Carissa Stephens

Events: Hosting #ESSENCEFest2016!! (EPIC)

At the beginning of this month I had the most fulfilling opportunity of my career as a blogger/ vlogger to date. I’d like to share it with you…


Being a Contributor for Essence Festival 2016:

Since the beginning of the year my mom, sister and I, had been planning to make a girls trip out of Essence Festival 2016. The event usually takes place in New Orleans on July 4th weekend. It was the first year that we planned far in advance enough to make this mini “girls getaway” happen and also the first year that all of our schedules could accommodate for the trip. We were so excited about planning this trip and in our wildest dreams couldn’t have imagined that we would also be specially invited by ESSENCE to host and present at the FIRST EVER Beauty and Style Expo taking place that weekend.

naturallygg essence festival


#NaturallyGG was hand selected by the team over at Essence to be a contributor for this legendary and historical event! We were completely honored and elated to connect with this remarkable team of individuals during the planning phase and throughout the entire weekend!Before we knew it, we’d touched down in New Orleans!!! We arrived on Friday and hit the ground running!! The #EssenceExperience was nothing short of AMAZING! We were greeted by a sharply dressed older black man and a stretch limousine equipped with a wet bar featuring vodka, bourbon and other beverages. The weekend was looking very promising already…


Once we checked into the hotel (Harrah’s Hotel and Casino), our first stop was a #DesignEssentials event. There we met Chrisette Michelle, Christian Keyes, and Hill Harper. I love them all. A couple of drinks and a delicious creole meal later, it was already time to change for the 3rd time that day and head to the first night of concerts!


The concert line up for Essence Fest 2016 was pretty cool and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances that we caught! We mostly watched from backstage in the VIP Super Lounge and also some from our floor seat tickets! The VIP Lounge was were we met most of the celebrities that we encountered. There were several open bars, buffet lines of food, plush furniture…the works! We fit right in and felt right at home. The line up of concerts included the following:

Friday, July 1 

  • On the Mainstage: Maxwell, New Edition, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Tyrese, Faith Evans and Estelle.
  • In the Superlounges: Digable Planets, Daley, Eric Bellinger, Lion Babe, The Internet, Tweet, Estelle, Mali Music, V. Bozeman, Kelly Price, Zakes Bantwini and Sky Wanda.

Saturday, July 2

  • On the Mainstage: Mariah Carey, Charlie Wilson, Common and Jeremih.
  • In the Superlounges: Doug E. Fresh, Tink, Jidenna, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, St. Beauty, Lalah Hathaway, Judith Hill, Wizkid and Lady Leshurr.

Sunday, July 3

  • On the Mainstage: Kendrick Lamar, Ciara,  Andra Day and Puff Daddy & “The Family”. The Family included surprise performances by French Montana, Marsha Ambrosius, Faith Evans, Fabulous, and Mase.
  • In the Superlounges: MC Lyte, Dej Loaf, Cyril Neville, Leon Bridges, Kehlani, New Breed Brass Band, Robert Glasper, BJ The Chicago Kid, The Brand New Heavies and Little Simz.

After a jam packed first day, Saturday we slept in a bit then enjoyed a FABULOUS brunch hosted by #SallyBeauty and #Blavity.  The cuisine was so delicious and the vibes were so perfect that it made me emotional! lol There we connected with our amazing Blavity Babes and also celebrity stylist Kim Kimble.



While enjoying shrimp and grits, bacon, bread pudding and more, she shared with us how much she enjoys styling Beyonce’s hair and her favorite braiding techniques. Particularly, she discussed her inspiration behind Beyonce’s braids and other styles in the recent #Lemonade video album.


After brunch, we stopped by the expos at the New Orleans Convention Center to meet face to face with everyone we’d been commuting with on the Essence side. While backstage we also met Misty Copeland! She is so poised and walks like a dancer even in heels.


Tyra Banks also presented on the Beauty and Style stage that day…the same stage that we would be presenting on the very next day! Oprah Winfrey made her debut appearance at Essence Festival in the same year that we made ours! She delivered a very empowering and inspirational speech!


“Before you think about the thing, you have to have an intention about the thing. The intention in which you give determines the outcome. My intention to live to the highest calling and be pressed to the mark of the highest calling.” -Oprah Winfrey

Sunday we woke up early to be picked up by our driver and be delivered to Talent Holding at the New Orleans Convention Center. We did early mic checks and with the help of the production managers, set the stage just perfect for our presentation. After hair touch ups, make up prep and a light breakfast backstage… it was SHOWTIME!!!


Essence Fest 2016 Beauty School LIVE by NaturallyGG

We came out to our theme song “Black Queens” – Official music video on our YouTube channel. We introduced ourselves, talked a little about what we do and demonstrated our favorite quick and easy updo styles one at a time using slightly different techniques! For us, we are working women…we both have careers, full time jobs and our brands that we pour into. Not to mention our other activities, organizations and obligations that keep us busy. We felt it was important to demo how simple and effective styling your natural hair can be for women on the go like ourselves! The stage felt like our home. We had a BLAST up there!!! After being on the Beauty and Style main stage for about 20 minutes we went straight over to our ‘Fan Meet & Greet’ at the Essence Beauty Box booth. We met so many of our wonderful followers! Following the Meet & Greet we went to press and interviews for a couple of hours. What a rush!!!

picture14picture15 13686531_10102463663435865_3943692209764652973_nBefore we knew it the weekend was over, but we didn’t leave New Orleans without spending the majority of the 4th of July walking around in the French Quarter and enjoying the sights, sounds and flavors of New Orleans!!!


The full live stream video of our set on stage can be viewed from ESSENCE Festival’s Facebook page. Click Here To Watch:Who Else We Met and Other Favorite Moments:

All of this was good stuff was on my Snapchat: charissmatic1

Make sure you follow me there for real time updates! NOLA owes us nothing!!! Shout out to ESSENCE for the opportunity!!!

Thanks for reading! Xoxo – Riss





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