I’m going to attempt to squeeze 48 hours of travel, music, fun, and no sleep into this blog without losing you, so here goes.

Rewind to a month prior.

I was sitting at home (probably on my computer) when I got the call from Reggie asking if I wanted to shoot at the Essence Festival this year. Well of course I couldn’t say no seeing as though I attended my first Essence Festival just last year. What a difference a year makes! I would bring my camera to the Super Dome to get there early to get a good spot to shoot from behind the pit.   Thank you God.

Now fast forward to July 6th. I wasn’t able to make it to New Orleans until that Saturday since I couldn’t get the Friday off work.

After sitting in traffic for almost an hour in Baton Rouge and dodging a few showers, I made it to New Orleans safe and sound. Shortly after getting settled in, I met up with the rest of the team to get to work. We walked to the W Hotel for a Day Party, hung out for a bit, and surprisingly walked into Chef Roble on the street and got a few photos with him. Considering this was my real time hanging out for the Essence Fest, this was a pretty good start for a weekend that was planned out of nowhere. Its the spontaneous moments in life that I find the most enjoyable. And speaking of spontaneous, I happened to see Taraji Henson twice in one day. How cool is that?

Later on that evening, the team headed to the Super Dome to catch the second night of performances which included Faith Evans, Trey Songz,  Bilal, Keyshia Cole, Solange, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, and more. Some of the acts I saw bits and pieces of their performances between running from the press room to the main stage to the super lounges, but kudos to each artist who performed that night.

The highlights of the night were:

Trey Songz in the media room bringing out Kevin Hart to be his spokesman and Houston Rocket James Harden…for some reason unknown.

Keyshia Cole brought out her husband Daniel Gibson as well and answered a few questions.

Faith Evans packed out the super lounge to a maximum capacity and there still was a line after I left shooting. She brought out R&B Diva Kelly Price to sing a  few songs. Also After I left the lounge.

Bilal had a huge crowd as well singing word for word to his songs even though I only know “Soul Sista”. I wish I got to hear him sing that song while I was in there, but from what I heard he put on a great show.

Uncle Charlie really brought the energy and the crowd was going crazy as he rocked the main stage. He had several outfit changes, soul train lines, two steps, and piano playing. He definitely showed the younger artists how to have stage presence and just have a great time.

New Edition came in the media room for a short time before going on stage and each one of them looked great. I forget that although they’re in their 40’s that they’ve been performing to packed crowds since pre-teens. That’s some serious longevity and I’ll forever be a fan.

Well on the last night of the festival, and the Sunday performers brought it as well. I didn’t spend much time at all in the media room because I had my performance schedules pre-planned of how I was going to maneuver about. After a minor camera malfunction earlier that morning and thanks to YouTube, I was ready. The lineup was Luke James, Tamia, Marsha Ambrosius, Mint Condition, Rachele Ferrell, TGT, Janelle Monae, and lastly Beyonce.

I’m gonna make this quick and give a brief description of each performance:

Luke James: Can’t wait to see this brother get more exposure as an artist. Luke is a really good singer and has a ton of stage presence which is a major plus to me as a fan. He even brought flowers for ladies on the front row and sung I.O.U. to his mom. Sweet. Look out for him.

TGT – Tank, Ginuwine, & Tyrese: I’m still waiting on the long awaited album, but the highlight of their performance was Tank calling random ladies in the audience to the front and paying for them to get their hair & nails done. Interesting and thoughtful.

Tamia did a really great job and it was a first time I heard of a performer having 2 sets for Essence. I’ve always loved her voice and she did not disappoint. Both of her sets were maximum capacity and I even spotted Grant Hill sitting offstage watching his wife perform. How sweet 🙂

I didn’t get to take in much of Janelle Monae’s performance due to getting shots of her a midst a plethora of photographers, but that’s how the pit goes. I think she is tremendously talented and equally pretty. She performed a high energy all while feeling under the weather.

When I got to Marsha’s set, she was JAMMING nothing but old school hip hop classics and even played some music from the South.  I loved the dance battle she did in the between the songs too. Marsha is severely underrated with great stage presence. As I was heading back to the mainstage, she was singing Far Away.

Of course we all know Beyonce brought the energy from the moment she stepped out on stage. How ironic that it was another slight technical difficulty with the monitors but no lights went out this time. Mrs Carter packed 9 or 10 outfit changes into a 90 minute set which still amazes me. My favorite performance was End of Time and Why Don’t You Love Me in which Les Twins kiiiiilled their dance routine. Beyonce closed out the show with “I Will Always Love You” leading to Halo as the concert came to a close. I hadn’t seen Beyonce live since she first released “Dangerously In love” and was still performing at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Well worth the price of admission so check her show out if you can.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first time as an official photographer for the Essence Festival and I thank Houston Style Magazine for the opportunity. You guys rock!


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