Grammy Award-winning artist Erykah Badu couldn’t contain her glee when she unveiled her latest cover of ESSENCE magazine during the 2015 Essence Fest. “That’s me!” she joked while onstage at the Mercedes Benz SuperDome in New Orleans, while looking at the cover projected on screens above her. It features her gazing off the page while wearing a tophat, colorful alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet culottes, while brandishing an array of large feathers. 

Badu happily joined our team in Tanzania and Kenya for the beautiful photo shoots that mark the cover story. She’s always felt a connection to the continent and it shows. “When I just breath the oxygen, I get real relaxed,” she says. “I don’t know, but something about the vibrations or the frequency here is kind of.. I remember, you know?”

Exploring such ties in Africa and around the world was a large part of the goal behind the first ever global issue. “As our world widens, we hope to feature more international coverage with greater frequency,” says Editor-In-Chief Vanessa K. De Luca in her letter from the editor.

It is fitting that Badu shared her cover onstage. “The stage is really my outlet. It’s the place where I’m free; it’s therapeautic,” she says. “It’s the place I connect with the things made.”

For more on Badu’s trip and her connection to Africa, pick up the new issue on stands on July 10!