In the famous words of Nelly – “It’s gettin’ hot in herre” – New Orleans was lit over July 4th weekend. Why? Essence Fest, of course. In its 25th year, Essence brought thousands of African-Americans to this Louisiana hot spot. Originally billed as a music festival, the annual event has grown to include insightful talks on health, beauty, business and politics with the addition of the Beauty Carnival, Wellness House, Fashion House and Global Economic Forum.
With so much going on during the weekend, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in choosing where to go and who to see. So, I’ve selected a few not-to-miss events and places to attend if you’re planning for 2020.
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is the hub of Essence Fest, where the main activations and celebrity appearances take place. Plan to get to the convention center early and download the Essence Festival app to get up-to-date notifications of performances, celebrity appearances and talks.
This year, six Democratic Presidential hopefuls took to the Power Conference mainstage to speak on topics that matter most to the African-American community. There were also special key-note talks by Congresswoman (Auntie) Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
The Beauty Carnival though located within the convention center – was an event all on its own – with complementary and paid experiences. Those with paid VIP tickets received a goodie bag filled with full-size beauty products and access to a museum-like montage that took you through the evolution of hair-care, a lounge area with food and drinks, pre-scheduled makeup/skincare consultations and of course, celebrity appearances.
This was also the location of the fan favorite, the My Black is Beautiful booth, where thousands of us enjoyed unique brand experiences from Olay, Old Spice, Gold Series, and Royal Oils. And also, received a coveted MBIB shirt! It was also where beauty mogul, Supacent, announced her new foundation line – to a sold-out audience! And where Supermodel Iman celebrated the 25th anniversary of her cosmetic line during the three-day event.
Brand Pop-Ups took place all around the city, offering product sampling, celebrity appearances and more. MBIB hosted a multi-day, pop-up experience with a DJ, happy hour and prizes to celebrate the launch of its new product line, My Black is Beautiful, The Golden Milk Collection.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was the place to be EVERY night during the festival weekend. The incomparable Patti LaBelle was honored with a tribute and award for her contributions to the music world. Other incredible performances included:
• A tribute to Prince by Morris Day and Sheila E
• MA$E taking us back to Harlem World
• RBRM giving us prime New Edition, Bobby Brown and BBD hits
• Missy Elliott’s fiery performance
• NAS and Mary J. Blige bringing that gritty 90s NY Hip-hop and R&B
• Big Freedia & Manny Fresh’s New Orleans bounce sound
• Jermaine Dupri and Lil Jon battling to be the King of ATL
• Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing and finding out Pharrell wrote the lyrics to his verse on Rump Shaker
• And the band that we all came to see – who for the first 15 years of Essence Fest, closed out the weekend, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly!
If you’ve never been to Essence Fest, I highly suggest going at least once in your lifetime. Here are a few more tips:
Planning the weekend takes months of preparation. Hotels and airlines typically increase rates and fares during this weekend because they know it’s a hot July 4th destination. So, be prepared to book before the end of the year.
Pack Your Patience
You’ll need to exercise increased patience at restaurants. Wait times will be longer than normal, topping out at four hours depending on the restaurant. I used Yelp Waitlist, which placed me on the restaurant’s waiting list prior to my arrival at the restaurant. I still had to check in with the hostess, but at least I didn’t wait three hours for a table!
You’ll definitely want to bring comfortable walking shoes. Yes, it’s hot and you’d probably want to wear sandals, but your feet will thank you for putting some cushion underneath them. I averaged 13k steps a day, which is a little over 5 miles.
Lastly, HYDRATE! Yes, alcohol is readily available and you can walk the streets of New Orleans drinking (no need to hide your bottle) – but again, IT’S HOT! Temperatures topped out at 100 degrees July 4th weekend and average low to mid 90s. Don’t be the friend that passes out due to heat exhaustion.
Did you attend Essence Fest 25th Anniversary? What were your favorite moments? Share them by tagging us @MBIB on IG, Facebook or Twitter.
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