NEW YORK, July 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Once again, the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival proved to be the place to be during Fourth of July weekend with 413,000 attendees from around the world descending upon picturesque New Orleans for the newly-expanded four day Festival, themed "The Power of Our Voice."
This year marked the 18th anniversary for the Festival, which has grown to become the definitive African-American live cultural experience of the year. The Festival featured A-list R&B, pop and soul musicians, buzzed-about new comers and some of the nation's most influential speakers, artists, authors, innovators, educators and leaders. New programs for 2012 included the "New & Next" youth concert, which featured the hottest youth acts including: Roshon Fegan, Diggy Simmons, The OMG Girlz, Katlyn Nichol, CoCo Jones and New Orleans' marching band The Roots of Music.
"The ESSENCE Music Festival is the only gathering where our audience will not only be entertained but they will also be inspired to make a difference in their lives and communities when they leave," said ESSENCE Communications President Michelle Ebanks. "With more events, more performers, and more personalities than ever before, this year's ESSENCE Festival offered four full days of entertainment, empowerment, and community. Plus, we devoted an entire day to celebrating our youth. Combining our party and our purpose makes the Festival the ultimate four-day experience—not only for entertainment, but also for celebration, information and inspiration. You won't find anything like it anywhere else…until our 2013 ESSENCE Music Festival, returning to New Orleans July 4-7 in 2013!"
Highlights of the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival included:
- 40th Anniversary performance by the "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, who received the Festival's first-ever "Power Award"
- Celebrated 11th Festival performance by fan-favorite Mary J. Blige. The "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" electrified the crowd with her soulful, energetic performance—and followed her emotional set with three encores!
- ESSENCE, Chaka Khan and the institute of Women and Ethnic Studies saluted the triumphs of 33 post-Katrina women of the greater New Orleans community in the first graduation ceremony from the Superlife Transformation Program. The vocal powerhouse also gave a rousing performance of her classic hit, "I'm Every Woman"
- Comedic genius Kevin Hart left the audience screaming in the aisles for more during his debut performance at the annual event
- First major concert performance in more than a decade by R&B/Soul sensation D'Angelo
- Media personality Steve Harvey conducted a rousing set of Family Feud that kept Festivalgoers in stitches at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
- On Thursday, thousands of New Orleans youth screamed with excitement during the Youth Empowerment Experience featuring Roshon Fegan, Diggy Simmons, Kevin Stylez and more.
- MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry gave a brilliant keynote on the various images of Black women in media
- Former Destiny's Child singer Michelle Williams served as a moderator during a spirited panel discussion entitled, "Families in the Name of Love: The Truth Behind Reality TV," featuring sisters Tamar and Trina Braxton; Mary Mary; and Cynthia Bailey and Malorie Bailey- Massie
- Former Gap Band leader Charlie Wilson closed out the show on Friday with a dynamic performance and costume changes. "Uncle Charlie" didn't disappoint and had the crowd dancing in the aisles with Gap Band hits such as Yearning for Your Love, You Dropped a Bomb on Me and Party Train and later with solo numbers Life of the Party and There Goes My Baby
- Trey Songz made every woman feel like he was singing directly to them during his electrifying set on Friday at the Louisiana Superdome
- CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien conducted a thought-provoking interview with Steve Harvey where he talked about his road to success
- Multi-faceted entertainer Vanessa Williams shared the stage with her mom Helen Williams during a candid conversation on love, laughter, and surviving drama
- Fantasia literally walked through the crowd as she sang her heart out during a performance that included her signature hits and ended with a soulful gospel medley
- ESSENCE Empowerment Experience presentations on the "Power of Family & Love" and the "Power of Community," including a tribute to the Rev. Al Sharpton, as well as a "Power of Our Spirit" All-Star Gospel Salute to Mary Mary and Fred Hammond featuring gospel icons: Yolanda Adams, Marvin Sapp, Israel Houghton, Tramaine Hawkins, Kim Burrell, Melvin Williams, VaShawn Mitchell, Bishop Lester Love and many more
- The festival concluded on Sunday, July 8th, with a special, once in a lifetime ensemble comprised of Chaka Khan and the R&B Divas. Immediately following Franklin's impeccable headlining performance, Chaka returned for a sixty-minute encore performance with The R&B Divas, comprised of Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert, Monifah Carter, Syleenah Johnson and Keke Wyatt, where together they paid tribute to the R&B artists who passed away over this past year including Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and others.
- Chaka herself sported a newly svelte look as she belted hits such as I Feel for You, Sweet Thing, I'm Every Woman and Tell Me Something Good
The presenting sponsor for the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival is Coca-Cola. Major sponsors include Coors Light, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Ford, My Black is Beautiful, U.S. Army and Verizon. Official Sponsors are CNN, State Farm, TBS, TV-One and Visa Pre-Paid. Superlounge sponsors are Coca-Cola, Ford, McDonald's and Verizon Wireless.
The 2012 ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL is executive produced by ESSENCE Festivals LLC, a division of ESSENCE Communications Inc. (ECI). GeChar is the executive producer of the 2012 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience.
ABOUT ESSENCE COMMUNICATIONS INC.:
ESSENCE Communications Inc. (ECI) is the number one media company dedicated to African-American women, with a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events, and online. The company's flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the ESSENCE Music Festival, ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood and Black Women in Music, Window on Our Women and Smart Beauty consumer insights series, the ESSENCE Book Club, ESSENCE.com, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 42 years, ESSENCE, which has a brand reach of over 8 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information and specific solutions relating to every area of African-American women's lives. Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at www.ESSENCE.com.
SOURCE ESSENCE Communications Inc.