Return to Community

The Woman Behind the
ESSENCE Festival™

Share This
  • Author
    Allaina Roberson
  • Photo
    Joseph Moran

An interview with Michelle Ebanks

Prior to this year's ESSENCE Festival (celebrated July 4th through 7th), we were very fortunate to catch up with Michelle Ebanks, the president of ESSENCE® Communications Inc. and ask her a few important questions relating to this great event. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: How has the vision and goal of the Festival changed over the years?

A: The Festival began in 1995 as a celebration of the community of ESSENCE® readers on the 25th anniversary of ESSENCE magazine. The vision was to host a nighttime concert in the Superdome in New Orleans -- featuring top artists, who through their lyrics and music told the stories of our lives. Then, during the day, to bring together the icons, speakers, educators and authors to empower ourselves and our community. We’ve stayed true to that vision and have now extended it to our digital platforms. We’ve grown from an audience of 5.2 million to more than 9.6 million today across all platforms -- from the magazine to tablet, online, social, and mobile. And, the Festival has grown in attendance since then from 100,000 to more than 500,000 people each year.

Q: Are there specific activities and events taking place during the ESSENCE Festival™ that you think may encourage young African Americans to attend?

A: The ESSENCE Festival™ line-up includes young, up-and-coming artists in the Super Lounges. In addition, we’ve planned a host of multigenerational experiences, including our all new Family Reunion Day in Woldenberg Park. Plus, all of the fun experiences that our partners have put together in the Convention Center during the day entertain attendees of all ages!

Q: This year, you dropped the “Music” from the ESSENCE Festival™ name in order to showcase components of the Festival other than just music. Why the change?

A: The new name epitomizes the full experience of culture, community, empowerment and inspiration for which “The ESSENCE Fest” – as it’s affectionately called -- is known and is unlike anything else in the world. We are a brand that offers solutions to improve the day-to-day lives of our audience. Whether discussing issues like education and jobs or taking care of one’s health.

Q: What is the biggest take away you want guests to experience from this year’s Festival?

A: We want our Festival guests to leave feeling happy, more joyous and more informed about ways we can make a difference in our own lives and in our communities.

We were very excited about this year’s partnership with Michelle and the ESSENCE Festival™ and look forward to what’s to come in 2014. For more information, follow @McDonalds on Twitter and join the conversation using #McDonalds. Also visit us on Facebook, and check back for future updates.