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Essence Music Festival 2012: The Parlour Review

Two days after wrapping up the BET Awards, I headed down to the Essence Music Festival thanks to the event’s sponsored press trip. And no, I wasn’t sipping a cool hand grenade on Bourbon Street because, between writing, tweeting, instagraming, event-hopping and actually, you know, watching performances by artists like Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo and Aretha Franklin, I was happily exhausted. I ended up looking like this and here’s why.

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, from the food to the accents and the fabulous heat, I just love it. The first night, I skipped Diggy Simmons and the teen concert at the Superdome for a Hennessy-sponsored Carol’s Daughter event, where I ran into Amanda Diva, who was spinning, and MSNBC host and Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry. Crossing the street to the House of Blues, I checked out Tamia’s performance as her husband Grant Hill looked on and shared that the couple was introduced to one another by Anita Baker. Cute. Bell Biv DeVoe – yes, that BBD – followed and my girls and I battled each other with “Poison” choreography. I’m pretty sure I won.

On Friday, I headed to the 365 Black Awards presented by McDonald’s, where I spoke to Chaka Khan and Mary Mary among others on a red carpet so hot that Eric Benet, after posing for photos for three minutes said, “I can’t do this, I’m going inside.” iDie. Hopping a ride to the Essence Empowerment Experience at the Convention Center, I caught a few minutes with Mrs. Harris-Perry. I’m crafting our chat into a separate piece, don’t worry ladies but she was awesome and stunted on me by mentioning that her third date with her husband was A TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA. Treated.

D’Angelo ruled the Superdome stage that evening and thanks to my seat mate, R&B newcomer Luke James, I wasn’t alone as I sang every word of the Voodoo singer’s set. But we weren’t the majority. D performed a divisive show and fans either loved or hated the fact that his songs seemed like a jam session. Similar to his BET Awards set, he re-worked some of his hits like “Chicken Grease” but didn’t play staples like “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine.” Me, I was thrilled, I saw the R&B recluse in concert dammit. Elsewhere, I caught Goapele singing “Closer,” and blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. who’s sort of sounds like Jack White, if he were black. Charlie Wilson closed the night’s show and I danced so hard along with my new buddy Julee Wilson at the Huffington Post, that we wore ourselves out. “You can’t keep running in and out of my life … ,” sang “Charlie, Last Name Wilson.” Oh, and I didn’t hit Kevin Hart’s birthday party later that night (writing) but my girl did and Denzel Washington definitely tried to take her home. SMH.

On Saturday, I headed to Saks Fifth Avenue for champagne and feminist conversation with stylist June Ambrose, thanks to Coca Cola.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she said, when asked her perspective on the women having it all debate. “Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning but I step back and figure it out. You can’t be good to others if you aren’t good to yourself, and society’s made us feel guilty about it. You’re better to people when you’re happy.”

Ledisi hit the Superdome stage Saturday night and sang my jam “In The Morning,” followed by Kevin Hart’s jokes on jokes on jokes. Even if I told you that my face hurt from laughing during his performance, I still wouldn’t be able to communicate the hilarity this tiny man delivered. Hart had pyrotechnics and every time he said something the crowd liked he said, “I’m killing ya’ll! Throw some fire on ’em!” Mary J. Blige closed the night’s festivities with a high energy, emotional set that brought me to tears, as she thanked fans for supporting her during her “hellified year.” It’s rough when a chicken commercial goes awry, I suppose.

Early Sunday morning, I test drove the Ford 2013 Mustang and surprised everyone at the booth because a) I’m a woman who can drive a manual and b) I selected the Mustang. Who were these other people that don’t know how to drive a stick? The Mustang is powerful and was fun to drive once I negotiated the clutch-gas ratio smoothly but next year, I demand a drag racing strip so I can really test Ford’s products!

Anthony Hamilton, Bridget Kelly and Eve caught my interest during the final night’s performances, though Aretha Franklin was the most entertaining. There’s a difference between hearing that an artist is a diva and seeing their actions to prove it. As the Essence Music Festival headliner, Franklin wasn’t the last performer, Chaka Khan was, but the “Respect” singer’s set was so long, she could’ve easily been the final act of the night. Franklin didn’t conclude until nearly 12:30 a.m., which meant Khan didn’t hit the stage until around 1 a.m. I’m young but even I was tired. Then during her set, Aretha, after changing from her ball gown into a bedazzled muumuu and flat sandals,  interrupted one of her classics to tell the production team, into her microphone on stage, they were about to get cut.

“Please turn the air down on the stage, so I don’t have to leave the stage,” she said.

iDie. It was freezing in the Superdome though, at one point, my teeth were chattering. Ultimately, I had a ball down in New Orleans and look forward to doing it all again in 2013. And if you’re ever contemplating making the trip with your girls, or your guys, do it. You won’t regret it!

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