*2019 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Essence Festival of Culture. This year marks the biggest and most expansive experience ever. Over half a million people flocked to the city of New Orleans, LA. – one of the largest numbers in the festival’s history – highlighted by an appearance from the Forever First Lady Michelle Obama.
Obama sat down with Gayle King at a sold-out Saturday night appearance in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. When King asked the former First Lady if she knew that they were missed, she responded with “I miss us too,” which drew a roaring cheer from the packed audience. The interview covered topics such as life after leaving the White House and her personal relationship with her husband, former President Barak Obama. She shared that the couple went through counseling at one point. Noting that there is real work behind the “fist bumps.”
“There are a lot of young couples that look up to me and Barack,” Obama said. “We’re hashtag relationship goals. And young couples think, all they see of us are the fist bumps and love, Marriage is work, marriage is hard.”
The Essence Festival has become the must-attend event to connect with Black women in all their “Black Girl Magic” fabulousness. The celebration of music, beauty, fashion, financial and health well-being, was presented by sponsors like Ford, McDonalds, AT&T and Coca Cola.
This year featured over 100 artists in the concert series, performing across various venues, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The main stage featured some of the biggest names in entertainment including Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, H.E.R, Nas, Patti LaBelle and others.
The main stage was hosted by The Real’s Loni Love. Several performers had special guests join them on stage. Highlights like Jermaine Dupri bringing a bit of ATL with him to the home of the New Orleans Saints, featuring artists like Da Brat and Lil Jon, plus a surprise appearance from Nelly. Similarly, Teddy Riley brought out several acts in a two-hour performance that tapped into Frankie Beverly’s set. Teddy’s set included Teyana Taylor, Timbaland, Coco of SWV, Pharrell Williams, Wyclef Jean and Dougie Fresh. Riley also had a surprise for Timbaland, bringing out Ginuwine. Apparently, the two hadn’t seen/performed together in some time according to Tim.
Friday and Sunday night included tribute performances to Prince and Frankie Beverly and Maze. The Prince tribute featured Shelia E., while artist Anthony Hamilton fronted the band Maze for two songs.
At 12:20 PM, the band took the stage, as had been the tradition as the events closing act for the first 15 years of the festival.
The 30-minute set featured the band’s hits like “Back In Stride Again,” “We Are One,” “Joy and Pain,” “Happy Feelings” and naturally “Before I Let Go.” The song was stamped all over the weekend with DJ’s mashing up the classic with Beyonce’s “Homecoming” version and crowds breaking out into the Electric Slide.