It’s a fact: There is no better place to be during fourth of July weekend than the Essence Music Festival.
Once a year, people from all over the world flood the streets of New Orleans to experience the epic three day event known as Essence Fest. There are concerts, panels, and meet-and-greets — all served with Black girl magic.
But what is it *really* like to go to Essence Fest and soak up all the empowerment, the food, and the culture? I was about to find out. I took to the streets of my hometown — New Orleans, Louisiana — to celebrate Essence Fest 2018. Here’s absolutely EVERYTHING I did.
Essence Fest takes place in New Orleans, and nothing gives you a feel for NOLA like a stroll through the historic French Quarter!
This is the oldest section of the city of New Orleans. The neighborhood is filled with houses and buildings with architecture dating back to the 1800s. The French Quarter, also known as the soul of the city serves a popular back drop for cool photos. But be warned: The French Quarter requires a lot of walking, so comfortable shoes are a must!While touring the French Quarter, I stumbled across cool attractions like I’d never seen before. Can you believe these are WIGS!?
After choosing a wig, there were hair stylists on standby ready to install it for you. There are also tons of paintings and wall art that speak to the vibe of the city.
The wealth of culture in New Orleans makes it easy to see why Essence Fest is held there every year! NOLA is known for its speciality seafood dishes infused with cajun spices, and NO Essence Fest trip would be complete without good eats.
Warning: Spice is a main ingredient in almost every dish. Keep a glass of water nearby.
While having lunch at Morrow’s, I devoured these BBQ shrimp — and yes, they are as delicious as they look.
After posting this pic to Instagram, I received actual threats! Sorry guys, I’ll bring you with me next time! Because New Orleans is my hometown, I can tell you — there’s NOTHING as good to eat as crawfish étouffée! If Essence Fest is your first time in the city, this dish is a must.
The hearty dish features shellfish drowned in gravy, smothered over rice, and sprinkled with magic.
Essence Festival weekend isn’t just dates on the calendar — it’s a vibe, and that means you have to dress to impress. For me, that meant this ASOS matching set for my brunch date with Eloquii at the Royal Sonesta hotel.
It was so inspiring getting to spend a morning with these incredible women! Of course, I had to take photos. I snapped an extra-cute one with plus-size model and influencer Alex LaRosa.
Eloquii catered a delicious bunch, and because this is New Orleans, shrimp & grits and bacon were all on the menu. Yes, I went back for seconds. #JudgeMe
Once I’d eaten to my heart’s content, it was time to head to Essence Fest itself. Right from the start, it was a gorgeous experience.
As soon as you got inside the convention center, there was so much to see! There were so many women dressed in vibrant colors and stylish prints!The Beauty & Style stage featured appearances and panels hosted by some of the most admired in the game. And this included one of my personal faves, beauty guru Jackie Aina.
JACKIE JACKIE JACKIE JACKIE JACKIE JACKIE JACKIE!
She gave the most amazing talk! I walked away feeling 95% more enlightened. That feeling is the magic of Essence Fest. Jackie also kept it fun, as she battled against other beauty influencers in the beauty trivia contest.
Over on another stage, Essence lifestyle editor, Charli Penn led a live discussion about self-care, dating, and career/life balance.
This was one of my favorite discussions, because the content is so relatable — and it isn’t discussed enough.
But Essence Fest isn’t only about empowerment, beauty, and style — the main attraction after dark is the concert experience. R&B legend Mary J Blige headlined, and lets just say she is a forever life #MOOD!
Her set was a gift.
But Essence Fest isn’t just about what happens in the conference center — it’s about the city and the culture around it. And when it comes to nightlife in NOLA, all roads lead to Bourbon Street.
As the most popular street in the French Quarter, Bourbon runs 13 blocks long and features the most popular, bars, restaurants and strip clubs. One of those most popular bars is the Tropical Isle. This is where you go to indulge in the world famous Hand Grenade, which I’m holding here.
The drink is served on the rocks or frozen, and the ingredients are the world’s best kept secret. I grew up in New Orleans, and I have no clue what this concoction may consist of. This is definitely booze that leaves you with a buzz!
There is alway so much to see when talking a stroll down Bourbon street, and during Essense Fest, it’s nothing short of a party in the streets. I ran into dozens of Essence Fest attendees who joined together to do the Electric Slide.
New Orleans is a magical city that always has the power to make me happy. Combined with the Black girl magic of Essence Fest, and this was a weekend I’ll never forget.
Overall, I had a wonderful time experiencing the 2018 Essence Music Festival. It was heart warming to be surrounded by so many beautiful people of color who are leaders in their own spaces.
If you are planning on attending Essence Festival next year (and you should), here are my top three tips for making the most of this festival — and this city.
1. Wear comfortable shoes! The walking is endless! Also, bring multiple outfits. Some days will require a quick wardrobe change to take your mood from day to night.
2. #TeamNoSleep. You will sleep on your flight back home! There is so much to see and so much to do, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. You don’t want to miss anything life-changing because you were back in the room taking a snooze.
3. Come hungry and stay hydrated! New Orleans in July is like walking into a sauna at the spa. There are lots of outdoor events to attend so lots of water is a must. Also, you will likely try a new dish at a new restaurant everyday, so get those appetites ready.