Essence Fest 2021 will be virtual; lineup announced
Singer Jazmine Sullivan, seen here in Rydal, Pa., on Jan. 26, 2021 (AP Photo/Evan Agostini), is one of many stars who will perform at Essence Fest 2021.

Even with coronavirus vaccinations up and infections down, this year’s Essence Festival of Culture, better known as EssenceFest, will remain virtual with some in-person experiences in New Orleans available for first responders and essential workers.

Though virtual, Essence Fest will do what it always does, come with a star-studded entertainment lineup.

In this Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, file photo, DJ D-Nice poses for a photo at The Player’s Ball at The Armory in Minneapolis. The hottest social distancing party in town Saturday night, March 21, 2020, was on DJ D-Nice’s Instagram, where more than 100,000 accounts tuned in during his 10-hour set, including the likes of Michelle Obama, Oprah, Rihanna and Will Smith. (Photo by Omar Vega/Invision/AP, File)

Here’s a partcial listing of this year’s performers: Jazmine Sullivan, DJ DNice, Tank, Kirk Franklin, Michelle Williams and DJ Khaled and Friends, among others.

Also slated to make Essence Fest 2021 appearances are special guests Mary J. Blige, Angela Yee (The Breakfast Club), Miss Lawrence, Supacent and Jesseca Dupart, a New Orleans-born entrepreneur.

Additional entertainers and special guests are scheduled to make appearances at the Essence Fest which will be livestreamed over two weekends — June 25 to 27 and July 2 to 4.

“As a live experience, the Essence Festival normally attracts more than 500,000 attendees annually during July 4th weekend in New Orleans — but last year, we made the necessary decision to shift our multi-day celebration to an innovative virtual format due to COVID-19,” said Latraviette Smith-Wilson, Essence chief strategy & engagement officer, in a statement.

“Essence Festival was the first of its kind and scale to be executed virtually during the pandemic, and our team worked tirelessly to deliver the content, programming and resources that our community desired. As a result, the festival provided much-needed, only-at-Essence content and experiences that inspired, entertained, informed and empowered—resulting in  45+ million full-stream views of 2020 Festival content to date.”

“This year, we are thrilled to bring forth another exciting talent line-up, curated programming, and a new hybrid experience that will directly touch the people of New Orleans and Louisiana while also further extending our reach, engagement and impact via enhanced digital, technology and streaming capabilities to connect more of our community in the U.S. and across the diaspora,” she continued.

Paying homage to the life-saving work of first-responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, New Orleans first responders and essential workers will have the opportunity to participate in some in-person, yet-to-be-announced events that will take place in the Crescent City.

Essence, which is now owned by Shea Moisture CEO and owner Richelieu Dennis, has been putting on the Festival since 1995. The event began as a celebration of the magazine’s 25th anniversary. Since then, it’s morphed into an event that brings more than 500,000 people to New Orleans during the Fourth of July weekend. Since its inception, 2020 and 2021 are the only times the in-person event has been canceled.

In 2006, the festival took place in Houston after the havoc wreaked on New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Beyonce, left, and Prince perform during the 46th Annual Grammy Awards (2004), in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/AP/Shutterstock.

The list of past Essence Fest performers reads like a who’s who of greats: Prince, Beyonce, New Edition, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Maxwell, Brandy, Alicia Keys, the O’Jays, Babyface, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Teena Marie, Usher, Chaka Khan and Essence Fest regulars FrankieBeverly and Maze.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the 2016 National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony (© AP Images)

Over the years, the festival expanded into a full weekend of panels, events, workshops and other special events, bringing additional special requests including President Barack Obama, our Forever First Lady Michelle Obama, Iyanla Vanzant, Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey and current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, among others.

The festival will be livestreamed via and on June 25 to 27 and July 2 to 4.