Oprah, Essence. Essence, Oprah.
More than two decades after its founding as the anniversary celebration of a magazine marketed to African-American women, the Essence Festival finally will welcome one of the most prominent and successful African-American women in the world: Oprah Winfrey.
On Thursday, the festival’s organizers announced that the multimedia mogul, whose enterprises include a magazine of her own, is a last-minute addition to the roster of the 2016 Essence Festival’s daytime Empowerment Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center this weekend.
Winfrey is scheduled to speak at the center on Saturday at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but space is limited.
“Oprah’s message of inspiration is universal and, through her life’s work, she has influenced women and girls across the globe,” Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa De Luca said in a statement. “We are delighted that Iyanla Vanzant graciously invited Oprah to the Essence Festival as a special gift for the fans, so we are welcoming our passionate community to join us for an absolutely extraordinary experience not to be missed.”
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Vanzant, a life coach and relationship expert, hosts the talk show “Iyanla: Fix My Life” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Vanzant already was booked for the Essence Empowerment Experience before Thursday’s announcement that she would be joined by the owner of the TV network that broadcasts her show.
Thousands of attendees roam the Convention Center throughout Essence weekend; some prefer the free daytime events to the nighttime concerts at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Scheduled speakers and entertainers at various empowerment seminars and related Convention Center events this weekend include Tina Knowles (aka Beyonce’s mother), gospel star Yolanda Adams, TV journalist Soledad O’Brien, activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams and local funk-soul-spoken word band Tank & the Bangas.
Charlie Wilson, one of the festival’s most popular performers, is slated to sign copies of his autobiography, which was just released in paperback, at the Convention Center throughout the weekend, including a session starting at 1 p.m. Friday.
The Essence Center Stage and Fan Zone at the center hosts interviews with the likes of the Rev. T.D. Jakes, Tyrese and Faith Evans, performances by such up-and-comers as Zion Moore and Drew Vision, and sessions with “fitness all-stars,” including south Louisiana rapper Cupid, whose popular line dance “The Cupid Shuffle” is the basis of his “CuRobiks” regimen.
The Center Stage and Fan Zone areas are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
But Winfrey is likely to draw the largest crowd at the Convention Center this weekend.