I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I know I’m not the only one who is sad about ESSENCE Festival being cancelled this year. *sigh* Because of everything going on and being under quarantine, I know they made the best decision for the health and safety of everyone.
There’s nothing like Essence weekend in New Orleans. Day parties, pop-up shops, concerts, live music, entertainment, vendors, good NOLA eats…not sure how we did it all—but we did! #TeamNoSleep and a whole lot of FUN!
I can’t even tell you the why or the how, but last year HB and I decided on an impromptu trip to Essence. It was one of those moments accompanied by a strong nudge, so we knew we had to act on it—QUICK. It was our first year returning to Essence together since 2012. Years ago, after the world lost two legends (Dick Gregory and Prince), we vowed that we would not put off EXPERIENCES. You never know if you will get those opportunities again. This was one of them…and look at where we are now — QUARANTINE.
Last year, like most years, we met some pretty amazing people: New Orleans friends (and cousins from all over, lol), fellow bloggers/influencers, personalities, actors, comedians, artists, etc—you name it! There were so many highlights…I’ll try to touch on as many of them as I can, especially for those who have never been. It will give you an idea of what to expect. Did I mention it was HOT-HOT in NOLA!? So if you see sweat/perspiration on these rewind pics, you know why.
It’s always good to plan ahead. The sooner the better. The best thing to do is to start planning NOW for next year *crossing fingers we’ll be out of this mess* If not, save your coins for 2022. I know next year may still be up in the air, but remain hopeful. If you have a big group or family you can deal with for about five days (the more the merrier), you can find a really dope place to stay and enjoy the festivities! We ended up staying at The Historic Soniat House. The experience was priceless. I’ll share about our stay there in a later post.
Even if you only go to ONE concert, at least you will capture the true ESSENCE of what the weekend is about. Don’t forget to check out some of the free mini-concerts at the convention center and you can even Get Lifted (go to church) on Sunday!
Becoming Book Tour at Essence – OK…this was something new for us. It’s usually concerts-only. When we found out our Forever First Lady, Michelle Obama, would be speaking part of her BECOMING book our, we knew we couldn’t pass it up. Prior to Essence, I tried so hard to get tickets to the Becoming tour in nearby cities, but to no avail. I knew this was the Lord’s work.
We usually pick two nights to attend concerts. With this trip being last minute, we picked the best night which included: First Lady Michelle Obama, Nas, Mary J. Blige (featuring Lil Kim), H.E.R., and a few other artists. This was our second time seeing MJB live in concert at Essence, and our third time seeing her in concert. AMAZING night!
THE CONVENTION CENTER
Some people “say” they go to Essence, but they don’t go to any events. They are usually just in New Orleans hanging out on Bourbon. Listen…you have to go to concerts, the convention center, and the events to make it official. Even if it’s just one day of each. Just sayin’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to just be—in the city of New Orleans riding the waves and energy of everything going on during Essence weekend. You are bound to run into friends, family, celebrities—and STILL have a good time. But trust me when I say…don’t cheat yourself. Go and enjoy it ALL! You can do a lot with a little (i.e., enjoy as much free stuff as you can!)
I met Lala Anthony (for those who don’t know, she’s an actress on Power and partner to NBA Star Carmelo Anthony). I also met Gospel Artist and Legend, John P. Kee (no picture). There were also other great Gospel artists on Gift Lifted Sunday! We also got to see/hear from Master P and his son Romeo in between running to get haircare products, swag, and freebies from vendors around the convention center. These were just a few off of the top of my head that I can remember.
Oh…so remember when I told you about why you should go to the convention center? I walked away with bags and bags of FREE products. I was also able to shop from different vendors while there. Essence is when I discovered Support Black Colleges. You can read about them here.
You know this is my element, right? I love New Orleans food. So many great places to choose from, but expect lines to be crazy long during Essence weekend. If you don’t mind waiting, I say go for it—but don’t hold your breath if you are expecting to get into a popular spot. You will also luck up finding some of the best New Orleans Street Food!
Hubby and I love Acme Oyster House. Well…the line was literally down the street. There was a place directly across the street called Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, and the food was just as good (Thanks MILove)! We were seated in less than ten minutes! You can check out Hubs standing in line getting ready to go in while I snapped a pic! You can see everyone is also having a grand time in the streets!
Felix’s — The best shrimp platters!
This was the night we hung out on Bourbon!
This was such a fun night! You can’t go to Bourbon and not get a slice of pizza! That last pic, was a “CAPTION THIS” moment! LOL!
THE POP-UP SHOPS
My line sister, Alisha, hipped me to all of the fun events around NOLA during Essence the first year we attended. I’m nowhere near a guru when it comes to things to do, but I know how to have a good time and do it for the low. One thing I try to do every year is attend a Pop-Up Shop.
The African Pride Pop-Up Shop was so much fun! It gave me all of the throwback vibes with the theme: foam curl rollers, hot stove, hot combs, hair grease (mine was Blue Magic) giving me circa 1980s vibes! We ended up walking away with bags of goodies, hair products, etc. We had a DJ and everything! There were giveaways, we laughed, danced, V-bounced, and had an absolute blast! Fun times! I had no idea special guests were going to be there. We just wanted to check out the event and hopefully snag us some of our favorite hair-products! Which we did!
We ended up stopping by the African Pride Pop-Up shop two days in a row (thanks to a plug from a NOLA friend). Once before the concert on Saturday and again before hitting the road on Sunday. Before leaving, I ended up bumping into Kev on Stage and his wife, Melissa. Looking for dope, black influencers and content creators to follow? You should check out their podcast, The Love Hour Podcast and his YouTube Channel.
I still can’t believe I met Pretty Vee! Totally unexpected! She has been one of my favorite personalities to follow on IG for the past couple of years. She was so cool and down to earth—PERIOD! If you know, you know! #FollowMe.
Here is a throwback of my first Essence Experience x African Pride Pop-Up with DJ Spinderella (from Salt & Pepper).
I really could go on and on about Essence weekend including: Health & Wellness events, Get Lifted Experiences, and so much more! You can check out all of the Essence Fest “Unstoppable” Virtual Experiences here.
Now you know you can’t leave New Orleans without getting beignets from Café Du Monde! Y’all, I actually bought some beignet mix and coffee today!
This is without-a-doubt, the biggest family reunion full of black music, black culture, black entertainment, and a place where EVERYONE is welcome! I hope to see you at #EssenceFest one day in the future.