Queen Latifah promotes beauty, empowerment at Essence Music Festival in New Orleans

By Chevel Johnson, AP
Saturday, July 4, 2009

Essence Fest celebrates black music, culture

NEW ORLEANS — Queen Latifah dropped by the Essence Music Festival on Friday to help celebrate its 15th year of uplifting and empowering the African-American community through issues-filled seminars by day and high-powered musical performances by night.

Queen Latifah, a spokeswoman for Cover Girl’s Queen Collection, said she was happy to support an event that tackles concepts close to her heart but also weaves in fun.

Essence has always “been a trend setter,” she said. It’s an “iconic magazine when it comes to black women and creating the image of beauty for black women, inner beauty as well as outer beauty.”

Essence, which opened Friday, runs through Sunday with performances in the Louisiana Superdome by artists including Al Green, Anita Baker, Lionel Richie and Robin Thicke. Beyonce, John Legend, Ne-Yo and Salt-n-Pepa were slated to perform Friday night.

At the convention center, booths provide complimentary makeovers, free food and drink samples. Also, vendors sold clothes and other merchandise. Thousands walked through Friday.

At Procter and Gamble’s “My Black is Beautiful” booth, dozens of women stood in line to get an autograph and have their picture taken with Queen Latifah, who says the campaign ties in everything that encompasses the festival.

“It’s all about the beauty that you have and letting it show from the inside out,” she said. “It’s honoring your skin, your hair, your body. This tour is all about positivity and becoming the total, complete woman. We need that.”

Judy Leslie, of Hollis, N.Y., was excited to be there.

“I’ve been wanting to come for a long time, because everyone had been telling me how fabulous everything was and I wanted to see close up how New Orleans is cleaning up after Katrina,” she said, as the crowd grew behind her. “This year finally presented itself where I could come.”

Organizers have lofty expectations for this year’s festival, which they believe is on track to surpass last year’s attendance high of about 270,000.

“We’re back in a city that’s rebounding heroically after one of the worst major disasters in the world and the Essence Music Festival is bigger and stronger than ever before,” Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., told an event-launching news conference Friday.

“When the festival returned after (Hurricane) Katrina, it was like a psychological salve healing the wounds of New Orleans,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said. “The festival helped accelerate the city’s recovery and gave its citizens something they could look forward to.”

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