Essence Festival 2016- Recap

I think Oprah said it best during her empowerment session when she referred to Essence Fest as a giant family reunion.  You are just as likely to run into someone you sat next to in freshman English class as well Oprah herself. The festival continues to reach next levels of black excellence with a focus on empowerment, education and of course entertainment.  This year the festival added a Beauty and Style Expo which was complete with street-style fashion shows and live demos from some of the most popular YouTube personalities in hair and makeup. The expo also had representation from brands including Carols Daughter, Dark and Lovely and Cantu.

The Superdome was one giant party where the night time entertainment included performances from New Edition, Puff Daddy and Family, crowd favorite Charlie Wilson and Mariah Carey just to name a few.

Although I love the production of the concerts on the main stage, it is the super lounges with there up close and personal intimacy with the artists that always are a personal favorite.

Lalah Hathaway Superlounge

Lalah Hathaway Superlounge

Jidenna

Jidenna

Sunday included a heartfelt tribute to the Clark sisters and felt just like the praise and worship you get at church on Sunday Morning. Keke Wyatt, Ledisi and Chrisette Michele were just a few of the artist who lent their soulful vocals to the tribute.

Chrisette Michele

Chrisette Michele

KeKe Wyatt

KeKe Wyatt

 

Oprah Winfrey, a first time Essence Festival attendee was meant to be a surprise guest of Iyanla Vanzant who could not make it due to medical reasons.  Queen O solidified her place in my mind as my favorite auntie- her wisdom, wit and empowerment had everyone looking for an usher to pass a tissue and we all clearly would have given up coin should a collection plate been passed around.

Oprah Winfre

Oprah Winfrey

Her overall message was what God has for you is part of your own divine destiny with a key focus on the power of intention. She dropped such jewels as:

“You don’t get what you wish for, you don’t even get what you hope for, you get what you believe.”And  “You don’t get celebrated wanting what someone else has.”

She also introduced the cast of her highly anticipated OWN show Queen Sugar and director Ava Duvernay joined her on stage as well.

Essence Eats- Iconic New Orleans Cocktails

During Essence Festival I usually set aside a day to be a complete tourist. This year, I opted to sample some of the iconic New Orleans cocktails.   Initially I was going to try a guided tour but when I saw the $29 price tag only included one drink, I opted to keep my coin and go the self- directed tour route instead.

The first stop on our cocktail tour was the Roosevelt Hotel.  The bartender looked like a 1930’s movie star and I fully expected Ginger Rogers to come waltzing in at any moment. We started with the Sazerac, which also happens to be the name of the bar. Dubbed the official cocktail of New Orleans the Sazerac includes Sazerac 6 year Rie Whiskey, peychauds bitters, sugar in a herbsaint rinsed glass.

The Sazerac bar also made the Ramos Gin Fizz which includes: lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, gin, seltzer water and orange flower water. Hands down this was one of my favorite drinks it tasted just like key lime pie and was very refreshing on a hot July day.

Sazerac from the Roosevelt Bar

Sazerac from the Roosevelt Bar

 

Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz

 

Stop #2 was the Bourbon House for Brandy Milk Punch which tastes like Christmas- literally. Imagine the best egg nog you’ve ever had and it may come close to this drink which consists of milk, ice cream and brandy. It’s simple,delicious, full of calories and probably my favorite on this list.

Brandy Milk Punch, Bourbon House

Brandy Milk Punch, Bourbon House

Stop #3 the Carousel Bar, Hotel Monteleon

We veered slightly from the “classic cocktails” and opted for a French 007 which is a take on the classic French 75 curated in 2007 by bartender Marvin Allen and includes: Mathilde de Pear, Pomegranate liqueur and sparking wine. Essentially it reminded me of a cranberry

 

French 007

French 007

Stop# 4 Pat O’Briens which is the home of the infamous hurricane.  I was completely underwhelmed by the hurricane.  I’ve never been a fan of kool-aid and the amount of ice completely watered the drink down. My recommendation would be to skip Pat O’Briens and head for Felix’s instead where you can not only get a great hurricane,  you can fill your belly with some of their chargrilled oysters which are the best in the city.

Recommendations for your self-directed cocktail tour:

  • Eat first- the Sazerac probably would have had me on the floor had I attempted to drink it on an empty stomach.
  • Hydrate!
  • If you’re lucky you will come across a knowledgable bartender who will offer historical context about each of the respective drinks. Our bartender Andrja at the Roosevelt Hotel Was not only knowledgeable about the historical context of the drinks, he also had really good recommendations for other bars we should try for the quintessential New Orleans drinks.

 

Cheers!

photo credit: Brian Hall, Luxe Glam Media 

#WCW Aja Naomi King

Aja Naomi King

Aja Naomi King

I have been crushing on Aja Naomi King from the moment I saw her on the Shonda Rhimes hit How To Get Away With Murder.

Here’s how to re-create Kings’ Post-Oscars Vanity Fair look from celebrity stylist Larry Sims:

  • Apply Smooth N’ Shine Instant Hair Polisher throughout the hair
  • Using a 3/4 inch iron curl hair in the same direction (beginning at the nape)
  • Once hair has been curled and set, create a deep side part
  • Brush hair softly to create waves
  • Seal the waves with Smooth N’Shine polisher

All products can be found at Walmart

Holiday Staycation: Bingeworthy TV

 

Netflix homescreen

Netflix homescreen

The holidays are upon us and perhaps you have some long overdue stay-cation plans. I for one intend to  make good use of the multiple streaming services I have available including Netflix and Amazon video all while giving new meaning to sofa surfing. Here’s my list of binge-worthy shows to make your season bright.

A Different World-Netflix
Let me just be honest. I chose to attend an HBCU ( historically black college/university) because of the fictional Hilman college- the school featured on this Cosby Show spinoff. Because I came of age during the time the show originally aired, I was completely surprised at the amount of millennials unfamiliar with what I consider to be a classic. Several well-known actors walked the fictional Hilman campus including Halle Berry and Marisa Tomei. I loved everything about the story lines especially the later episodes directed by Debbie Allen as she tackled issues from an HIV positive student to domestic abuse on campus. If you were a fan of the show the holiday season is a great way to revisit it, if you are new to it, be prepared to take a pretty realistic glimpse into life on a black college campus.

Greys Anatomy- Netflix
Shonda Rhimes is a talented goddess who has us hooked on Thursday nights like a sale on Celine bags. There is much attention paid to her show Scandal and though I love Kerry Washington with her lip-quiver and enviable collection of Prada bags, it is Greys Anatomy that continues to win my heart. The show does an amazing job of ripping stories from the headlines and presenting them in such a way that is filled with humanity that I cry just about every episode. Grab your tissue and prepare to be hooked on this series currently in season 11.

flesh and bone- Starz
This show is Black Swan meets Flowers In The Attic with lots of twisted darkness and great choreography thrown in for good measure. The first episode opens with Claire Robbins leaving her Polish Hill, Pittsburg neighborhood to audition for the American Ballet Company In NYC- she wins acceptance into the company and as the first season progresses we learn more about the past of this gorgeous ballerina with a dark past. Follow the adventures of the dancers of ABC as they navigate grueling dance rehearsals, compete for prima and navigate life in the Big City of dreams.

Narcos-Netflix
Narcos quite frankly is one of the best interpretations of the life of Pablo Escobar that I’ve seen. The show follows the infamous drug lord and the DEA agents charged with bringing down his cartel from Medillin to Miami and everywhere in between. The show can be brutal, but alas the graphic nature makes it that much more realistic. The show has just been renewed for a second season so grab the remote, settle in with your popcorn and wine and catch up on this great series.
Entourage- Amazon Video
I was a huge fan of the HBO series which showcases a group of friends from Queens, NY who transplant to Los Angeles after one of them- Vincebt Chase makes it to the big screen after being discovered in of all things a Mentos commercial. Mark Wahlberg serves as one of the executive producers of the show and is loosely based on his career. The series is humorous, with lots of eye candy with Adrien Grenier in the lead. Sit back and relax and watch the boys from Queens make a name for themselves on the Left Coast.

Essence Festival 2015 Recap #BringTheLove

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Essence Fest is like going to your family reunion and rather than hiring your cousin Boobie to DJ there’s Grammy award winners, legends and rising stars. Touted as one of the largest marketing events with a highly desirable demographic of black women, Essence Fest is something everyone should experience at least once. Inevitably you will let out squeals of excitement as you run into people from your past on Bourbon Street and the performances at the Superdome are equal parts electrifying or intimate depending on if the artist is on the main stage or performing in one of the lounges.

Goapele Verizon Lounge

Goapele Verizon Lounge

Jonathan McReynolds, Verizon Lounge

Jonathan McReynolds, Verizon Lounge

This is my second year attending the festival and I was committed to experiencing the empowerment sessions and other awesome opportunities beyond the music.

The session that touched me the most was an overview of the keys to finding your soulmate with Sarah Jakes Roberts and her husband Toure Roberts. They were funny, insightful and engaging but most importantly they delivered a powerful message about healing as an individual before seeking out your soulmate. At one point I was looking for an usher to pass me a tissue as their transparency raised questions from the attendees and it became clear that though we were not in church, yokes were being broken and people were being saved from repeating relationship mistakes.

Sarah Jakes Roberts and Toure Roberts

Sarah Jakes Roberts and Toure Roberts

 

 

Make plans to attend next years festival now as hotels sell out quickly. Check out the Essence Festival site for updates on next years’ line up.

Wale

Wale

Kelly Rowland

Kelly Rowland

All photos courtesy of Brian Hall, Luxe Glam Media

Big Easy Style Lounge 2.0

Design Essentials Coconut and Monoi

Design Essentials Coconut and Monoi

 

image

image

Design Essentials hosted the Big Easy Style Lounge 2.0 during this past weekend’s Essence Festival and Ledisi announced the introduction of a Look Book created in conjunction with the brand. The style lounge continues to be one of the premier day party events for beauty bloggers, naturalistas and celebs alike.

Attendees were treated to massages, mini-makeovers and given an opportunity to try products from the coconut and monoi line (which I love!); an added bonus for me was I won a gorgeous Gregory Sylvia leather bag as part of the door prizes. Trust me, the bag is all kinds of gorgeous and this pic doesn’t really do it any justice.

Ei

Winner! Gregory Sylvia Bag w/ Host Jade of Lipstick and Curls

Normally when I travel to New Orleans, I always opt for some protective styling because the heat does my natural hair no favors. However I decided to rock my Fro this trip and the coconut and manoi product line from Design Essentials was the perfect remedy for my thirsty curls. The curling gel tamed my frizz and gave me great definition.
Check out design essentials to learn more about their full range of products.

 

 

photo credit: Brian Hall, www.luxeglammedia.com

Why Solange Knowles Broke The Internet

photo by:  Rog Walker

photo by: Rog Walker

photo source

November 16th ( the eve of my own wedding anniversary) served as the day Solange broke the Internet. The reason for her heavily hashtagged, heavily regrammed notable internet breakage was because she got hitched to her long time partner Alan Fergueson.

Solange has long since established herself as a fashion icon- from her enviable, full ‘fro, to her bold fashion choices and omnipresent brightly-hued lip- Solange is the fashion “it” girl in the Knowles clan. Her style is undeniable but the reason so many fashionistas love “Solo” is because she walks in her personal truth with a unique authenticity that is so fundamentally her and we love it. She didn’t have to bare it all to get the attention of all of social media and the fact that Vogue magazine was granted exclusive rights to the photos from her nuptials just further solidifies Solange as a bonafide fashionista. She is proof positive that you can don a cape, a gorgeous Humberto Leon gown, rock a fierce ‘fro and be your own fashion super she-roe with style, elegance and grace- and break the Internet whilst doing it.

(End of) Summer Reading: Gone Girl

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

I will admit I have a somewhat obsessive personality… To clarify what I mean is quite simply when I like something, I mean REALLY like something I tend to immerse myself into whatever that thing is. This summer, like most I spent a fair amount of time reading-between days spent at the beach lazily basking in the sun, to summer evenings refusing to allow another nanosecond of reality television to seep into my psyche, I read and I read a lot. This brings me to my latest literary obsession- Gillian Flynn; I had heard quite a bit about the book Gone Girl, Flynn’s 2012 New York Times Best seller and being the nerd that I am I insisted on reading the book before the film adaptation is released in October. I quickly became hooked on Flynn’s writing and found myself researching her other body of work. I’ve always had an affinity for crime and suspense and Flynn’s does the most amazing job of foreshadowing you can’t help but want to see how the story ends. Gone Girl had me hooked from the very beginning- this story about a dazzling Manhattan couple who’s relationship has gone a little stale with the loss of their jobs and the need to move to some Podunk town in Missouri. The story opens with the couple- Nick and Amy Dunne preparing to celebrate their 5 year wedding anniversary and the wife goes missing… I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to give too much of the story away but read the book! The Gone Girl movie will hit theaters on October 3rd.

Here’s a peek at the trailer

Big Easy Style Lounge: Design Essentials

 

Photo credit: Exclusiveaccess.net

Photo credit: Exclusiveaccess.net

The sound of jazz can be heard on almost every block once you hit the Quarter in N’awlins; during the 20th anniversary of the Essence Musical Festival that music was rounded out with the soulful or funkdafied sounds of just about every other genre of music that speaks to your soul.

The Superdome was the place to be in the evenings and during the day I had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few brands that I’ve come to know and love. Design Essentials hosted an event featuring the Grammy nominated Ledisi who played host to their inaugural Big Easy Style Lounge. Guests were treated to massages, makeup application and had the opportunity to chat with professionals about the range of products and which specific combination worked best for individual needs.

Because I’m a naturalista currently wearing a weave (with some leave out) the sleek edge control was recommended as well as the hydrience which serves as both heat protectant and moisturizer.

For more details on the Design Essentials line please visit www.designessentials.com

Jet Magazine Launches New App

Jet magazine holds a dear place in the hearts of many- I can remember going to the beauty salon  as a child to get my press and curl and thumbing through the magazine while waiting for my turn, or accompanying my pop-pop to the barber shop where the walls were filled with the Jet Beauty of the week.

The iconic magazine has just launched an app which will replace the paper magazine and they will be adding new content on a weekly basis. The premier digital issue features ingenue KeKe Palmer.

 

Here’s a snapshot of what the new app will offer:

· The first 360-degree view of the JET Beauty, with enhanced interaction with the model
· An exclusive viewing of Black&Sexy TV’s RoomieLoverFriends debut episode of season three – available only to JET app subscribers until July 6
· A chance to win a VIP experience to the largest house music event in the country – the 25th Annual Chosen Few Picnic (2015) in Chicago
· Featured celebrities – Stacey Dash, Anthony Anderson, Trey Songz and Taraji P. Henson

For more details visit www.jetmag.com/godigital

KeKe Palmer

KeKe Palmer

 

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