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Essence Fest 2017 Diary

Afrofuturism, fashion and music courtesy of AT&T

A trip to New Orleans is always a good idea, so when I was invited by AT&T to attend this year’s  Essence Festival, no questions were asked before I said yes!

Known as the “Party With A Purpose,” Essence is the largest #FUBU music festival in the country and, honestly, what I hope heaven is like. Honored to be among a sea of carefree black woman and black man joy, my experience at Essence Festival 2017 taught me what it means to #BeTheGlow.

If you missed out on the journey live via my Instagram story, check out my day-by-day highlights of the annual #blackgirlmagic family reunion.

Day 1

I got to Essence Fest central (the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center) early Friday morning and was blown away by all the amazing booths and vendors.

The AT&T Experience, for example, incorporated tech, art, music, fashion and entertainment into an Afrofuturistic theme. I got there in time to catch a live-cooking demo by two of my favorite chefs, Leslie and Seth of Butter + Brown, and hung around for a fashion show featuring the Sacred Artwork of the Ori by Laolu Senbanjo on the AT&T stage. I loved the looks sported by the models but it was Laolu’s body painting that really took my breath away. Completely in awe; I didn’t think the day could get more lit!

THEN the unthinkable happened, I met Tracee Ellis Ross! I was on hand while the award-winning actress was being interviewed for AT&T the Bridge on the responsibility of the creator/artist in today’s climate, the power of laughter, and what it means to #BeTheGlow. Keep an eye out for her upcoming video in the Bridge’s #knowthis series.

Day 2

The AT&T stage went wild around mid afternoon when members from STARZ shows “Survivor’s Remorse”, “POWER”, and “American Gods” took the stage with Holly Robinson Peete. The conversation centered on the groundbreaking work STARZ is doing to serve the underrepresented/misrepresented in the premium space. Singer/songwriter Bibi Bourelly followed and gained a new fan in me!

Because I’m already a fan of Boris Kodjoe, I stayed close to the AT&T Experience to be sure to get a prime spot for his appearance later that day. While I waited, I did a little “window” shopping at nearby booths. My favorite find was a hand-painted cross body bag by Susej Designs. Bag in tow, I made my way back to hear Boris Kodjoe share how his family remains connected via technology and his thoughts on maintaining integrity in the entertainment industry.

Soul fed and shopping jones satisfied, I wrapped up the day by sitting in on model Ebonee Davis’s session on bridging the gap between fashion, expression, and activism.

Day 3

My last day started with Rev Run and Holly Robinson Peete at the AT&T Experience. In between offering the crowds tips on staying inspired, Rev Run also announced Run DMC will be touring in the U.S. this year! The grin on my face from that news lasted all day.

Overall, the 2017 Essence Festival was an amazing experience, one I’ll treasure for years. Thanks again AT&T for the opportunity to #BetheGlow!

Maura Chanz is an Atlanta-based entertainment personality. Contact her at


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