Essence Music Festival 2013

Three words. Essence. Music. Festival. Over the 4th of July holiday, New Orleans was besieged by throngs of people for the Essence Music Festival. This annual event has been taking place since 1995 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine, a magazine targeted at African American women. For many years, I’ve wanted to experience this event and 2013 was my year! I was invited by Walmart to be the social media correspondent for the event and cover the activities at Essence Fest which included a grilling competition, performances by various artists, a welcome party, panel discussions and of course the concerts at the Super Dome.

Before going into detail, I have to say this was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I have the opportunity to enjoy the energy and atmosphere provided by an estimated 20,000 people visiting New Orleans but I was able to share my experience on facebook, instagram, and twitter so that people who were not able to attend could share in my experience. And, I got to do what I love, be on camera interviewing celebrities who were performing at the event.

Fantasia & I

For me, Essence Fest opened with a bang, my first interview was with grammy award winning, American Idol, Fantasia. She was the headliner for the Welcome Party held by Walmart at the House of Blues on the 4th of July. I was touched by Fantasia and after meeting and talking with her, she has a fan for life! I admire her tenacity and ability to overcome the many challenges she has in life and she encouraged me. Speaking with her was almost like hearing directly from God, her insights were that powerful and blessed.

After interviewing her we proceeded to the Family Day at Wal Park. Walmart had a kidzone there which included a life sized Tonka truck, distribution of S.I.S. Barbie dolls and Gazillion bubbles. 

Everyone was enjoying this free event. On the stage, the Grill Off finals were being held to choose the best grillmaster after events in 5 different cities. Chef G. Garvin was a judge and Steve Harvey was there too. Although I’m not a meat eater, I must admit the food looked mighty good! I also had an opportunity to interview Steve Harvey and it was great. 

After the event I prepared for the evenings activities at House of Blues.

The Walmart 
Mom Social Media team Regine and Mille kept me busy! 

I was able to get a behind the scenes look during sound check and ended up being serenaded by one of my favorite artists Raheem DeVaughn. 

His music is on my running playlist and helped me get through my very first half-marathon and full marathon so it was a treat to be able to meet him. He was followed by Avant and Fantasia headlined. She is a force of nature and truly a joy to watch perform.

The next morning, the activities at the Convention Center commenced. Oh, my! There were elaborate stages set up by various sponsors, Essence had a mainstage smack dab in the middle and I was completely blown away by the Walmart stage area. 

It included a social media lounge, a photo experience by Photo Mingle, a retail area and of course a stage for performances and panel discussions. A DJ was spinning on the ones and twos and it truly was a party. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I did the Wobble line dance over the weekend and I enjoyed it every single time!
This was the culmination of an action packed, fun filled weekend that I will never forget. I may still be recovering from the fatigue of long days and nights but the memories of this experience will last a lifetime.

Highlights of the day included an early morning workout with WNBA star Angel McCoughtry, Biz Markie taking over as DJ, and meeting megastar Trey Songz. 
Trey Songz

Both of whom I had the opportunity to interview back stage and before I could even start my interview Trey said to me “you have an infectious smile, you look good!” yes, that did happen! Of course, I had to return the compliment and professionally move right into my interview questions! Trey has a community called The Angel Network where fans can get inside scoop and be the first to know about new songs and appearances.

That evening, Uncle L aka LL Cool J graced the stage of the Super Dome, followed by my favorite sister who doesn’t know me Jill Scott and finally Maxwell. During the festival, the mainstage has larger artists and there are 4 Super lounges that highlight talent like Marsha Ambrosious, Bilal, Chrisette Michelle and others. I was so caught up with the Main stage that I didn’t venture to the Super Lounges but I did finally get to see one on my last night in New Orleans. During intermission on the mainstage, Walmart provided one lucky tweeter with a $500 giftcard. This happened each night with the amount increasing to $1000 and on the final night $5000!

After a long night I was up for Day 3 bright and early. Panel discussions included the importance of health and exercise and highlighted Nicole Ari Parker’s “Save Your Do” - no longer can hair be used as an excuse for black women NOT to exercise. 
Also, a wonderful panel about the upcoming tv movie “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” sponsored by Walmart which will air on the Hallmark channel this fall. Once again, I had the opportunity to chat with the talented Tonya Lewis Lee, producer and writer of the screen play. 
Tonya Lewis Lee

Beverly Bond of Black Girls Rock was on another panel discussing the movie Imagine A Future, a documentary that chronicles the journey to self love and acceptance by a teenage girl from Delaware who visits South Africa and learns to love and own her beauty.

Erica Campbell

I had the opportunity to interview the talented Erica Campbell of the group Mary Mary as she embarks on a solo career and sang her new song "A Little More Jesus" on the Walmart stage. We connected on motherhood and the biggest takeaway from the interview was don’t let “mommy guilt” take over. She said like all career minded moms, she has a moments when she misses her children and wished she was home but it all comes with the territory and after talking to them before hitting the stage she was refreshed. I ended the day speaking to super star Estelle. 

She is an absolute joy and her video “Call these boys“ was amazing. She has a special treat for her fans and if you visit her website you will be able to download some of her new songs for free!

The evening Trey Songz hit the stage and I have to say that man is a consummate professional. On Friday when I interviewed him, he was nursing a sprained ankle, and couldn’t really stand on his own (as a matter of fact, I served as a human crutch for him in photos). He mentioned that he planned to cut off his splint and perform on two feet Saturday night. Well, he was true to his word and I was totally amazed by his performance! Uncle Charlie aka Charlie Wilson took the stage next and he had to have changed at least 6 times. He has so much energy and is old enough to be my daddy! I wonder what type of cardio program he is doing! LOL! The evening ended with a performance by New Edition. Everyone was there - Bobby, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, Ricky, and MIke. They did songs from New Edition, BBD, and Bobby and Johnny Gill. IT was great and reminded me of my childhood because a New Edition concert was the first one I was ever allowed to attend without my mom!

Day Four at the convention center was Walmart’s Gospel Explosion. It was kicked off by new artist and chart topper Isaac Carree. Next on stage was Hezekiah Walker and the Arkansas Mass Choir. Church was in session! Grammy award winning Yolanda Adams 

hosted alongside Tai Beauchamp spokesperson for My Black is Beautiful,  who held it down mc’ing the entire weekend.

Tai and I 
(on the day I decided NOT to wear heels!)

That evening was the BIG concert. BeyoncĂ© hit the stage. It was an event that was not to be missed, the concert was completely sold out. We had a ball and our enthusiasm was so great that our photo ended up being featured on BeyoncĂ©’s blog and facebook page. 

And as requested, here is a full list of all of the people I had a chance to interview during my time at Essence Music Fest.

Steve Harvey
Trey Songz
Yolanda Adams
Hezekiah Walker
Ericka Campbell
Isaac Carree
Nicole Ari Parker & Boris Kodjoe
Roland Martin
Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre - National President, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Tony Waller - Corporate Affairs, Walmart
Tim Norris - Weight loss success story

And I have photos with countless others!

I am so very thankful to Walmart for the opportunity and must say that if you ever have a chance to attend the Essence Fest - TAKE IT! All of the convention center activities are free and many of the performers from the mainstage at the Super Dome make appearances. Again, my trip to Essence was a dream come true and I can’t possible post all of my photos in this post but here is a video summary and you can visit my instagram, twitter and facebook page for more photos from this experience.

Newsletter readers click over to my blog for video.

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Walmart Moms Social Media program, all of my expenses related to the visit to the Essence Music Festival were covered by Walmart and I was compensated for my time and effort to create this post. All opinions are my own. 


Allison M. said…
Did you pinch yourself? Because what an awesome experience!
YUMMommy said…
What a wonderful opportunity! Glad you had fun and got to meet some amazing celebrities.
Faith WithHeels said…
So excited for you! This was a great opportunity and a dream! And you look marvelous too!

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