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Essence Fest Turns 30: 2024 Event Recap

Essence Fest Turns 30: 2024 Event Recap

usher performs on stage at essence fest 2024

On July 5, Essence Fest returned to New Orleans for another weekend of music, food, and culture. Now on its 30th iteration, what started as a way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine has become the preeminent celebration of contemporary African American culture in the U.S. Every Essence Fest features a star-studded lineup of performers and an inspiring roster of speakers, and this year was no different. Read on for a recap of the best moments from this year’s event as Essence Fest celebrated its 30th anniversary. 

Iconic Performances

The weekend got off to a strong start with performances by 2 Chainz, Busta Rhymes, Ari Lennox, T-Pain and more on Friday evening. On Saturday night, Usher took the stage for a performance in celebration of the 20th anniversary of his album Confessions. He was joined by a choir as he took the audience on a musical journey through his multi-decade career. 

usher performs at essence fest 2024
Usher delighted fans with a performance in celebration of 20 years of his album Confessions at this year’s Essence Fest. @usher on Instagram.

Sunday night brought another round of exciting performances, with rising star Victoria Monét taking the stage. 

In what was a favorite for many attendees, headliner Janet Jackson closed out the festival with an hour-long set on Sunday. Wearing matching nude sweatsuits, Jackson and her backup dancers opened with “No Sleep” and “Got ’til It’s Gone.” She also performed several of her classic songs including “Any Time, Any Place” and “I Get Lonely,” before covering “Scream,” a duet between her and her late brother Michael Jackson

@essence

This performance definitely made us scream! The Queen pays tribute to the King of Pop, Micheal Jackson. #ESSENCEFest30

♬ original sound – essence

Inspiring Speakers

The weekend also featured several speaker events that covered everything from democracy and wealth to dating and social media. The Global Black Economic Forum offered several roundtable and panel discussions on global social justice and the expansion of Black economic opportunity. Ava Duvernay joined Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence, for a discussion on adapting the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent into film. The Essence Girls United Creator House even brought together popular digital creators like Reesa Teesa for discussions on all things social media and content creation. 

For the third year in a row, Vice President Kamala Harris also made an appearance at Essence Fest, joining Wanga for a “Chief to Chief” conversation. During the discussion, Harris urged voters to consider the gravity of the upcoming election. 

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Food, Makeup, and More

The festival also offered a chance for attendees to dive into all things culinary. Professional chefs gave live demos on cuisine from all around the world, covering everything from New Orleans staples to Caribbean classics. As part of its Food and Wine activation, the festival also offered several panel discussions on culinary topics, including conversations on fighting food waste and combating food deserts

Similarly, Essence Fest also hosted BeautyCon, where attendees could explore all things beauty and skincare. Cosmetic chemists Javon Ford and Sister Scientist took the stage to debunk common beauty myths, while other conversations centered around the origins of beauty standards and how to be your authentic self

Above all, this year’s Essence Festival honored and celebrated its own cultural impact. “This thing is not a gathering of people,” Wanga said on The View in late June. “It is a celebration of community.” 

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