FLY Events

#EssenceFest: FORD Takes Over NOLA at The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Held Exclusive Media Welcome Dinner

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 30: Preparations at the Ford Motor Company booth for the 2016 Essence Festival on Thursday, June 30, 2016, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Ford Motor Company)
(Photo by Frank Micelotta/Ford Motor Company)

Marking 2016 as Ford’s eighth consecutive year as an exclusive automotive sponsor of the ESSENCE Festival, the company pulled out all the stops for this year’s festivities with their dynamic booth display showing off some of their best and newest rides, allowing the public to even test drive the vehicles.

Sirius XM was also on-site to broadcast live from the Ford booth during the entire weekend and conducted interviews with your favorite celebrities like Sevyn Streeter, Maxwell, Chrisette Michelle, Ro James, New Edition, Tony Gaskins and the cast of STARZ hit series’ Power and Survivor’s Remorse.

As mentioned, Ford’s latest lineup of vehicles was on full display at the Ford booth including the 2017 Ford GT, 2017 Ford Fusion Sport, Shelby Mustang GT350, and Ford Focus RS. The company was giving away the keys to a new 2017 Ford Fusion to one lucky winner. Four lucky contestants had the chance to compete on stage, alongside Nephew Tommy, to win the keys to the brand new car.

Also, Festival attendees had the chance to test drive the latest lineup of Ford vehicles, including the 2016 Ford Explorer, 2017 Ford Fusion and 2017 Ford Escape.

Kicking things off at the start of the festival on Friday, July 1, the brand started their charity initiative, Ford Warriors in Pink to raise funds and bring awareness to breast cancer. Ford donated $20 for each of the first 250 test drives (total of $5,000) on July 1 to support Young Survival Coalition. Over $130 million has been donated towards the fight against breast cancer through Ford’s ‘Warriors in Pink.’

(Photo by Peter Forest/Ford Motor Company)
(Photo by Peter Forest/Ford Motor Company)

Lastly, Ford hosted an exclusive Media and Influencer Dinner, which included SFPL‘s very own Gabriel Williams amongst many others held at Mardi Gras World, an indoor Bayou themed location that gives the nostalgia of what NOLA is all about.

Attendees were treated to New Orleans inspired dishes, especially the all-time favorite, Po’ Boy Sandwiches, and the well-known popular drink, The Hurricane. Great food, great conversations, a great time.

Manager of Ford Multicultural Communications, Raj Register hosted the evening along with Life/Relationship Expert, Tony Gaskins.

Raj greeted the attendees and spoke on a few initiatives that Ford was working on paired with a very new ad campaign, as well as, introducing Tony for those that may not have been familiar with the budding self-made expert/entrepreneur. You may remember him as he recently appeared a few times as a special guest on K. Michelle‘s My Life on VH1, counseling the songstress through her troubled relationships.

Mr. Gaskins is also apart of the Ford campaign where he was featured in the official commercial.

In the video clip, he quotes:

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs…”

Take a look below:

While speaking at the dinner, Tony gave insight on what his life was like in the past, and how he needed to grow up and take control of his life. Fascinated with money, girls, selling drugs and eventually being kicked out of college on a full football scholarship, Gaskins soon realized that he was heading down the wrong path.

Starting on a new quest, he then thought to himself that he could help others through their process without necessarily worrying about money. Moving in a more positive direction, Gaskins raised his own brand from the ground up, now holding his positions as an esteemed Life Coach and Author, not to mention a Father, and Husband.

Congrats to Tony on his major accomplishments.

Remember to Dream Big but also build that Dream.




#EssenceFest: McDonald’s #BounceBrunch with Tank, Tyrese, Andra Day, Tigger and more


During the Essence Festival weekend in New Orleans, McDonald’s held an exclusive invite-only Bounce Brunch just outside of the Convention Center where the other daily festivities were being held.

The event was hosted by Tank and Tyrese with special appearances by Tigger, singer Andra Day, BJ The Chicago Kid, Guordan and PJ Morton. Our very Gabriel Williams was also on deck!


Guests enjoyed McD’s special All-Day Breakfast Menu, french fries, their classic beverages, and even Mimosas, along with other speciality cocktails. Special performances were held by local NOLA bands, Tank and The Bangas, and New Breed Brass Band as well. Tyrese was even onboard to serve up a few items, as he revisited his childhood days working for the veteran company, and took a few flicks with some of the employees.

Music was provided by the one and only DJ D-Nice.

It was indeed a great moment for the Essence Fest weekend!

Peep the video recap below:

Photo Credit: Cameron Roper & SFPL’s Gabriel Williams 

Check out more pics below.

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Entertainment FLY Events

#EssenceFest: “Queen Sugar” Cocktail Reception

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network continued its “Queen SugarEssence Festival takeover with a Q&A on the festival mainstage — moderated by Essence entertainment director Cori Murray — featuring the cast and show creator Ava DuVernay; an inspiring keynote speech by “Queen Sugar” executive producer Oprah Winfrey; and a culminating cocktail reception at Legacy Kitchen, where over 200 industry insiders and tv personalities celebrated the new series.

“Queen Sugar” cast members Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe, Omar Dorsey, Tina Lifford, Dondre Whitfield, Nicholas Ashe and Bianca Lawson graced the red carpet at the reception, followed by DuVernay, Gayle King and Ms. Winfrey herself. Additional attendees included: Lynn Whitfield (“Greenleaf”), Tina Knowles Lawson, Richard Lawson, “The Real” hostsAdrienne Bailon, Loni Love and Jeannie Mai; singer Lalah Hathaway; “Love Thy Neighbor” cast Patrice Lovely and Darmirra Brunson; “Survivor’s Remorse” cast Tichina Arnold, Jessie T. Usher,  Erica Ash and Allen Maldonado; “POWER” cast Lela Loren and Joseph Sikora; “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker; broadcast journalist/producerSoledad O’Brien, Bozoma Saint John (Head of Global Consumer Marketing, Apple Music & iTunes); Mona Scott-Young(Monami Entertainment); Stevie J (“Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta”); “Married to Medicine” cast Dr. Heavenly, Mariah Huq and Lisa Nicole Cloud; Gocha Hawkins (“LA Hair”), Tameka Foster, American Idol’s La’Porsha Renae and so many more.

Queen Sugar” will debut as a two-night event on Tuesday, September 6 and Wednesday, September 7 at 10PM ET/PT on OWN. The series will regularly air Wednesday nights at 10PM ET/PT for the remainder of its 13-episode first season.

More pics below.

Photo Credit: Getty Photographer, Josh Brasted

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Kierra Sheard at #ESSENCEFest, Launches First Headlining Tour and New Mobile-App

Gospel singer Kierra Sheard is embarking on her first solo headlining tour with an all-female band, which starts off in July taking place in Detroit, and hitting other cites like Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, and New York. Sheard has also launched a mobile app; a first of it’s kind in gospel music.

Kierra says about the app:

“I want those that come, to leave feeling refreshed. Transparency, God, love, music, and more is what I’ll have to offer. I’ll have fun on this tour and do things that I’ve never done before. I will not be prohibited or stopped by anyone but God! I won’t worry about what’s said, I’m going for a raw experience! People don’t want fake experiences. They want what’s real. We all want to feel like we aren’t alone while doing this thing called “life.”

During this year’s Essence Festival in NOLA, Kierra had the opportunity to tribute her mom, Karen Clark-Sheard along with the rest of the Clark Sisters on Sunday during the epic weekend with several other acts, celebrating on what veteran group has contributed to Gospel music.

Peep the footage below of The Clark Sisters Tribute:

For more on Kierra Sheard visit:

Entertainment FLY Interviews

Fly Interview: Iyanla Vanzant Talks Closing Out The ESSENCE Empowerment Series, Making Her Own Body Wash, & More


The 2016 ESSENCE Festival kicks off in a few weeks. The weekend will feature performances from some of the biggest names in music along with various events that cater to ESSENCE’s community. Among these is the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience, a series of conversations and keynote addresses with industry influencers from Tyra Banks, Misty Copeland, Terry McMillan, to Rev. Al Sharpton. Closing out this year’s ESSENCE Empowerment Experience will be Iyanla Vanzant.

Iyanla Vanzant at 2014 ESSENCE Festival
Iyanla Vanzant at 2014 ESSENCE Festival

A writer, life coach, and minister, Vanzant has been dishing out tough love on her OWN series Iyanla: Fix My Life for four seasons. A New York Times best-selling author and NAACP Image Award Winner, Vanzant has inspired millions around the globe to take control of their lives and be an active participant in finding their happiness.

SFPL‘s Arlene Danna recently chatted with Vanzant over the phone where they discussed her upcoming keynote address, how she creates her own body wash, the premiere of Season 5 of her critically acclaimed series Iyanla: Fix My Life, and her new book.

You’ve been a part of the Essence Empowerment Experience in the past, how does it feel to be welcomed back this year?

It’s such an honor. I’ve been doing it for the past 14 years and every year I love being a part of it. The experience touches on all the things impacting our community. This year they’ve asked me to close out the series and I’m looking forward to it.

What topic will you be speaking on to close out this year’s series?

You know I get asked that all the time and the answers always the same I don’t know. I don’t use cards or prepare anything ahead of time. I like to speak from the heart and see what the mood strikes. I do know I want to inspire and push people to put in the work to be their best selves.

You’re a huge proponent of living your best life physically, mentally, and spiritually. Is this what inspired you to create your own body wash?

Actually my daughter Gemmia inspired me. From an early age she became interested in essential oils and aromatherapy and how scents can alter your energies. We know how to do laundry, and clean house, but do we know how or even take the time to clear our own energies. The MasterPeace Body Wash is made from a mixture of herbs, oils, and African black soap which is known for its skin healing properties. I then treat it with music and color therapy. I love that I get to continue her desire to create natural products that not only enhance your energy, but address the needs of the physical body.

Iyanla Fix My Life has really resonated with audiences. What can we expect in Season 5?

I love that the show has touched the lives of some many people. Season 5 premieres this Fall on Sept. 9. You can expect this season to create, spark, and inspire national conversations about critical issues.

Sounds great, can’t wait for the show’s return. Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I’m working on my 19th book which will be out in 2017.

Wow, you’re on book 19! What will be the subject matter of the book?

How we can heal our toxic and dysfunctional feelings and behavior. People of color do not go to therapy. It is still very taboo. With this book I hope to enlighten people and help them get aligned with their greater good.