Time Inc.’s (NYSE:TIME) 2017 ESSENCE Festival® presented by Coca-Cola® attracted more than 470,000 attendees to New Orleans this Fourth of July weekend for its annual cultural celebration featuring more than 200 performing artists and speakers—which included first-time appearances by Halle Berry, Diana Ross, Chance The Rapper and many more. Recognized as one of the country’s largest live events, the 2017 ESSENCE Festival extended its reach worldwide by generating a record-breaking 4 billion social media impressions.
The annual 4-day Festival, which took place June 29-July 2, features entertainment, empowerment, and cultural experiences during the day and a state-of-the-art concert series with the world’s best performers each night.
Highlights of the 2017 ESSENCE Festival include:
· Over 100 performing artists across the Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Many of the biggest names in the entertainment industry such as Diana Ross, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Chance The Rapper, Master P. and Solange performed at the event’s nighttime concerts and dozens of others across ESSENCE’s Center Stage and All-Star Gospel Tribute honoring Cissy Houston.
· More than 100 speakers, authors, leaders and celebrities participated in the Festival’s free daytime experience –including a first-ever appearance by Halle Berry. Other powerhouse speakers included Ava DuVernay, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and the return of favorites Rev. Al Sharpton, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Iyanla Vanzant, among others, drew packed crowds.
· #EssenceFest social media posts driving more than 4 billion impressions with daily trending status on Twitter.
· The launch of ESSENCE’s newly expanded ‘Path to Power’ business and entrepreneurship conference, as well as the return of consumer Expos focused on ‘Beauty & Style’ and ‘Entertainment All Access’ which drew crowds of thousands each day to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
· Artist collaborations resulted in new Festival initiatives, including a first-time ‘Ladies Night’ featuring all female performers across five stages on Saturday night, and a first-ever celebrity basketball game to raise money for local youth scholarships in partnership with Master P. and his foundation, Team Hope NOLA.
Although I’ve been attending the ESSENCE Fest for many years, this year was definitely one of the most memorable and action-packed Essence Festival weekends for me! From the opening of the festivities at the the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to closing night, it was a non-stop weekend of empowerment, hanging out with friends, meeting and greeting new readers at the ESSENCE Bookstore (where my novel, SHAYLA’S CATCH was being showcased and on sale), attending press conferences, partying at nighttime concerts and more!
After checking in at the ESSENCE Press Desk to retrieve press passes for Sonya’s Spotlight Web Mag (my online publication of 10 years), I was off and running – #EssenceFest Ready! Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry opened the Empowerment Experience Stage at 11:30am Friday, which kicked off the Festival’s weekend slate of daytime programming at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. This year was the first time Halle, who recently wrapped production of her latest film Kidnap, appeared at the ESSENCE Festival, and she was glowing. The crowd welcomed her onstage as she talked about her experiences as an Oscar-winning actress and shared tips with attendees about breaking into the movie business and diversity. Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kenya Moore appeared on stage afterwards, sharing details about her recent nuptials. “I’s Married Now,” Kenya gushed.
Other keynote speakers during ESSENCE Fest included Iyanla Vanzant, Ava DuVernay, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Dr. Cissy Houston & more! While getting EMPOWERED was certainly my goal at the Daytime Empowerment Experience Stage, my novel, SHAYLA’S CATCH, was simultaneously making its third-year appearance in the ESSENCE BOOKSTORE, so I sauntered into the bookstore to meet & greet attendees visiting the bookstore many times throughout the weekend, which was also located in the Convention Center. Once inside the ESSENCE Bookstore, seeing my novel on “fleek” (visible and beautiful), gave me an author’s high! Meeting new readers and potential readers from all over the world motivated me to Write On! Thanks, Garden District Book Shop, for making me and my novel feel so welcomed in the ESSENCE BOOKSTORE!
There was no time to relax before heading to the opening night concert at the Mercedes Superdome Friday night, where I decided to party Mainstage, where Afrika Mamas, Rhonda Ross, India.Arie, John Legend and first-timer to the ESSENCE Fest, Diana Ross, closed out the night. Diana Ross’ SUPREMES-reminiscent performance brought back lots of memories as the crowd sang along with her – including me, especially when she performed “Stop In the Name of Love.”
I was off and running, the next morning – back to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where checking on SHAYLA’S CATCH and meeting more book lovers at the ESSENCE BOOKSTORE was a priority. After mixing and mingling at the bookstore, I met up with the beautiful “Love & Hip Hop: New York” alum, Amina Buddafly and her adorable daughters. We roamed the convention center and ended up in the ESSENCE Press Room, where Amina was interviewed by reporters and made her rounds to radio station booths, as I sat in on press conferences (and took photos) of the cast of “QUEEN SUGAR” and “GIRLS TRIP.” It was great catching up with Director Ava DuVernay, Actor Omar Dorsey and Actress Queen Latifah, who I had the pleasure of working with on the sets of the Academy-Award nominated film SELMA (Ava and Omar) and FOX’S Music-Drama, STAR (Queen Latifah). And the icing on the cake for me Saturday during the day was being around Amina’s toddlers, Cori and Bronx, who kept me smiling!
After resting up just a little bit (not many get to rest ESSENCE Fest weekend), I dressed in green and headed over to meet some friends at the Superdome, where for the first time ever, the 2017 ESSENCE Festival celebrated women with ‘My Path to Strength,’ a night of concerts featuring all-female performers. I had passed the press batons to Alexander Oscar Williams (from Maryland) and Eddie Ash (from Georgia) to take as many great photos as possible, and they did just that! I got a chance to let my hair down and enjoy the performances – and dance as Mary J. Blige performed “Fine.” Other acts for the night included Jill Scott, Jazmine Sullivan, Monica, Ari Lenox (Mainstage), and Superlounge performances by Jhené Aiko, Remy Ma, Ari Lennox and more. During a quick break from the performances I ran into Oscar-Winning artist Common, who I had also worked with during the filming of SELMA. And there was nothing better than finishing the night off with some New Orleans Cuisine right on Canal Street.
The final day for me at the ESSENCE Fest was just as energizing as the first day – as “Step and Repeat” of my same routine – but I experienced new empowerment and new people. Chance the Rapper closed the weekend concert series at the Superdome and other performers closing out the weekend included Solange, Xscape, Master P, No Limit Records’ Mystikal, Mia X and Silkk, just to name a few.
Well, there’s no need for me to go on and on about the excitement of ESSENCE FEST 2017. Check out a few of my select photos from ESSENCE Fest Weekend 2017!
Video Footage is Forthcoming.
The 2017 ESSENCE Festival is executive produced by ESSENCE Festivals LLC, a division of ESSENCE Communications Inc. (ECI), and produced by Solomon Group. GeChar is the executive producer of the 2017 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience
Sponsors of the 2017 ESSENCE Festival include presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and major sponsors AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, State Farm and Walmart. Superlounge sponsors include Coca-Cola, Ford and Walmart. The All Star Gospel Tribute is sponsored by Walmart.
ABOUT ESSENCE COMMUNICATIONS INC.
Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) is the number one media company dedicated to African-American women, with a brand reach of 21.2 million. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events and online, ECI is comprised of Essence magazine, the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; the ESSENCE Festival®; Black Women in Hollywood and Black Women in Music events; Window on Our Women and Smart Beauty consumer insights series; Essence.com; and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD).
ABOUT TIME INC.
Time Inc. (NYSE:TIME) is a leading multi-platform consumer media company that engages over 170 million consumers globally every month. The company’s influential brands include PEOPLE, TIME, FORTUNE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, INSTYLE, REAL SIMPLE, SOUTHERN LIVING and TRAVEL + LEISURE, as well as more than 60 diverse international brands. Time Inc. offers marketers a differentiated proposition in the marketplace by combining its powerful brands, trusted content, audience scale, direct relationships with consumers and unique first-party data. The company is home to growing media and platforms, including digital video, OTT, television, licensing, paid products and services and celebrated live events, such as the TIME 100, FORTUNE Most Powerful Women, PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Sportsperson of the Year, the ESSENCE Festival and the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen.