Half of a million black women are expected to touch down in New Orleans, Louisiana, this weekend at the 2018 Essence Festival in celebration of the beauty, resilience, and power of Black Girl Magic. Now in its 24th year, the festival is a four-day cultural exploration filled with insightful panels, free empowerment sessions, parties, exciting activations sponsored by companies like Ford, McDonald’s, and AT&T, and performances from Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, and Erykah Badu.
The annual festival kicked off on July 5 and will end July 8 with a highly anticipated performance from pop icon Janet Jackson at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. On Saturday, Queen Latifah will grace the festival’s main stage for the first time, celebrating her 30-year career with a “Ladies First” tribute featuring special appearances by MC Lyte, Missy Elliott, Remy Ma, and Nikki D. Latifah’s performance comes on the heels of her starring role in the 2017 box office smash Girls Trip, which is based on four friends who reconnect and bond during a wild Essence Festival weekend.
Last year, more than 470,000 attended the festival’s line-up of signature nightly concerts inside the Superdome along with public daytime programming and live entertainment at New Orleans’ convention center. This year, festival organizers say the turnout will be even bigger. These are “the largest crowds that we’ve seen,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell at festival’s opening press conference on Thursday. In addition to the potentially record-breaking crowds, the festival is expected to give the Crescent City a major economic boost. Ninety-eight percent of the city’s hotels have reached capacity while the festival is expected to generate more revenue than ever before. “When Essence [Festival] started about 24 years ago, the economic impact then was resting around $80 to $100 million. Today, that economic impact has grown to over $250 million. This is a big deal” said the major.
Michelle Ebanks, the president of Essence Communications Inc., also affirmed that this would likely be the largest festival the company’s history. Along with the hundreds of thousands of women flooding into the Big Easy, millions more will join in on the festivities via live stream and social media.