Essence Festival Recap: Actors Edition

Hey Cuties,

This has been a tough week, I was all excited about sharing my Essence experience and then I couldn’t form the words. Real life is happening and it had me stuck. I have two black men in my home that I worry about constantly. I don’t want anyone to be threatened by the color of their skin. In the spirit of all of this brown-ness I’m sharing part 2 of my trip.

Part 1: Tramping  Around New Orleans  Part 2: Essence Festival Recap: Actors Edition 
Part 3: New Orleans #FatSnacks  Part 4: Essence Festival Recap: Music Edition  Part 5: New Orleans Music & Culture

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Larenz Tate Dondre Whitfield

Larenz Tate & Dondre Whitfield

I kicked off my entrance to the Essence Music Festival with fine and fine. Also known as Larenz Tate (Love Jones, House of Lies, Why Do Fools Fall in Love & Girl Trip) and Dondre Whitfield (Robert on The Cosby Show & Queen Sugar) they were on a Fatherhood Panel with VP Ron Andrews (not pictured) and Ed Gordon. (not pictured). They talked about the importance of taking your daughters on dates and showing your sons how to treat women by treating their wives like queens.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Kandi Burruss Yandy Smith

Kandi Burruss & Yandy Smith

Kandi Burruss (Xscape, RHOA, Singer, Songwriter, Bedroom Kandi, Author & Business Owner) & Yandy Smith (LHHNY, Media Mogul & Violator Management) have teamed up to share their knowledge on motherhood and entrepreneurship. It is a book for women wondering how they handle motherhood and business. They both had babies within the past year and they breastfed them and took care of their businesses.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Tasha Smith

Far Right: Tasha Smith

I heard Tasha Smith‘s (ATL, Why did I get Married, Empire & For Better or Worse) voice and stopped in my tracks. I love her, I don’t know what this panel discussion was titled but she was honest and shared her personal experiences and how as women we are always worried about finding a man.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Kim Fields, Beverly Bond, Luvvie Ajayi, Tai Beauchamp

L to R: Kim Fields, Beverly Bond, Luvvie Ajayi & Tai Beauchamp

These fab ladies Kim Fields (Facts of Life, Living Single, RHOA), Beverly Bond (Dj & Founder of Black Girls Rock) Luvvie Ajayi (Awesomely Luvvie, Awesomely Techie & Author) & Tai Beauchamp (Travel & Style Person) talked about womanhood, giving back and #BlackGirlMagic.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 BernNadette Stanis Thelma Good Times

BernNadette Stanis

BernNadette Stanis famously known as Thelma from Good Time was there selling her book, t-shirts and taking pictures.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Cynthia Bailey

Cynthia Bailey

Cynthia Bailey is known for being on Real Housewives of Atlanta but prior to that she was a super model with Wilhelmina Models back in the day. She has a fashion school named the Bailey Agency and she recently launched Cynthia Bailey Eyewear. She is wearing a pair and trying them on a potential customer.  Oh and she has a daughter with the ultra fine actor Leon.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 J.B. Smoove Kimberly Elise Keri Hilson Almost Christmas

Keri Hilson, J. B. Smoove, Kimberly Elise – Almost Christmas

Singer turned actor Keri Hilson was there with fellow cast mate’s comedian J.B. Smoove (Real Husbands of Hollywood) and Kimberly Elise (John Q, Set it Off, For Colored Girls & Pride) They along with fifty other celebs are starring in a holiday movie title Almost Christmas.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Almost Christmas

Director David E. Talbert, Lyn Talbert & cast.

Almost Christmas is about a dysfunctional family that gets together for Thanksgiving after the death of their mom. Director David E. Talbert wanted this to be a classic holiday movie. We’ve not had one in several years. His wife Lyn Talbert is the Executive Producer, she has also collaborated with him on some other films. #BlackMagic

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Yazz Bryshere Gray Hakeem Lyon

Bryshere “Yazz” Gray

Actor Bryshere “Yazz” Gray aka Hakeem Lyon of the hit show Empire came to chat with us.  He obviously couldn’t give any details about the upcoming season. He is playing Michael Bivens in the New Edition movie, he said it was fun to learn 80’s culture since he wasn’t born yet. He also said the world felt like a more loving and happy place in the 80’s. That was an interesting tidbit, I totally agree with it though.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Ta'Rhonda Jones Serayah

Ta’Rhonda Jones & Serayah

The Ladies of Empire were in the building, actor Ta’Rhonda Jones aka Porsha and Serayah aka Tiana Brown.  Ta’Rhonda is coming out with her own clothing line. She has partnered with a local company out of Chicago and was excited to share the look she is wearing.  It is one of her designs.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Lee Daniels

Lee Daniels and the cast of STAR. L to R: Brittany O’Grady, Ryan Destiny & Jude Demorest

Lee Daniels, Film Producer (Empire, Lee Daniels, The Butler, Monster’s Ball, Precious) He hit the scene and has been killing it nonstop. I only listed a few projects but Lee has a lot more. He introduced these ladies to us;  they are the stars of his new show titled STAR. Fun Fact: Brittany O’Grady is from the DMV area.

This TV movie also stars Benjamin Bratt, Queen Latifah, Lenny Kravitz to name a few.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Aldis Hodge Janelle Monae

Aldis Hodge & Janelle Monae

The super cute Singer Songwriter Janelle Monae didn’t come to talk about music this time. Instead she came to talk about her new movie  Hidden Figures,“A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.  This is based on a true story, Aldis Hodge (Underground, Leverage) plays Levi in the movie. I can’t wait to see this.

This movie also stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kirsten Dunst and more.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Phaedra Parks

Phaedra Parks

The Southern Bell of the Real Housewives of Atlanta had her face in the place. She moderated a panel titled Mothers Saving Our Sons.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Pitch Mo McRae

Mo McRae & Kylie Bunbury

FOX has a new show this fall called Pitch and it stars Mo McRae (J Poppa on Empire, Niners Crew on Sons of Anarchy, Lee Daniels, The Butler) plays Blip & Kylie Bunbury (The Sitter & Under the Dome) plays Ginny. The show is about a young pitcher (Ginny) that becomes the first woman to play in the Major Leagues.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Lynn Whitfield

Lynn Whitfield

The iconic Lynn Whitfield, this woman’s resume is 500 pages long easy. She started out in 1981 but some of her most notable work was in The Women of Brewster’s Place, The Josephine Baker Story, The Cosby Mysteries and A Thin Line between Love and Hate. Now she is captivating audiences in OWN’s new show Greenleaf, she is Lady Mae Greenleaf and she doesn’t take any stuff.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Lynn Whitfield

MimiCuteLips & Lynn Whitfield

I was trying to be all cute and my pimple was not here for it. *side eye*

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Rosewood Morris Chestnut Lorraine Toussaint

Morris Chestnut, Jaina Lee Ortiz, Gabrielle Dennis & Lorraine Toussaint

Meet the cast of Rosewood; I’ll give you a minute to take in all the chocolaty goodness that is Morris Chestnut. I’ve not seen the show but they were recently renewed for a new season. I know all about Morris Chestnut (The Best Man, Boyz in the Hood, Out All Night, The Brothers & Ladder 49). Jaina Lee, is quickly making a name for herself although I wasn’t familiar with her work. She has been on Scream Queens as well as The ShopGabrielle Dennis (The Game & Blue Mountain State); then there is Lorraine Toussaint she has been doing her thing on TV since the 80’s as well. Recently she has been on Orange is the New Black as our favorite character to hate Yvonne “Vee” Parker. If you are a fan of the soaps then you will recognize her from The Young and the Restless.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Sherri Shepherd

Sherri Shepherd

I love Sherri Shepherd she is so funny and down to earth. Sherri came to us via comedy and has moved on up, she is most popular for being on The View. She has a new show she is Hosting and Executive Producing called Match Made in Heaven. It airs on WETV and it is essentially the black version of the bachelor. Sherri told us how her former co-host gushed about the Bachelor on The View all the time. As many years as the bachelor has been on they have never had a black bachelor. She saw a need and created a show. On top of that Sherri has a wig line and several other things.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Queen Sugar

The Cast of Queen Sugar

AVA FREAKING DUVERNAY! I had to get that out of my system, this woman is magical and I was so geeked when she walked into the room. Okay Queen Sugar is a new show airing on OWN and it is about two sisters that move to Louisiana to claim an inheritance from their father who recently died. The sisters are played by Rutina Wesley (in the blue dress) and Dawn-Lyen Gardner in the black dress. I can’t wait to tune in to watch. Ava DuVernay along with Oprah are the creators of this show. Ava also Executive Produced the movie Selma and a lot of other projects to include an episode of Scandal.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Surviors Remore Tichina Arnold Jessie T. Usher Erica Ash Teyonah Parris RonReaco Lee

The Cast of Survivor’s Remorse

I was a fan of Survivor’s Remorse already, it is one of the shows Babe and I watch together. After meeting them in person I am a super fan. They are so genuine so down and so freaking hilarious. They are stars for sure but they are human and I love that. Cast members L to R: Tichina Arnold (Little Shop of Horrors, Martin & Everybody Hates Chris) oh and she sangs her face off.  RonReaco Lee (Sister Sister, The Good Guys, Let’s Stay Together) Erica Ash (MadTV, Scary Movie 5, Real Husbands of Hollywood) and she can sing too. Jessie T Usher (Level Up, Almost Christmas, Independence Day: Resurgence) He is also from the DC area, big up for the home team. Teyonah Parris (The Miki Howard Story, Mad Men, Chi-Raq)  her natural hair game is all kinds of dope too.

If you watch the show then you know the characters are very BOLD and in your face. I love those kind of people but I wanted to know how much of that was them and how much of that was the writing. The dope thing is they said it was a bit of both. You can’t be all reserved when playing these type of characters. You have to own them, so it sometimes pushes them as actors to be a bit bolder. A lot of times they agree with the story line and because it is such quality work they own it before they even act it out.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Jessie T. Usher Erica Ash

MimiCuteLips, Jessie T. Usher & Erica Ash

Cutting up in the hallway.

New Orleans Essence Festival 2016 Jessie T Usher Reaudog Erica Ash

Jessie T Usher, Erica Nash & Babe

Babe got in on the fun as well.

New Orleans Essence Festival Celebs 20

Babe, MimiCuteLips & Tanya Wright

After a full day at the Convention Center Babe and I ran up on this Maxwell Pop up Shop. Maxwell’s just dropped his album and Babe picked up a copy. I got my shop on, I purchased a new graphic t-shirt and Actor Tanya Wright‘s hair product. HAIRiette is a company serving the needs of women with naturally textured hair. *raises hand* If Tanya looks familiar it because she has been on the Cosby Show, True Blood, NYPD and currently on Orange is the New Black (OITNB) as Mrs. Crystal Burset, the wife to Laverne Cox character Sophia Burset.

I know this is Hollywood overload but I had to share.

Essence Festival Recap- Actors Edition

Do you have a favorite actor out of this bunch? Chat with me in the comment below or FB, IG or Twitter.


Article written by:

Mimi Robinson is the Lifestyle Media Correspondent and editor behind MimiCuteLips®. She is a wife and mother of two. You can find Mimi working media at your favorite events, traveling and trying out new adventures, or working on a dope DIY project.

Join the discussion

  1. Pingback: Tramping around the 504 (New Orleans) - MimiCuteLips

  2. Kathleen Kennedy-Leon

    WOW–that was some star studded event! Great coverage and photos too-felt like I was almost there with you! The swag sounds amazing too!!! Especially the Maxwell album!

  3. Alli Smith

    What a lineup of awesomeness at the Essence Festival! I can’t stop jumping up and down over Kim Fields. I loved her in Facts of Life and she’s such a beautiful lady. You’re looking pretty in that pic too. Pimple? What pimple?

    • MimiCuteLips

      Alli, Kim is still making a name for herself all of these years later. I love to see child stars go own to do more in the industry.

      hahahahhaha, thanks.

  4. LaShawn

    This looks like you had so much fun. I followed you on instagram and facebook while you were there. I really want to be able to go next year! I need to go back and read your other posts!

    • MimiCuteLips

      Thanks hun. It was a lot of fun, a ton of things to do. It is to bunk up to reduce hotel cost since you are out and about most of the day.

  5. Tomiko

    I’m going to check out Cynthia eyewear now!! Love the black ones!! I want to attend the one in S Africa

  6. Shirley Wood

    Your pictures are great. It looks like everyone had a great time at this event. I have always enjoyed Sherri Shepherd’s humor!

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  8. Tanay Michele

    GIRL! How did you focus on anything? I would’ve died at Yandy, came back to life for Keri and died again at Janelle Monae! So many beautiful people in the room!

  9. Pam

    It sounds like there were some amazing and inspiring people at Essence. Almost Christmas sounds like a good movie. I love a good family holiday movie.

    • MimiCuteLips

      Pam it was a lot of folks just tossing the inspiration in the air for us to catch. I’m going to check it out this holiday season.

  10. Katie

    Such a collection of stars! I love events like this. So many things to see and always everyone looking so cute.

  11. Sarah

    Looks like you all had a fantastic time at the Essence Festival. Gorgeous event!

  12. Jeanine

    What a great festival! Looks like a lot of fun was had! Look at all the stars there how really cool. Would love to attend something like this!

  13. Jenn @ EngineerMommy

    This looks like such a fabulous event. There were so many reality TV stars at this event. I’ve watched The Real Housewives of Atlanta several times.

  14. adriana

    You must of had such a fun time! I love star studded events like this! Great pictures too!

  15. Stacie

    I’m getting star struck just looking at all these pictures! I really need to go to Essence fest!

  16. Bella

    This looks like such a fun event! I would love to have attended and be able to listen to these ladies.

  17. Liz Mays

    Oh wow, It must have been amazing hearing from everyone! It’s awesome that Lee Daniels was there. I really like his work.

  18. Eva

    Wow! Everybody who was anybody was there! Great photos. You got really close – that’s awesome 🙂 Glad you had a great time!

  19. Carol Bryant

    What a fun post and I love seeing all the glitz and glam. Looks like a really fun event!

  20. Amanda Love

    It must have been quite and experience to meet all these lovely people and learn more about them. It’s also great to hear them talk about parenting and all that too, because they are able to inspire others present during the event!

    • MimiCuteLips

      Yes Amanda, sometimes we forget celebs are real people. They have kids and they have similar issues so it was nice to hear them speak on them.

  21. Tia | Pennies In My Pocket

    I followed along on your trip through your snaps on Snapchat. I must say you made the convention center look like the place to be. I usually only attend the concerts and spend my time eating when in New Orleans for the Essence Festival.

  22. Kasi

    Loved this recap, I felt like I was there! It looks like it was so dope, loving all of the pictures and all of the black excellence!

  23. Christina Aliperti

    I admit, I am a little jealous. I would love to hear Yandy speak and I love Kandi also. Yandy is a very inspiring and motivational woman!

    • MimiCuteLips

      They were great together, make sure you check out their book when it comes out. It was like chatting with your girlfriends.

  24. LaShonda

    Looks like you had a great time!

  25. Styled By OmiOmy

    Now that’s how a recap is done. Great coverage and sharing the experience with your hubby is priceless.

  26. Tia @ FinanciallyFitandFab

    Wow! You got some awesome pictures to say the least! I would have loved to meet Janelle Monae.

  27. Kiwi

    Awesome recap my love! I am so happy I finally met you this year and I remember saying you wanted to do it and you did!!!! Yay I didnt cover as much of course because I came so late in the week due to I didnt know if I would have surgery or not but I made it!!! I love Lynn, I met her last year too in a funny way. I was front row at the Kendrick Lamar concert and she is literally right in front of me dancing to Dont Kill My Vibe and she was getting it like a 20 year old! She was so chill I never seen her in that light and she was very nice!!!

    • MimiCuteLips

      Yes, thanks for the inspiration for sure. I will make sure I go every year.

      That is hilarious, I love to see celebs in their own element. Get it Lynn.

  28. Jasmine Watts

    Wow… This sounds like lot of fun and great time at this event. I love a good family holiday movie.

  29. Cathy

    What a great experience! I love the shirt of your blog logo!

  30. Joanna

    OMG looks like a great time. I really need to find myself there. Love all the positivity that these actors spoke of.

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