studio, she learned hip-hop.
Olivia earned her associate of arts degree as well as her high school diploma while attending Florida Southwestern Collegiate High School. During those four years, she studied English and crime scene investigation. “One day I’d be analyzing poetry, and the next I was analyzing fingerprints and blood splatters,” she said. After class, she’d be practicing singing for her school’s drama program musicals.
With her busy schedule, she found it rewarding to attend a high school with a graduating class of roughly 40 students.
She recalled being accepted into her dream school, Florida State University, on a night after a holiday performance. “I had no access to the internet backstage. The whole time I was onstage, I was wondering if I’d been accepted.”
About 400 miles away from home at FSU, Olivia was still new to the campus when she stumbled upon a hip-hop dance team practicing just outside her lecture hall. “It felt like a lucid dream,” she said. The team captain handed her a flyer and held a late audition for her to join the next day. “I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into, but it’s a good thing I did it.”
The team would spend nights practicing for hours in 30-degree weather to prepare for their annual competition in Gainesville, where teams across the region would meet for a four-hour competition. “The energy in that auditorium was electric each year. The entire process never got old,” she said.
At the university, Olivia was fond of her internship writing about people and organizations of interest on behalf of the English department. She also studied Italian for the entirety of her college career.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in editing, writing and media two years later, Olivia left the dance crew and returned to her hometown. She recalled that she was ecstatic to see them place first at the following year’s competition.
Shortly after returning, Olivia took temporary jobs serving tacos and sushi at local restaurants while stirring up a few stories for The Sun. While she was waiting on a lobster roll in the back kitchen at Noy’s Bistro and Lounge one day, the chef and co-owner recommended that she apply for an opening at the Boca Beacon. She joined the newspaper in February, and the rest is history.
As the Beacon’s reporter, Olivia has found the job to be rewarding. “What a unique position to be in at the age of 21. My coworkers have been patient and supportive, especially since I started just weeks before the pandemic.”
In January the town of Boca Grande was bustling with visitors and locals, and there was an event to attend at each part of the day. But by the time the temperature grew hotter, the place was a ghost town.
“Through it all, our newspaper has continued to cover a variety of topics and people doing wonderful things with their time,” Olivia said. She continues to provide the kind of news that local residents need to hear, whether it’s coverage of events or stories meant to bring joy to an uncertain time.
Olivia remembered the days she and her family would pack the car and head to the beach, and every sunburn and shark tooth she earned from being on the island. “Boca Grande has always had some of the finest beach days. Here, it’s perfect for an afternoon picnic or a romantic sunset walk,” she said. “The town is just waiting for you to make memories.”
Olivia’s younger brother celebrated his birthday and a new image of the world on the island. She and her mother ordered him a pair of tinted sunglasses and took him to the beach. “I remember him looking at the water, then the sky, and then my hair, saying ‘I didn’t know it was red like that.’ ”
While spending the majority of her time on Gasparilla Island, Olivia knows why people come back each year in the fall, when the town comes to life. Above all, the people Olivia has met through her position have made it worthwhile. She enjoys the mix of personalities. “There are so many stories waiting to be told here. Everyone’s got one,” she said.
After a workday on the island, Olivia looks forward to being greeted at the door by her “babies,” two Maine Coon cats. Chloe, almost 80 in cat years, is gentle and has the energy of a kitten. Felix is a gentle giant, the younger of the two, weighing in at a substantial 25 pounds. “Yes, he’s picked on for his weight,” she said. “He had these large ears and paws as a kitten. I guess he’s grown into them.”
Olivia finds her free time difficult to plan for. “It’s not too easy to paddleboard during hurricane season, but I head to the water whenever I can.”
When Olivia isn’t at the beach, she’s most likely watching a cheesy Hallmark movie in fuzzy socks or checking off her to-do list. She’d rather jam out to “Little Deuce Coupe” than clean around the house, but a mop can make for a good dance partner.
Olivia’s mother and art teacher inspires her to reconnect with the arts. “She always has new ideas for paintings and projects she wants me to be a part of,” said Olivia. “I’ll always look up to her.”
As the holiday season approaches, Olivia looks forward to connecting with the visitors. She is hopeful that the town will be illuminated with lights and good tidings. “I will eagerly await the annual 5-degree temperature drop we get when fall hunches over and turns into ‘winter’.”