Caroline Wanga, President and CEO of ESSENCE Communications Inc. and Chief Growth Officer of ESSENCE Ventures, explained the genesis of the brand in an interview with On The Red Carpet’s Storytellers Spotlight.
“The ESSENCE brand was created when black women weren’t seen in their full light. […] also existed. But there was something about her voice, the way she lived, the way she existed, what she needed to know how great she was, that was seen as a gap in the media industry,” Wanga explained.
“A group of men decided it was important to showcase black women who are extremely important to them and started this thing called ESSENCE,” she continued. “And then halfway through, a festival came into being that is still the biggest festival in the country in terms of attendance per day.”
After a two-year hiatus in person due to the COVID pandemic, the highly anticipated ESSENCE Cultural Festival is back for 2022. The event, which started in 1995, has been called the Super Bowl of festivals because it attracts some of the hottest performers in American culture and draws more than 500,000 attendees. It was initially music-only, but has now grown into an event that hosts a variety of activations during the July 4 holiday.
This year is particularly unique as The Walt Disney Company will be the exclusive entertainment partner and invite the public to experience this year’s theme: The Power of Joy.
Pauline Malcolm, Chief Revenue Officer of ESSENCE, explained how storytelling plays a central role at the festival: “We have a series of filmmakers and a festival that The Walt Disney Company will be sponsoring. [that tells] the stories of our beauty, telling the stories of our well-being, through business. It’s all woven holistically into the fabric of our festival, through all the different programming we have. We have round tables [and] music is a big part of the storytelling we do with our nightly gigs.”
Wanga further explained how storytelling has played an important role in the African Diaspora and how the ESSENCE brand aims to continue to connect all people of African descent.
“We will play our part. Reconnecting the African Diaspora is reconnecting the power that is who we are,” Wanga said. “Our culture, how we influence the world, what we are capable of has not gone away. It has been dissected.”
She continued: “What we’re excited to do is bring it back together, remind it how awesome it is, tell the story of before we were enslaved and colonized and bring people back. how great they were and how great this future is going to be.”
Attendees can expect to see greatness reflected in this year’s star-studded lineup with performances from Kevin Hart, Janet Jackson, Mickey Guyton, New Edition and more.
For the first time this year, Hulu is the official streaming partner of ESSENCE and will offer live streaming of selected performances and panels, dubbed “ESSENCE FEST PRIMETIME,” from July 1-3. Available at no additional cost to Hulu subscribers, the live stream will begin at 8 p.m. ET | 7pm CT | 5:00 p.m. PT each night and run for five hours.
The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of this ABC station.
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