Famous Faces from New Orleans

Famous Faces from New Orleans As we gear up for the flurry of hot performances, empowering seminar series and other fabulous surprises awaiting you at the 2010 ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans, we are also celebrating famous faces who call 'the Big Easy' home. Check out our gallery of celebs young and old straight out of the bayou.
ESSENCE.COM Jun, 30, 2009

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His life is the ultimate rags-to-riches story. Once a homeless high school dropout, Perry is now a multimillionaire award-winning writer, director, producer and actor. The mastermind behind Madea made history last year as the first Black person to own and operate a film and television studio in the United States.

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Once a public relations executive, the Harvard Business School graduate is now answering to the President. She is the first African-American to serve as White House Social Secretary.

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The Marsalis family is synonymous with jazz. Brother Wynton is recognized as one of the most prominent jazz musicians and trumpeters of his generation. Marsalis is also an educator who’s spreading his love of music to others. He recently participated as a performer and teacher at the White House Music Series.

4 of 22 Jennifer Cooper

A respected actor, Mackie has costarred in a number of critically acclaimed films such as the Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby.” He most recently acted alongside Kerry Washington and fellow New Orleans native Wendell Pierce in the indie Sundance film “Night Catches Us.”

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The two-time Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter is no stranger to musical success. Her jazz-influenced vocals have earned her a Shellie Award nomination for her performance in the “WIZ” production.

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The two-time Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter is no stranger to musical success. Her jazz-influenced vocals have earned her a Shellie Award nomination for her performance in the “WIZ” production.

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The one-time rhyme-slinging entrepreneur is most famous for being the founder and CEO of No Limit Records. Besides maintaining successful business ventures, Miller, a multimillionaire, is also known for giving back to the community.

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Best known for his 15 years as the co-host on NBC’s “The Today Show,” the Emmy-winning anchor is currently the host of HBO’s “Real Sports.”

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Neville’s first big hit was 1966’s “Tell it Like It Is” and he’s had a successful recording career as a member of The Neville Brothers. Neville began a nationwide tour with his brothers at the end of May and will be performing in select cities until October 9. Next stop will be New York City July 16 at the Lincoln Center.

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Formerly one-fifth of Bad Boy female group Danity Kane, the Southern beauty is a Hurricane Katrina survivor. Her family’s loss was documented in MTV’s “Making the Band.” Richard is currently rocking shows as apart of the Diddy-Dirty Money fam, and was most recently seen performing with the group at the 2010 BET awards.

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Not to be outdone by brother Wynton, Branford has made a name for himself in the jazz community. The saxophonist is not only an educator but a humanitarian as well. He and a fellow New Orleanian created Musician’s Village, a neighborhood built around his city’s music center where musicians can teach and perform.

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With a powerful and distinctive voice, Jackson is widely recognized as the “Queen of Gospel Music.” Besides breaking down barriers in the music industry, Jackson was also quite active in the Civil Rights Movement—most notably singing an old slave spiritual before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

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Acclaimed actor Pierce is most famous for his role as Detective Bunk in HBO’s defunct series “The Wire.” You might have also seen him in the HBO movie “Life Support” opposite Queen Latifah. Currently, Pierce stars in the newly-created HBO drama, “Treme”—a powerful series looking into the struggles of locals three months post-Hurricane Katrina.

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Born the grandson of slaves, Armstrong sang in New Orleans streets for money as a child. He would go on to become a legendary jazz singer and trumpeter. Nicknamed “Satchmo,” his many hits included “What a Wonderful World” and “Blueberry Hill.”

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The Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated musician is a renowned composer. A longtime collaborator with Spike Lee, his work has been featured in “Do the Right Thing,” and "Mo’ Better Blues” among others. He has a score on the 2008 Golden Globe-nominated film “Cadillac Records.”

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He put a NOLA spin on rock-and-roll and became one of its brightest stars. Recognized for his wide smile, Domino’s biggest hits included “Blue Monday” and “Ain’t That A Shame.” He outsold every rock-and-roll singer in the fifties, except Elvis Presley.

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Wife of Tony-award nominated composer Stephen Bray, Mrs. Allian has accomplishments of her own. She’s served as producer on films such as the Oscar-nominated “Boyz in the Hood,” “Poetic Justice” and more recently “Something New” and “Hustle and Flow.”

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We were introduced to him some eleven years ago as Master P’s pint-size rapper son. But Romeo has dropped the Lil’ from his name, and for good reason. He’s not only older, but he’s hot and playing college basketball on a full athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California. He landed in the history books when he broke Michael Jackson’s record as the youngest person to get a No. 1 hit with his first single, “My Baby.” In addition to ballin’ on the courts at USC and juggling classes, Romeo has found time to get back to his music career, forming rap group College Boyz. The rapping trio has already seen success with their smash hit single “Footwork.”

19 of 22 Tim Alexander

We were introduced to him some ten years ago as Master P’s pint-size rapper son. But Romeo has dropped the Lil’ from his name, and for good reason. He’s not only older, but he’s hot and playing college basketball on a full athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California. He landed in the history books when he broke Michael Jackson’s record as the youngest person to get a No. 1 hit with his first single, “My Baby.” In addition to ballin’ on the courts at USC and juggling classes, Romeo has found time to get back to his music career, forming rap group College Boyz. The rapping trio has already seen success with their smash hit single “Footwork.”

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The soft-voiced singer joined Ashanti for the duet “Southside” back in 2004 when he brought more R&B to Murder Inc., a label mostly dedicated to rap music. His third solo album, “Lessons in Love,” dropped in 2008. He recently joined Lil’ Wayne’s Young Money posse on their Billboard topping single, “Bedrock.”

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The soft-voiced singer joined Ashanti for the duet “Southside” back in 2004 when he brought more R&B to Murder Inc., a label mostly dedicated to rap music. His third solo album, “Lessons in Love,” dropped last year. He’s reportedly shopping for a new label home.

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Ask him where he’s from, and he will probably show you one of his tattoos. The Grammy winner released the biggest album of 2008, “Tha Carter 3,” and in 2009 he donated $300,000 to rebuild Harrell Park, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Wayne is currently roughly halfway through his one-year prison sentencing in NYC for gun possession.

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