If Mary J. Blige and Kanye West aren’t enough for you to join ESSENCE in New Orleans this summer, how about a pep talk from Steve Harvey and Iyanla Vanzant? The ESSENCE team is proud to announce the 2011 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience on July 1-3 in New Orleans during the 17th annual ESSENCE Music Festival. Not only is this storied weekend the largest annual African-American event in the world, the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience promises the best intimate moments with artists, experts and speakers at the Big Easy’s Ernest N. Morial Convention Center best described as “A Weekend of Transformation.” “The Empowerment Experience is what truly separates ESSENCE from other music festivals,” says Michelle Ebanks, President, Essence Communications Inc. “Our audience has the rare opportunity to have their voices heard – by engaging with some of our most influential thinkers and leaders, who are shaping conversations around the issues that matter most to our community.” Beginning on Friday (July 1st), the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience, sponsored by My Black is Beautiful, will offer a themed day of “Transforming Your Life” with appearances by Steve Harvey and Iyanla Vanzant. Attendess well also have an opportunity to meet the producers and audition for a chance to appear on “Family Feud” hosted by Steve Harvey. Elsewhere, author Terry McMillan will present an exclusive “book club” experience with up-and-coming authors. On Saturday (July 2nd), ESSENCE will be “Transforming Your Community” through conversations with Rev. Al Sharpton, Soledad O’Brien and Terry McMillan, as well as a panel discussion entitled, “America I Am” featuring: Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, Iyanla Vanzant, Tom Burrell and Jeff Henderson. The day will also tackle the portrayal of women in the media through a panel featuring the leading women of reality television themselves including: NeNe Leakes, Cynthia Bailey, Shaunie O’Neal, Evelyn Lozada and Tami Roman. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday (July 3rd), ESSENCE and Verizon will present a day of praise and worship during an “All-Star Gospel Salute to CeCe Winans and Marvin Sapp” featuring Bishop Lester Love, Kierra Sheard, Deitrick Haddon and Dr. Juanita Bynum. In addition to the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience and the Music Festival’s concert schedule, the ESSENCE MARKETPLACE, which showcases quality fine arts and crafts by international African-American vendors will be open each day. For more information, check out the ESSENCE Music Festival website.