The kids were gone and so was my wife. My girls weren’t with me. My sisters weren’t there either. I said to myself – “It’s Essence Festival, get up and go you, don’t need someone to go with!” And I did just that, with only one regret of not staying longer. I carefully took out my twists one by one and fluffed my fro. On to beating my face (applying makeup) and heading to the Convention Center to indulge myself into a day’s journey of #blackgirlmagic. Essence Festival here I come.
Before that day, I’d only attended the festival twice, once with my family (ended quickly because who has time to maneuver a stroller in large crowds) and once I attended a concert with my BFF. I’d heard of Essence Festival previously but never knew the magnitude of the weekend event.
I guess 2018 was the perfect year to create intentional plans of attending since the movie Girl’s Trip popularity was a main factor in the increased attendance. Every corner I turned, it was pops of color from the beautiful outfits, all different types of hairstyles, different groups of friends, but mostly I witnessed joy. Joy revealed through their eyes, smiles, attitudes, and laughter.
I am Type A and a planner at heart. That day was a tad different. I made plans to meet up with a few friends, but gave myself grace and permission to just go with the flow. I am so happy I did … affirmations and dreams happened prior to this day and on this day.
I met Tootie!
Yes! Tootie from Facts of Life or some may know her as the sassy Regine from Living Single. During Essence Festival, many authors, celebrities, and other influencers will host events throughout the city. I literally received the notification about Kim Fields book signing a couple of days prior. It was supposed to be a surprise for one of my sisters who is responsible for my love of Tootie. Unfortunately, my sister was unable to join me so I went alone. A dream came true, I met Tootie with the ponytails and braces. I even sang the Living Single theme song with her.
From foster child to foster care advocate
We met at Café Du Monde. A scheduled 30 minute conversation turned into a deeper connection and hours of connecting. Tashima Dukes, is this super human’s name. She was a former foster child placed in more than 10 foster homes and I was a newly former foster parent. I was nervous (so not who I am) to meet her as conversations regarding foster care can be heavy, emotional, and draining. Not this time. Our conversation was refreshing, inspirational, uplifting, and empowering. Our meeting came at the perfect time in my life, as my wife and I made the decision to take a break fostering children to focus on our sons. Her words of encouragement and acknowledgement of my contribution to foster care gave me the confirmation I needed. She writes about her experience in foster care in multiple books.
No doubt, Essence is the place where being star struck will hit you hard. Celebrities are sprinkled all around New Orleans and Convention Center the entire weekend. My girlfriend and I met up to attend the a viewing of a new Fox show, Rel. This was her first time attending Essence and she even met her favorite baker from Cupcake Collection. We enjoyed truffle popcorn, laughter, and a few momma drinks.
Girlfriend!! I see you!!
As I walked through the packed Convention Center, I spotted a few familiar faces. One coworker, my BFF, but there was one face that made another dream come true. Was it her? Yes, it was Heather Cummings, Founder and CEO of Curlkit. At the time she started her company, I’d just transition to natural hair and subscribed to her monthly subscription box as customer #75. She issued a YouTube challenge which led me to starting my YouTube journey and eventually reviewing the monthly boxes. Take a look here. Finally, as I was preparing to end my day at Essence, I was so fortunate to run into one of my favorite natural hair YouTubers, Ambrosia.
I did it! No shame. No regrets. No kids pulling on me. No time limits. Great food. Lots of networking. Much love and joy all from one decision to attend Essence Festival alone. Sure, having your girls would make the experience sweeter, but nothing is sweeter than enjoying your own company.