Essence Fest 2016 (What It Is)

I had the privilege of experiencing Essence magazine’s Essence Fest for the second time this past 4th of July weekend. It was simply everything. I saw some of my favorite artists perform like Mariah Carey, Babyface, and a new favorite, Jidenna. Yet, anybody who really knows me knows that seeing the one and only Maxwell perform again (my first time was back in 2009) and posing next to him for a picture just made not only my weekend, but my entire life. He epitomizes real musicianship, style, class, soul, and individuality in a way that is breathtaking to me. I’m still in shock that I was standing right next to him even if for only a few seconds!

Even though I’m a huge fan of Essence Fest and hope to attend as many times as I can while there is breath in my body, I understand how it could look to the highly critical among us, being that I’m one of them. There were times when I waited in line after line at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the humid, NOLA days when I wondered if it was all worth the hype. Was it all just a series of marketing ploys and self-promotion? There were celebrities autographing recent book and CD-releases. There were vendors selling all types of wares and southern-styled meals. There were major hair and beauty brands giving away samples—ranging from small trial-sized packets to full-sized bottles of products. Sure, there were various empowerment stages, speeches, and sessions but were all of those amazing messages drowned out in a sea of marketing and consumerism? Was there really more lying beneath the surface of superficiality?

You bet your bottom dollar there was! Let me breakdown exactly what Essence Fest is…

Essence Fest is drinking a cool glass of lemonade on a blazing summer day (the Beyoncé brand).

It is that gentle breeze underneath your sundress when you’re drenched in sweat.

It is what it feels like to come home (the Diana Ross in “The Wiz” version).

Where else on earth can you go to find hundreds of melanin-drenched people in one place where it’s not only acceptable, but required to embrace the uniqueness and beauty of African American culture? Where you can eat as much fried chicken, collard greens, and peach cobbler as you want without the guilt of feeling like a stereotype? Where there is no doubt that black lives always and will forever matter? In fact, the question is redundant because it’s a given. Essence Fest is a type of nirvana for African American women where everything about them—their unique experiences, interests, goals, passions, and beauty—are all validated, celebrated, appreciated, and understood.

Although I left Essence Fest 2015 rejuvenated as well, I experienced a whole other level of appreciation for the event this year because of the many changes in my life and in my own personal development over the past year. I have been brought down to the ashes of the person I once was after losing my son and dealing with other struggles in my personal life, but Essence Fest 2016 has given me even more courage to hand my ashes over to God in order to become reborn like a golden, blonde-haired phoenix (check out the new “do”).

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Chilling poolside on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel and having some amazing conversation on a day off from the hustle and bustle of Essence Fest events!

 

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What do you say to someone whose concert may be the reason why you and your spouse got married? You say the obvious, “I love your music so much!” and just cheese really hard.

 

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Uncle Charlie never disappoints and he almost bought me a $400,000 car! :-O

 

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The “My Black is Beautiful” booth gave away full-sized hair products, t-shirts, and printed photographs for those patient enough to wait in line for them.

 

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I loved everything about Jidenna when the “Classic Man” first came on the seen, but I have an even greater appreciation for him and his music after seeing him live in the intimate Ford “Hot Right Now” superlounge at the Superdome!

 

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Bishop T.D. Jakes talked about his upcoming talk show and almost started preaching before he stopped himself short! I don’t think anybody would’ve minded him going on, especially me. His ministry kept me going on many’a rough days recently!

 

 

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I loved the random celebrity sightings at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Eric Benet just strolled through with a few members of his crew/security.

 

 

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I grew up loving Mariah Carey’s music and Mimi did not disappoint. There was nothing like singing along to her hits and watching her in all her “diva-ness.”

 

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Another take-away from my Essence Fest weekend was a determination to finally check out Omari Hardwick in “Power.” The show was highly recommended by a new NOLA friend and even compared to “The Wire” so I’m intrigued.

Essence Fest 2015 in New Orleans, LA Recap (Part I)

Little sleep and big drinks…

“Bourbon Street before the crowds come at night.” 14 February 2012 by Chris Litherland via Creative Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

I’m baaaaaaaccccckkkkk. Back in more ways than one. This is my first blog post after my little hiatus and I’m happy to be back to see what’s poppin’! The break was really good for me. Although I missed blogging, it was good to recharge and get my mind right. I have a lot more to say to my popped people than before the break so I’m pretty excited!

One of the things I want to tell you about is my trip to New Orleans, LA for Essence Festival 2015 during 4th of July weekend! This trip helped me mark a couple of things from my 101 Things in 1001 Days list, including:

2) Travel to a city/location in the U. S. and outside the U.S. that I’ve never been before (1/2)
3) Have a reunion with my besties from college
52) Go to a concert

I’m ecstatic to knock off 2.5 things from my list and can’t wait to share more with you about the trip. Let’s start with highlights from Wednesday and Thursday!

Wednesday night

I arrived in hot and humid Nawlins for a long-anticipated reunion with my besties from college, Di and Des. You all may remember one of them from one of my P.O.P. Women features, The Positively Optimistic & Powerful Destiny. I don’t think we’d all been in the same room with each other since my wedding in January of 2013 so we were really excited about this trip. One of the best things about college is that you have the opportunity to make friends for life that come from all over the U.S. (and world for that matter). We all rep the Midwest, but have such different backgrounds, experiences, careers, and personalities. This made deciding where to go and what to do a little complicated at times, but it also made the experience that much more interesting.

Coop's Place in New Orleans, LA

Coop’s Place in New Orleans, LA

We ate dinner in the French Quarter at Coop’s place our first night in NOLA. I’d read about it being a must-visit dining spot for real New Orleans food. Once I’d gotten there, I’d forgotten what they were famous for and had no idea what to order. The waitress wasn’t very friendly so I ended up trying the Coop’s Taste Plate, which consisted of a cup of seafood gumbo, red beans and rice with sausage, rabbit and sausage jambalaya, and a fried chicken wing. The best thing on my plate by far was the fried chicken wing. It had just the right amount of seasoning and it was pretty much everything. The flavors tickled my starving taste buds in all kinds of amazing ways. The red beans and rice and jambalaya were just ok. All that I really remember about them was that they were spicy. 

Seafood Gumbo at Coop's Place, NOLA

Seafood Gumbo at Coop’s Place, NOLA

Besides for the food, the service and ambience left much to be desired. Even though we were able to sit down right away, there was a hella long wait for the food, flies buzzing around, and the tables were so cramped that I had to keep getting up during my meal to let people pass behind me. That definitely killed my vibe. My food was lukewarm as well, which was probably my fault. I had to run to the car to get a change of clothes right when the food came because I’d spilled my drink all over my lap. I’ve noticed that I have a pattern of spilling drinks lately. Maybe because my drinks are so few and far between that the buzz catches me off guard and I get clumsy. But, I must say that the one, delicious chicken wing on my plate and the good conversation stopped that dinner from being a complete fail.

After leaving Coop’s Place, we strolled down Decatur street and guess what I saw…Café du Monde. The thought of scarfing down some hot, sugary beignets was one of the main reasons that got me down to New Orleans. Let’s just saw I was not disappointed. They were a doughnut-lover’s dream come true. It was an orgasm of powdered sugar in my mouth. They were everything. I could have eaten them everyday I was there, but my stomach fat and our schedule wouldn’t let me.

 Thursday

Western omelet with cheese, hash browns, and biscuit at The Trolley Stop Café in NOLA

Western omelet with cheese, hash browns, and biscuit at The Trolley Stop Café in NOLA

The official Essence Fest festivities didn’t kick off until Friday morning so we spent Thursday late morning/early afternoon eating and strolling a mall in downtown New Orleans. We ate at The Trolley Stop Café and it was everything. The long wait was worth it when I finally got a taste of my western omelet with cheddar cheese, hash browns, and biscuit. The food was so good that we ate there twice, once during brunch hours and the next time at like 2 or 3 in the morning, after coming from a (somewhat wack, wannabe bougie) club nearby. It’s open 24 hours during the weekend. Definitely a must if you’re vising NOLA!

Yours truly before leaving for the Kevin Hart show. Yep, I was def one of the most fully clothed women at Essence Fest ;)

Yours truly before leaving for the Kevin Hart show. Yep, I was def one of the most fully clothed women at Essence Fest 😉

Thursday evening we headed to the Mercedes Benz Superdome to see Kevin Hart’s What Now show. Lecrae and Trey Songz were his musical opening acts. Due to poor planning and the unexpected inefficiency of the process of getting into the superdome, we didn’t get to our seats until Trey Songz had already started performing. I was a bit bummed about missing Lecrae, but I did get a peek at him a few days later at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during some Essence Fest festivities. I would’ve loved to see how the crowd responded to a Christian rapper preforming right before Mr. “Invented Sex” Trey Songz. That should’ve been comedy in itself!

Kevin Hart’s show definitely had its hilarious moments as expected, although, I wouldn’t say it was better than his previous stand-up that I’ve seen on TV/DVD. (This was my first time seeing him live.) I must say that he was not playing games when it came to his “No camera/No cell phone” policy during the show. Anybody seen pulling their cell phone out during the show was kicked out. Let’s just say that it was too many people being escorted out to count. That little man meant biness!

After the Kevin Hart show, we headed to the French Quarter and looked around. There was a good amount of people out, but the huge Essence Fest crowd didn’t really show up until Friday. We had our first Big Easy daiquiris. I had a strawberry one and it was delicious. We just loitered around until we were ready to turn in for the night. It was hard to go home when everything was still bright and open way into the wee hours of the morning. It reminded me of Times Square in NYC but at a much slower pace. Clearly, NOLA never sleeps, but it’s a relaxed insomnia unlike the hustle and bustle of NYC.

Stay tuned for Essence Fest 2015 Recap Part II! It feels great to not only be home with the fam and catch up on zzzzzzz’s, but to also be back in the blogging saddle 😉 Keep it poppin’ until next time!