The New Hollywood East

The New Hollywood East
ESSENCE.COM May, 20, 2009

1 of 21 Corbis

Once considered a conservative town filled with boring suits and stuffy politicians, Washington, D.C., is receiving a complete social facelift. Sure, it’s home to historical monuments and world-class museums, but there is much more to this small town-big city. Find out why everyone from Beyoncé and Alicia Keys to Kerry Washington and Usher are spending a lot more time in the District these days and why you might want to rediscover the “Chocolate City” for yourself.

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2 of 21 Getty Image

Oscar winner Jamie Foxx was on hand to speak during President Obama’s inaugural activities. In fact, we can’t think of a Hollywood A-lister who wasn’t in D.C. for that historic weekend.

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3 of 21 Getty Image

General Colin Powell joins in the fun, singing an impromptu duet with Wyclef Jean at the BET Inaugural Ball in January.

The new administration has helped bring in a feeling of unity instead of exclusivity so it isn’t as odd to see hip-hoppers mingle with politicos as it might have been during the Bush administration.

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4 of 21 Getty Image

“This man was born to lead us. At last he is here. He makes me want to be more involved,” says Beyoncé, after her performance of “At Last” for the Obamas’ first dance as President and First Lady.

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5 of 21 Getty Image

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige wows the crowd during the “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” concert. The music vet is one of the many popular artists who made their way to the District during the inauguration.

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6 of 21 Getty Image

Mr. and Mrs. Carter braved the cold weather and the packed crowds to witness President Obama’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C. Oprah Winfrey and Diddy were seated close by.

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7 of 21 Getty Image

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, Mrs. Obama called on many stars to speak to students in the nation’s capital—and, boy, did they answer. Kerry Washington was one of the stars in attendance.

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8 of 21 Getty Image

The First Lady and Alicia Keys get acquainted at the White House Women’s History month function. Many insiders in the District are noticing an influx of artists in the area. Not long ago, photographers, fashion designers and stylists would have to be imported from NYC but now there are a plethora right in the capital.

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9 of 21 AP Image

Mrs. Obama commands the attention of actresses Phylicia Rashad, Tracee Ellis Ross and Debbie Allen for yet another celeb-filled White House function.

According to insider Makeda Saggau-Sackey, Hu’s Wear boutique in Georgetown even has a secret entrance for VIP clients to shop hassle-free.

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11 of 21 AP Image

Alfre Woodard chats it up at the Women’s History White House event in March. Taraji P. Henson, Dave Chapelle and Samuel L. Jackson are all from the D.C. metro area.

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12 of 21 WENN

Multiple Grammy winner Usher was on hand for a bill-signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in Washington, D.C., in April. Makeda Saggau-Sackey, a DMV social guru and editor-in-chief of theglamazondiaries.com, appreciates the attention her city is getting.

“I’m glad that the new administration is changing the climate here. All eyes are on D.C.!”

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13 of 21 Getty Image

President Obama thanks Stevie Wonder after honoring the music legend with the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during an East Room tribute at the White House on February 25. Other rhythm and blues icons Earth, Wind & Fire have also performed at the White House under the Obama administration.

For those visiting the “area” (as locals refer to District) who desire delicious cuisine and rich culture, there is Busboys & Poets and Eatonville. Both are located in the eclectic U Street area and were inspired by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston respectively.

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14 of 21 Getty Image

Over 2,500 guests attended the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner including longtime Obama supporter Kerry Washington.

While D.C. has long been known as a stiff conservative town, it has no shortage of high style. For a taste of Rodeo Drive, one need go no further than Chevy Chase, Maryland (just a stone’s throw from the District) for offerings from Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Dior.

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15 of 21 Cynthia Gordy

Rapper turned actor Ludacris at a White House Correspondents’ Association dinner weekend cocktail party hosted by Time and People magazines. The Obamas have been a catalyst for the D.C. “youthquake,” as many are calling it.

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16 of 21 Getty Image

Forest and Keisha Whitaker make their way inside the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner after party in Washington, D.C. The annual dinner helped to award scholarships to deserving journalism students, and proceeds from this year’s event will also go to feeding the nation’s hungry.

“Because we’re in the nation’s capital. We have to party with a cause,” explains Saggau-Sackey.

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17 of 21 SplashNews

Alicia Keys was among the throng of celebs in D.C. for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Often referred to as the world’s most powerful city, D.C. is now the center of a new TV One reality show titled “Party Boyz.” The program shadows nightlife moguls Marc Barnes and Taz Wube who tapped some of the biggest names in entertainment like Jay-Z, T.I. and Diddy for inauguration festivities.

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18 of 21 Getty Image

Reverend Al Sharpton is all smiles at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner on May 9. The celeb-filled gala was packed with Hollywood A-listers and behind the scenes tastemakers from all over the country.

“I went last year and it was nothing like this year. [This year] it was totally different, the feeling and vibe in the city was insane!” recalls D.C. public relations maven Kadrieka Maiden.

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19 of 21 Getty Image

Earvin “Magic” Johnson enjoys a light moment after speaking at a forum on HIV/AIDS on Capitol Hill in May.

Saggau-Sackey frequently bumps into other NBA players in the District and even recently spotted another All-Star basketball player by the name of LeBron James chowing down at Founding Farmers restaurant in Northwest D.C.

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20 of 21 Getty Image

Here, international golf giant Tiger Woods joins the Commander-in-Chief at The White House. Marc Barnes, co-owner of uber popular D.C. hot spots Love and The Park on Fourteenth, weighs in on the growing popularity in the nation’s capital.

“Before, people didn’t really care about politicians. Now, pictures of the Obamas are plastered all over the pages of magazines with celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. People like to be around celebrities…D.C. now has a celebrity of its own.”

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21 of 21 Getty Image

New Orleans native and White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers was a fixture in Chicago’s elite social scene before joining the Obama administration and moving to the District earlier this year. The White House Poetry Jam is the latest of a plethora of cultural events Rogers will plan for the Obamas in her new position.

Are you planning a trip to D.C. in the near future? What hot spots and historical monuments are you going to visit?

Read more about the new D.C. from an inside mover and shaker »

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