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Gabrielle Union, Bethann Hardison, Mikki Taylor, Iman, Patric Yursek
I have to thank my lucky stars for Candace of Chic Busy Mom
for getting me invited to the first ESSENCE Upfront, which I attended just a
few days ago.  It was my first event of
this nature, and it was a treat to say the least.
ESSENCE Upfront was a full-day of all things ESSENCE from the
magazine, to the festival, and new things that will debut in 2014.
ESSENCE Upfront began with the Smart Beauty 7 panel moderated
by ESSENCE Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor, featuring actress Gabrielle Union, Bethann
Hardison, casting director and legendary supermodel of the 1970’s, super model
and entrepreneur, Iman, and beauty blogger AKA the God Mother of Beauty
Blogging, Patrice Yursek of Afrobella
The Beauty discussion piqued my interest of course, and it was
interesting to learn the different perspectives on black beauty and its
representation or lack thereof in the fashion and beauty industries from each
of the ladies on the panel.  Bethann
Hardison was straightforward, opinionated and was the most entertaining.  I loved her, and even had the opportunity of
sitting next to her during lunch, oh and June Ambrose, too! Lucky, lucky!
ESSENCE Online Fashion Editor Celia Smith  with Celebrity Stylist/Designer June Ambrose
Emil Wilbekin introducing Marsha Ambrosius
Before lunch, and after a recap of his experience at the
ESSENCE Festival, Emil Wilbekin, Managing Editor at ESSENCE Magazine stated he worked
some magic and had a special treat for the attendees.  Guess what it was? A live performance by
Marsha Abrosius! Marsha performed I believe three songs – “Butterflies”, “Say
Yes” and forgive me because I can’t remember the other one.  She was great! I loved especially her well-tailored
blue suit and her hair was gorgeous! Thanks Emil for putting together that
performance for us! Check my instagram, BeautyandtheBump for clips of her performances. 
Another topic which was covered later during the afternoon
session that was interesting to me was the discussion of the [negative] portrayal
of African American women in the media – from shows like Basketball Wives, Love
& Hip Hop etc send the wrong message about the reality of African American
women.  We’re not all angry, gold-digging,
catty or ratchet.  You will find that a
lot of us are educated, and refined.  ESSENCE
has launched #imagesofme on their instagram account which lead to a debate on
October 14 to discuss the ways the media portrays African American women, what
we’d like to do, and how we can work towards getting there.
Viola Davis
Other appearances included Viola Davis, who wore a killer
green dress. I felt her pain when she shared that she never felt pretty, and
how people are so critical of the roles she plays as an actress.  I honestly never thought she wasn’t pretty.  Danai
Gurira of The Walking Dead stopped by to chat with us for a bit, too!  She is beautiful. I also loved her dress.
Both ladies spoke eloquently, and I probably could have listened to both of
them for hours. Speaking of The Walking Dead, I need to catch up, and possibly
get the DVD box set.
Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead 
As a take away, and ‘Thank
You’ GiGi New York provided attendees with personalized monogrammed  items. I chose an indigo iphone case that
holds not only the iPhone, but my credit cards and/or identification as well.
ESSENCE has so many new things coming in 2014 for the 20th
Anniversary of the ESSENCE Festival, street style awards, new website design
and more.  I can’t wait to experience it
all when the time comes!