The Glow Up Goes to NOLA, Day 4: Maybe My Mascara Should Run for President

Michelle Obama speaks onstage during the 2019 ESSENCE Festival at Louisiana Superdome on July 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo: Bennett Raglin (Getty Images for ESSENCE)

No, Michelle Obama is not running for president, y’all.

But we all know that if she did have the inclination, she’d have the coveted black female vote on lock. In fact, of all the headliners in Essence Festival weekend, it was our forever first lady who packed the Louisiana Superdome to the rafters when she sat down with Gayle King on Saturday night—in ombréed natural curls, no less! As expected, she discussed her bestseller Becoming, but she also shared candid insights on her years in the White House (including the intense final day that Trump was inaugurated), motherhood and marriage. She even dispensed some frank relationship advice that had us raising our hands in praise.


You can watch the entire interview below, but as much as I miss having the Obamas in the White House (like, every day—still) I have to admit, post-presidency Michelle Obama may be the best yet.

However, our beloved former first lady wasn’t the only political powerhouse in New Orleans on Saturday, which had the distinction of being the most politically-charged day of Essence Festival thus far. Eight of the seemingly endless array of 2020 Democratic candidates were in the city yesterday, including Cory Booker who made two appearances to greet festivalgoers and locals, and Mayor Pete Buttigeig, who told the Essence Fest crowd:

“I stand here knowing that Black women aren’t just the backbone of the Democratic Party, you are the bone and sinew that make our democracy whole. When Black women mobilize, outcomes change. And we need some different outcomes at a time like this.”

One black woman proposing different outcomes is Kamala Harris, who sat down with Jemele Hill for Hill’s Unbothered podcast, taped live at Spotify’s “Are & Be” (get it?) House. We’ll have many more details to share when the podcast goes live next week, but obviously, interest in Harris has heightened significantly since her tremendous showing at the Democratic debate. Sitting in the audience as she and Hill chopped it up, it was hard not to be charmed by her charisma, candor and incisive wit.

In her other appearance during Essence Fest, Harris unveiled her $100 billion minority homeownership plan and teased new initiatives to support black entrepreneurship and businesses. The woman’s got big plans for America, y’all...and the possibilities she presented were admittedly pretty compelling.


Besides, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t intrigued by the prospect her taking on Trump in a debate.


With last week’s signing of the CROWN Act in California banning hair discrimination, politics were also on the table at Shea Moisture’s House of Hair at the Renaissance Hotel, where the always dynamic beauty and fashion activist Michaela Angela Davis hosted a variety of guests in the installation’s “kitchen,” including Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who introduced the groundbreaking bill, and Unilever EVP & COO of Personal Care North America, Esi Eggleston Bracey.

Also gathered around the kitchen table for intimate discussions were former Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth, who interviewed each other on their recently released respective memoirs in an exchange that was surprisingly emotional and healing for the entire audience. Dapper Dan also sat down with Davis to give us the real on working with Gucci, fighting for representation and what he believes to be the most effective route to disrupting the fashion industry as he discussed his soon-to-be-released memoir, Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem (more on that to come, as he graciously blessed The Glow Up with a few private moments after his chat).


From there, it was time for an intimate toast with My Black Is Beautiful, which just launched their first line of Golden Milk-inspired products developed with the help of celebrity natural hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood (Issa Rae, Marsai Martin), who was on hand to introduce the line and celebrate in MBIB’s lounge, which was adorably styled to evoke the natural ingredients used in the collection, which include turmeric, ginger and honey.

Felicia Leatherwood
Photo: Maiysha Kai

Moving into the evening, The Root crew pregamed for the Superdome at the Dove and OWN Network party, where we rubbed shoulders with the casts of Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, and new series Ambitions, while the Exonerated Five and Ava DuVernay continued to celebrate the opus that is When They See Us.


And of course, there was plenty of dancing, people.

Speaking of dancing, after Michelle Obama wowed the crowd, Mary J. Blige returned to the Essence Fest stage at Superdome, wowing the crowd for the third year in a row—and looking absolutely fabulous doing it. By this point in the day, I may or may not have sweated out my edge control and screamed myself hoarse, but couldn’t care less because...MARY!


Ending the day where I began it, I joined The Root’s entertainment writer Tonja Stidhum back at the Spotify House for a star-studded jam session with Raphael Saadiq (who also managed to fit in a reunion of Tony! Toni! Toné! this holiday weekend). Luke James, Mario, PJ Morton, Ledisi, JoJo, an entire brass band and more were all in the house and throwing down as oysters on the half shell, steak and cocktails flowed freely through one of the most gracious mansions on Esplanade street. In short, it was a lituation, y’all.

Photo: Maiysha Kai

How am I awake right now? I don’t even know, but all praises due to Pat McGrath Labs for getting me through a day of tears, laughter and sweat with a full face intact—because at this point, I’m pretty much running on fumes.

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.