Disney is yet again a major sponsor of the 2023 ESSENCE Festival of Culture™ from June 29 to July 3. During the festival, Disney will showcase their content and talent through panels, special performances, meet and greets with characters, exclusive screenings, and giveaways, all celebrating the “Power of Joy”.
The Essence Festival, an annual music festival founded in 1995, celebrates the 25th anniversary of Essence, a magazine primarily aimed at African-American women. The festival has grown to become the largest African-American culture and music event in the United States. It is locally known as the Essence Fest and has been held in New Orleans, Louisiana since 1995, except for 2006 when it took place in Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans. There is also a spinoff festival in Durban, South Africa which was held in November 2016. The festival features artists who perform on a main stage and four standing-room only superlounge stages.
Celebrate the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture on Hulu
All Hulu subscribers will be able to join the celebration and catch exclusive virtual-only content and highlights from daytime experiences, as well as live performances from Ms. Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, Megan Thee Stallion, and many more in the Super Dome. Hulu will serve as the official streaming destination for “ESSENCE Fest Primetime,” which will livestream on Friday, June 30, through Sunday, July 2, from 7:00 p.m.–11:59 p.m. CT.
ESSENCE Festival of Culture drew more than 1.9 million in-person and virtual attendees last year, making it the largest African-American culture and music event in the country. Disney has sponsored ESSENCE Fest for more than a decade.
2023 Essence Festival of Culture lineup
Offerings at this year’s festival will include the following:
- Studio Showcase: “Haunted Mansion” director Justin Simien will join cast members LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, and Rosario Dawson to start off the festival on Friday with an influencer brunch at the Grand Oaks Mansion at River City Venues. The cast will participate in events and panels on Saturday and Sunday, including special looks at the new Disney+ series “Star Wars: Ahsoka” and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ upcoming musical feature “Wish,” starring Ariana DeBose.
- Disney’s “Came to Play” Booth: Throughout the weekend, festival attendees can experience the world of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products at the convention center. The area will feature surprise character appearances, fun photo opportunities, giveaways, and more. Inside the booth, festivalgoers can also shop for the latest products and books from Black licensees and authors available in our parks, stores, and on shopDisney.com with an immersive shopping experience.
- Film Festival: Festival attendees can also attend the ESSENCE Film Festival to watch panels and screenings of shows, movies, documentaries and podcasts across the company, including ABC’s Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter and Sheryl Lee Ralph of “Abbott Elementary,” Charity Lawson of “The Bachelorette,” Chandra Wilson of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Gabourey Sidibe of “The Prank Panel” and Saycon Sengbloh of “The Wonder Years”; Disney Branded Television’s “Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur”; National Geographic’s “Critter Fixers: Country Vets” and “Never Say Never with Jeff Jenkins”; 20th Television’s “THE CHI”; Lexi Underwood from Freeform’s “Cruel Summer;” Ashleigh Murray and Sinclair Daniel along with executive producer and author Zakiya Dalila Harris of the upcoming Hulu series “The Other Black Girl.”
- ESSENCE Stage: ESSENCE stage events include a special fashion show celebrating 100 years of Disney and inspired by 50 years of hip-hop on Friday, July 29. Throughout the weekend, Disney will host panels featuring Disney creators and collaborators from across the company. Panels and special moments include a Q&A session on Disney vacations across the globe, a Celebrate Soulfully Parks showcase that highlights the experiences of black culture and heritage at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, the long-standing career mentorship program for black students, Disney Dreamers Academy, will host panel discussions, special performances and more. On Saturday, July 1, Hulu will showcase its “Black Stories Always” initiative, a year-round commitment to authentic representation both in front of and behind the camera. This one-hour programming block will include three inspiring panels featuring representatives from Hulu and Onyx Collective content and conversations surrounding Black storytelling and experiences of every facet, color, and shade of Blackness.
- Black Authors: Book lovers can attend the Black Storytelling panel moderated by executive editor of Andscape Books, Aliya King Neil, to check out authors R.K. Russell (“The Yards Between Us”) and Marisa Moore (“The Plant Love Kitchen”). A book signing will follow the panel. Disney Publishing Worldwide will also be celebrating titles by several authors in addition to Russell and Moore in the Disney Retail Showroom, including Deborah Roberts’ “Lessons Learned and Cherished” and Tre’vell Anderson’s “We See Each Other.” Books for audience giveaways will be shared with fans throughout the weekend.
- ABC News and Owned Television Stations: Janai Norman, co-anchor of “Good Morning America” Saturday and Sunday broadcasts, will anchor Saturday from the Convention Center and later join ESSENCE Stage as host and panel moderator. Sade Baderinwa, anchor of New York’s WABC-TV Channel 7 Eyewitness News, and Rachel Brown, anchor of Los Angeles’ ABC7, will also moderate panels and report from the festival. ABC Owned Television Stations, in partnership with Microsoft Philanthropy, will offer an exclusive preview of the new Our America series “In The Black,” focusing on financial empowerment with actress Phylicia Rashad.
- Executive Panels: Disney will host a series of panels at the Global Black Economic Village and across the festival, featuring executives sharing their personal and professional insights as leaders and role models at Disney. Attendees are invited to curated conversations and panels on sisterhood in the workplace, supporting supplier diversity, and investing in Black businesses and communities.
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