The 2019 ESSENCE Festival attracted more than 500,000 attendees to New Orleans for an historic 25th anniversary celebration representing one of the largest gatherings in the event’s history.
Forever First Lady Michelle Obama commanded the main stage at the sold-out Superdome on Saturday, July 7 for her first ESSENCE Festival headline appearance. Throughout the weekend, seven 2020 Presidential candidates joined Power Stage segments at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to directly engage the influential audience of Black women in attendance and share plans and policies to address some of their most pressing issues.
In addition, the debut of the ESSENCE Global Black Economic Forum connected attendees with accomplished leaders and chief executives including Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Chase Consumer Banking CEO Thasunda Duckett, Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, and TDJ Enterprises CEO TD Jakes, among others.
Over 100 performing artists across the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Many of the biggest names in the entertainment industry including Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, H.E.R, Nas, Pharrell, Patti LaBelle, Teyana Taylor and others performed at the event’s concert series and dozens of others across ESSENCE’s Center Stage and All-Star Gospel Celebration.
Additionally, more than 300 influencers, leaders, creators and celebrities participated in the Festival’s daytime experience – featuring powerhouse speakers Rev. Al Sharpton, Ava Duvernay, Yara Shahidi, Tyler Perry, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Marsai Martin, Valerie Jarrett, Iman, Common, Mona Scott-Young, Miles Brown and Iyanla Vanzant, among many others.
“The 25th anniversary ESSENCE Festival represented a truly transformative global homecoming celebration for Black women and the Black community,” said ESSENCE Chief Executive Officer Michelle Ebanks. “This year’s extraordinary turnout reflects ESSENCE’s uniquely powerful engagement of Black women around personal empowerment, community, and culture as only ESSENCE can. With the debut of 10 new Festival experiences, activations at more than 40 venues across New Orleans, and engagement with more than 300 small businesses and local vendors, we have redefined the Festival as the largest and most impactful destination at the epicenter of Black culture.”
Ebanks continued, “Lastly, in honor of us embodying all that Black excellence and culture represent – beyond entertainment and beauty, we were thrilled to reveal the Festival’s official rebrand to the ‘ESSENCE Festival of Culture,’ with a mission to inform, inspire and uplift Black women and provide a holistic approach to how we offer and deliver Black culture in every way.”