I just got back from New Orleans yesterday, fresh off my first ever ESSENCE Fest, and I am still not recovered. Whew. First world problems is being exhausted from 4 days of panels, pampering, and parties, I know. It was hella fun, though, but I don’t bounce back as fast as I used to. There are so many naps in my future.
I was there serving as McDonald’s @365Black social ambassador and I had a blast covering their awards (got hella selfies), old school skate jam (I almost busted my ass on them skates) and concerts (I got a picture with 112!). I took over their Twitter account for the weekend. I was also keeping folks updated with my #NOLALuvv hashtag and #365BlackEF. Check out my Instagram for the pics (and a couple of vids).
So, after my inaugural ESSENCEFest, I wanted to drop some lessons for those who will be going next year. I want to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be.
1. Bring flat shoes.
Now, many people enjoy the art of slayage every moment of every day. Sometimes, their version of fierceness requires heels. I am here to tell you that you need to revise that if you’re going to ESSENCEFest. You need to find you a couple of pairs of cute flats otherwise your ankles and feet might don’t make it.
During the day, the main events, panels and the exhibit hall are at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. It’s by the Riverwalk and it’s a giant building with multiple floors. You will be doing a lot of walking, just to get from one part of it to another, so you should be wearing shoes that you can trot in. The only time I wore heels was for the 365Black awards, and that’s because I was just going from the car that dropped me off at the door I needed to be, to the escalator to the gold carpet. I didn’t have to go on any pilgrimages across the building. Also, I had flats in my bag, so even those heels had an expiration time on my feet once the carpet was done.
At night, the concerts happen at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, also a giant building. It’s an arena. I never understand how people rock heels to concerts. You’re going to be walking and standing a lot. How do your feet prosper in 4 inches?
If you do plan on wearing heels at all during any point of the weekend, just make sure you have flats in your bag too.
2. Bring an all-white outfit
When 20 or more Black people gather, there is a 54% chance that they will do the wobble and suggest an all-white party happens. This is essentially the essence of ESSENCEFest. There’s old and young, and the love of music is real. To be on the safe side, make sure you bring an all-white alphet for the weekend. Not only might you get invited to an all-white brunch, but Frankie Beverly and Maze might be rocking out the concert on night one. It is better to be safe than sorry that you didn’t get your Lisa Raye on. Lovers of linen (like myself) can break out those all-white linen pants we got somewhere. Although, I did show up in an all-white suit.
3. Pace yourself.
There are 50-eleben things that happen at ESSENCEFest. As EmpowerU panels are happening, there’s activations and events on the main floor and sometimes in other venues around the Convention Center. There is so much going on at the same damb time and there is no way you can do it all. You need to pace yourself and prioritize what you attend otherwise you’ll run yourself ragged. You cannot do it all and that’s fine. Lower your expectations, check the agenda in advance and come up with a tentative schedule for yourself and be willing to be flexible.
4. You will not see all your friends.
Because there’s so many things happening, everyone has different schedules. This means that you might not see your friends like you thought. You might think that because you’re all going to ESSENCEFest, you’ll be rolling around together all day. Nah. Some of my homies, I didn’t even see the entire four days I was there. I just saw their pictures on Instagram and MakiDada’ed them from afar because I had my schedule and they had theirs and none of what we were doing were by each other. You actually have to make a concerted effort to catch up with folks, and that will probably happen after the Convention Center closes for the evening and right before the concerts begin.
5. Celebrities are accessible.
ESSENCEFest is pretty well-attended by celebrities, and they actually seem to hang out around the Convention Center all weekend. I ran into many, took pics with some and passed some in the hallway. You’ll see some of your famous old baes, some of your new ones and all that jazz. It’s a good time. Ask them for a selfie if they don’t seem to be in a rush, because most of them are really down-to-Earth.
Lance Gross is indeed just as FAHN in person. Hey boo heyyy.
I had so much fun, and I met many of you! If we took a picture and you Instagrammed it, make sure you tag me the Instagram way that will allow it show up when I click “My Photos.” You do that through “Tag people” feature on the photo itself, not just by putting my name in the caption. Those get lost in my notifications.
It was my first time in New Orleans too so between conferencing, I was somewhere eating my body weight. So much rice, so much gumbo and seafood, so many beignets. Listen. NOLA can get all my money because they fed me so right! I need to go back on a weekend that is not festival time to really explore, though.
I’m looking forward to next year’s ESSENCE Fest, now that I’m a veteran at it. HA! No, but really. It was an inspiring space to be in. So much brilliance, so many dope people, and good music. It’s a win. BTW, Usher made me a believer in concerts again with his set from Saturday night. I was on my feet the entire time as he performed hit after hit. I forgot how deep his catalogue is until I realized I knew every song and every lyric. I see you, Mr. Raymond! Shoutout to the 365Black team for making my first time so special. Props to the ESSENCE Magazine staff for a fantastic event!
Were y’all there? Lemme know. I’ve been getting messages from some of you saying you saw me. Next time, say hey to a G.