I have a motto: work hard, play harder. For the past 12 years I’ve successfully mastered this delicate balance of work and play. But last weekend, my professional and personal worlds collided in New Orleans at the 2010 Essence Music Festival. As it turns out, the event that had been on my personal “to do” list would finally get checked off – thanks to my job! Here’s a peek into how the weekend unfolded:
Thursday – July 1
7am, NYC: Flight departs. Ever saw the movie Soul Plane? Ok, it wasn’t that bad but now that you have the visual… (smile)
3:30pm: A client conference call AND a mani/pedi at Hotel Monteleone’s Spa Aria (ah, the power of the mute button). I heart Spa Aria. My first visit was during my first trip to NOLA in 2008 for my girl’s bachelorette trip. Excellent service all around and this time did not disappoint. Neither did Essie’s “Marshmallow” shade on the fingers and toes. One of my go to favorites. Simple, classy, and chic.
7:00pm: Essence Music Festival Welcome Reception at Mardi Gras World. A spirited, classy affair hosted by Essence Magazine. The inside of this place mimicked an outdoor garden at nightfall complete with a cool breeze and a moonlit dark sky painted on the dome ceiling. You’d never know you weren’t really outdoors. As I nibbed on hors d’oeuvres and sipped Moet I ran into former co-workers and a few industry pals. At the bar I chopped it up with Emil Wilbekin of Essence.com. We got into a friendly debate about who was Mary J. Blige’s biggest fan. He says he is. I’ll let him have it but my sister, DaVida is a close second.
11pm: After the show there’s the after party and after the party there’s the … yep, hotel lobby where I met up with my clients who had just arrived. Drinks, chatter, and laughs at the hotel bar before calling it a night.
Friday – July 2
7pm: Client dinner at Herbsaint. I highly recommend this restaurant to any one visiting NOLA. The food was excellent but the highlight was dessert: goat cheese filled beignets. To say they were delicious would be an understatement.
8:30pm: The anticipation of Janet rippled throughout the Superdome. It would be her first performance at Essence, her first concert since 2008, and her first concert since Michael’s death. While we waited for Ms. Jackson to take the stage, I escorted my clients to the Belvedere VIP lounge where we talked shop with a couple of Essence Magazine executives and spotted Boris Kodjoe, Rev. Al Sharpton, NeNe Leakes, Keith Sweat, and Cheryl Burton (from Chicago’s ABC7 for all my Chi-town guys and gals…forever I love her!)
11:30pm: When Janet took the stage the Superdome went nuts – me and my clients included. So let me go ahead and get this part out of the way… SHE LOOKED AH-MAZING! Flawless and fabulous. From her short hair do to her sculpted back to her legs of perfection. She was the fantasy of every man and the envy of every woman in the Superdome that night.
Saturday – July 3
In between all of the day’s work activity I had a chance to take note of few haute fashion finds for the fashionista in all of us. Be on the lookout for a new clothing line from Beyonce’s mom, Tina Knowles called “Miss Tina” by Tina Knowles. It debuts this fall at Walmart. Another fashion accessory you don’t want to be without comes from Mary J. Blige. Her new line of sunglasses was on display and she even made an appearance to pub her new fragrance “My Life”.
The highlight of the concert line up was Gladys Knight. It just doesn’t get any better than Gladys. She belted out all of her classics like “If I Were Your Woman”, “Love Overboard”, “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”, and my personal favorite “Midnight Train to Georgia”. She was even accompanied on stage by her brother and former Pip, Bubba. Only one word could sum up her look and sound: Timeless.
Alicia Keys rounded out the night’s performances. She was glowing from head to toe when only minutes into her opening set she slipped and fell (!!!). It happened quick. And many folks sitting near me were a bit confused – Did she fall? What just happened? Like a pro she jumped back up and never skipped a bit but it seemed to me she was on autopilot for the rest of the show, giving just enough emotion to get through the song but not much more. I truly hope she and baby are OK!
Sunday – July 4
While most of the country fired up the grill and indulged in bbq, I made my way to Café du Monde for BEIGNETS with a few work pals. If you’ve ever had so much as a sniff of a beignet then you can appreciate my desire to WALK back to the hotel in an attempt to stem the impact of those beignets on my waistline. I know, I know… but every little bit helps!
The last night at the Superdome promised to be a crowd pleaser. Trey Songz, Jill Scott, Mary J. Bilge and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Essence definitely saved the best for last. Jill Scott, who recently headlined a concert tour with Maxwell, looked fab and laid back in her sequined leggings and black v-neck adorned with a jeweled belt that spelled out “Jill” on the buckle. She performed an abridged version of her recent concert sets but it was still equally entertaining.
Now…I will go on the record and say that while I LOVE Janet and everything about her performance, Mary J. Blige turned it out! Her energy, her look, her voice, her heart, her passion, her hits – the entire Superdome stood for her entire performance as if in salute to the Queen of Hip Hop and R&B. “Real Love”, “I’m Goin’ Down”, “My Life”, “Just Fine”…it was non-stop Mary and the crowd loved every minute. Trey Songz joined her on stage for her latest hit “Hood Love” and later in the show she brought out T. I. Her concert rendition of “No More Drama” had me waving my church fan as she seemed to become filled with emotion while singing. We’re talking about squatting down to the floor and hopping up and down, y’all… why we call her the Queen.
Finally, Earth, Wind, and Fire took the stage although to a half empty Superdome. They were great although Maurice White was noticeably missing. So it was more like “Earth and Wind”. Still, a great show!
Monday, July 5th
Monday morning I departed NOLA on a flight back to NYC. Doug E. Fresh and Kevin Liles boarded the same plane along with lots of other festival-goers. Everyone looked like they had been partying non-stop for four days and I’m sure Essence wouldn’t have had it any other way.