Essence Festival is labeled as being “The Party With a Purpose.” This year, I returned as an official media outlet and able to truly identify with the term.
Many people ask, “What happens during the Essence Fest?” and some can’t understand the allure of this particular event. The festival is a combination of seminars, parties, and cuisine.
It’s categorized into Beauty, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, Food, Style, Community, Culture, Wellness, and Spirituality. This is no ordinary celebration! The entire city of New Orleans becomes a cultural mecca and the spirit of festivity feels the air.
Hollywood celebrities attended for keynote conversations; discussing their latest projects. Internet sensations and digital influences shared their platform through Fashion Empowerment and Tricks for a Flawless Glow.
The nighttime activities were performed at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Festival Goers danced to various acts by artist such as Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Ledisi, Mary J. Blige, and Janet Jackson to name a few.
On Sunday, June 8, 2018, Bishop Lester Love and The City of Love hosted Hour of Power with spiritual workshops and gospel tributes. This was the perfect opportunity to attend brunch or join a fitness session at the convention center. Lastly, celebrity stylist Vernon Francois and Misa Hylton Presented 25 Years of Fashion Slayage!
Aside from festival activities, there were delicious and authentic New Orleans dishes such as Beignets, Gumbo, and Muffulettas. Essence Festival is a must-attend event for anyone that loves art, cuisine, and enlightenment.
WHAT: The 15th annual McDonald’s® 365Black® Awards is set to bring everyday heroes and celebrities from across the country to the Ritz Carlton, New Orleans. The dynamic event will take place during ESSENCE Festival® weekend and recognize exceptional leaders who make positive contributions to the African-American community. McDonald’s presence at the Essence Festival affirms the brand’s dedication to celebrating everyday people who are striving to make a positive difference in their communities and move Black culture forward.
Symone Sanders is a champion for women, communities of color and those in need. Sanders is a go-to political commentator, a Spring 2018 Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and the Strategist for Communications and Political Outreach at Priorities USA. Symone rose to prominence during her tenure as the National Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. At 25, Symone demonstrated an uncanny command of the issues earning her a place in history as the youngest presidential press secretary on record and a spot-on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of 16 young Americans shaping the 2016 election.
Sheryl Lee Ralph is an acclaimed veteran of film, television and the Broadway stage. Her award-winning work includes creating the role of Deena Jones in the legendary Broadway musical, “Dreamgirls” and earning Best Actress nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards. No stranger to television, Sheryl Lee Ralph’s past TV credits include “It’s a Living,” “Designing Women,” “The District,” and “Moesha.” For the last three years, Sheryl was a lead on the hit Nickelodeon series “Instant Mom”. Ralph is also the creator of the Jamerican Film and Music Festival. Ralph has been one of Hollywood’s biggest voices in the fight on HIV/AIDS for over two decades with her Divas Simply Singing foundation.
HBCU Forward Scholarship award recipient:
Kimberly Bryant is the founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. Bryant enjoyed a successful career in pharmaceutical and biotech industries for more than 20 years. She has helped Black Girls CODE grow from a local initiative to an international organization serving more than 7,000 students. She was named a White House Champion of Change and received a Social Progress award from the Smithsonian Institute for her national work in increasing opportunities for women and girls in technology.
Monique Vann-Brown is the owner of seven McDonald’s franchises in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area and managing partner of her parent’s two Detroit restaurants. Her career began at the age of 14 as a crew member at one of her parent’s McDonald’s locations. She transitioned into the automotive industry at 17 as an engineering intern. After several years in supply chain management, she pursued her dreams of entrepreneurship in the McDonald’s Corporation Registered Applicant & Next Generation Programs. She soon became Co-Chair of the National Black McDonald’s Operator’s Association. This committee produced events designed to serve as a forum for future leaders within the McDonald’s Owner-Operator community.
Tishauna Wilson is a rising junior majoring in computer science at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. She learned how to code in high school where she graduated at the top of her class. Earlier this year, Wilson revived the computer science research program at her university, where she is working on four Artificial Intelligence projects. The research projects consist of detecting fraud through conversations, identifying credit card fraud, as well as developing a voice-activated, self- driving drone and a basketball referee system. Wilson has hopes of pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science, founding an autonomous automotive manufacturing company, developing into a distinguished engineer and researcher and becoming a future CEO of a Fortune 500 technology company.
This year’s McDonald’s 365Black Awards will be hosted by acclaimed actress Essence Atkins. The luncheon will feature an all-star line-up of musical performances by R&B swooner Dave Hollister and gospel heavy-hitter Le’Andria Johnson.
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The ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood luncheon sponsored by Ford was a star-studded and empowerment filled event full of love and tears of joy as ESSENCE honored some boss women at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Sisterhood was on full display as some of the industry’s top leading ladies came together to celebrate the honorees including “Black Panther” star Danai Gurira, actress Tessa Thompson of “Dear White People”, “Girl’s Trip” actress, author, and comedian Tiffany Haddish, and actress, producer, and screenwriter Lena Waithe, who received the Ford Vanguard of Feminism Award.
The Ford Mustang Empowerment Corner was nothing short of motivating as fashion muva (mother) June Ambrose interviewed the stars in front of the all-new 2018 Mustang, which is the most personalized ever and offers more customization than ever before as fans can create and share Mustang art through the “Personalize Your Pony” experience on Facebook. The experience allows fans to create personalized pony art right on their Facebook pages, then use their custom designs to order prints, clothing, mugs, phone cases and even a limited-edition grille badge for their late-model Mustangs.
During Tiffany Haddish’s acceptance speech, the new author told a story about being homeless and living in her car before she hit it big and joked “I heard if you mention a car company they’ll give you a car. So, Ford, maybe I can get me a nice Ford car!” which sent the room up in laughs.
The event was nothing short of brilliant and the perfect way to celebrate the sisterhood of boss women.