Longtime ESSENCE Festival partner, AT&T Dream in Black, isn’t letting up when it comes to its mission of highlighting amazing people who embody “Black Excellence”. From artists to entrepreneurs and educators, each year Dream in Black continues its goal of empowering and supporting Black individuals with their AT&T Black Future Maker program. Keep reading to learn about a few of these AT&T Black Future Makers. All artwork was created by AT&T Dream In Black’s artist in residence Handel Eugene.
1. Marsai Martin
This AT&T Black Future Maker and ESSENCE GU Digital Cover star needs no introduction. Marsai Martin is an 18-year-old Hollywood phenom who has graced our screens for nearly a decade on the hit show black-ish. At age 10, Marsai pitched a movie idea to Hollywood power player, Will Packer, which became a feature film, giving her the title of “youngest person in Hollywood history to executive produce a major Hollywood film”. Recent projects include an interior design series for Discovery+ called Remix My Space, serving as an Executive Producer for Girls Inc. Virtual Film Festival, and co-created and producing a Gen Z financial literacy series called Money with Marsai Martin. If that isn’t Black excellence, I’m not sure what is!
If you’ve watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race, then I’m sure you’re no stranger to the fabulous and entertaining queen, Shangela! This actor, performer, and entertainer named “The Most Powerful Drag Queen in The World” has won numerous awards and is now co-host of the EMMY Award and GLAAD-Media Award-nominated series, We’re Here. When she’s not slaying the stage, Shangela gives back through her philanthropic work with Feed The Queens, raising an impressive $100,000 to fight hunger in drag communities. Breaking barriers and supporting your community. It gets no better than that.
3. Lori Harvey
The ESSENCE ‘Black Love’ issue cover girl, Lori Harvey, is the girl of the moment. The daughter of Black Hollywood royalty, the 26-year-old is making a name for herself in her own right. A socialite, fashionista, and beauty entrepreneur with SKIN by LH, the multi-hyphenate beauty hailing from Atlanta (where the playa’s play) seeks to inspire women and men to feel more beautiful in their skin. She’s also one of my style inspirations, and she has walked the runways and shot campaigns for major fashion and beauty brands. I’ll be keeping an eye out for her next big move.
4. Gia Peppers
No stranger to the ESSENCE fam, Gia Peppers is an award-winning on-air talent, entertainment journalist, social media content creator, and podcaster. Gia has been on red carpets as a host for ESSENCE and Ebony Magazine and a correspondent for Today, Revolt TV, and ET. She’s worked with ESSENCE on various brand campaigns, like this one for PBS. This DC native has previously partnered with Michelle Obama’s, “When We All Vote” campaign as a social ambassador. Gia has been working for years and we can’t wait to see what this media powerhouse does next!
5. Luke Lawal, Jr.
Luke Lawal, Jr. is a serial entrepreneur who is the founder of L & Company, an LA-based corporation. This DC Native went to Bowie State University and has since built a career highlighting and connecting matriculating Black students through the highly-popular brand, HBCU Buzz. Named “the most influential brand in the HBCU community”, this platform is the go-to for news for all historically-Black colleges and universities. In 2022, Luke was honored at the BET Awards with the “Shine A Light” Award for his efforts to give back to the Black community.
6. Lance Gross
Our last Dream in Black highlight is accomplished actor, producer, photographer (and eye candy) Lance Gross. He’s an ESSENCE fan-favorite, having produced, created, and starred in the MACRO-produced 10-part digital series airing on ESSENCE, where he interviewed celebs like Micheal B. Jordan and Kelly Rowland. We’ve also seen him on our screens in shows like Our Kind of People, Hawaii 5-0, and the NBC drama Crisis. In his personal life, Lance is a doting father and husband with two adorable children who all reside in sunny LA. Did you know that Lance is a proud HBCU graduate of Howard University and assists with fundraising for current and aspiring students?
Don’t forget to watch the AT&T Dream in Black event (above) honoring the 2023 class hosted by Future Maker Pretty Vee with a performance by Future Maker Big Sean. Hopefully, these AT&T Black Future Makers inspired you to be the best version of yourself. Check out the rest of the fantastic individuals being honored in this year’s class here!