The glossy, which focuses on female African-American readers, is adding a Beauty & Style Expo to its popular Essence Festival, which will take place in New Orleans at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center from June 30 to July 3.
According to Essence president Michelle Ebanks, there was an outcry for a beauty component from festival attendees in past years. The desire became pronounced last year when then-event sponsor Procter & Gamble opened a beauty-centric booth called “My Black is Beautiful.”
“We hadn’t met the appetite,” Ebanks said. “Beauty is such a passionate area for our audience.”
The festival, which is in its 22nd year, attracts 100,000 people a day on average. Events are free during the day with ticketed evening concerts. This year, Ebanks said the Beauty Expo alone will likely attract 10,000 people a day, citing the fact that 7,000 people have already registered online for the free event.
The business model fueling the offshoot is part of a multiplatform advertising buy, which includes print, digital, social, native and live events. Although Ebanks declined to break out revenue from the festival, she said the beauty and style expo has played a large role in its growth this year. Sponsors this year include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Coca-Cola, State Farm and Ford. All partners selling products at the event would do so “by virtue” of the partnership with Wal-Mart, Ebanks noted.
Although Essence carries a trusted heritage for beauty and style coverage, the exec acknowledged that market is a bit fragmented with the emergence of smaller brands. In order to pump up those businesses presence, Essence will promote its beauty box, which includes products from emerging companies, at the festival. Essence will also offer free classes for budding entrepreneurs.
Festivalgoers can also expect to hear from a variety of speakers including Tyra Banks, Misty Copeland, Kim Kimble and Johnny Wright, aka First Lady Michelle Obama‘s hairstylist. The aforementioned guests will speak at the Expo, which will have its own 100,000-square-foot space in 700,000-square-foot area in the convention center.
Copeland told WWD that she wanted to take part in the event because “as women, there are so many questions and concerns that we have when it comes to beauty and style.”
She continued: “For women to have an opportunity to hear from and interact with industry insiders is phenomenal. Essence has long been a destination for black women to read about the latest beauty and style trends, get helpful tips, and take away new ideas for use in their daily lives.”
Looking ahead, Essence said it plans to bring its festival to an international audience. Its first stop is Durban, South Africa, where it will host the festival and expo from Nov. 8 to 13.