Music fans are gearing up for the 73-year-old singer's first performance at the festival, eager to hear her hits with The Supremes like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," ''Where Did Our Love Go" and "Stop! In the Name of Love," as well as some of her solo hits like "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out."
Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., said they were thrilled when Ross committed to this year's festival. "For years, we've reached out to her, asking her to perform. And this year, finally, she said, 'Yes.' Persistence pays off," Ebanks said, laughing. "She's legendary and is a performer who's etched in our minds and throughout the human experience. She's a personification of what it means to love music and appreciate great artistry."
Ross is closing the first night on the main stage, which will also see performances by Ross' oldest daughter, Rhonda Ross; Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner John Legend; Grammy-winning soul singer India.Arie; Afrika Mamas and Junior. Others scheduled to perform in the super lounges — event spaces created in the cavernous hallways inside the Superdome — include MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Kelly Price, Emily Estefan, Yuna, Ro James and New Orleans' own PJ Morton.
Ross, in previous interviews, has said she's looking forward to the performance in a city she's "crazy" about. She said she's also excited that her daughter is getting an opportunity to perform. Rhonda Ross, who describes her music as funky, neo-soul with a jazz foundation, opens Friday's main stage. She's been an opening act for her mother's current tour, showcasing songs from her latest project "In Case You Didn't Know."
In addition to the music, the festival showcases daily free workshops focusing on entrepreneurship, relationships, activism, health and wellness, and other fan-friendly experiences at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.