Last week I had the amazing opportunity of attending Essence’s first ever Upfront sessions here in NYC. The morning started with the “Smart Beauty” breakfast- moderated by editor-at-large Mikki Taylor; the panel included Patrice of Afrobella, fashion activist Bethann Hardison, Gabrielle Union, and Iman. Mikki started with mind blowing facts and figures; African American women spend $2.6 billion on beauty products, personal care and fragrance. That’s a lot of lipsticks and primping! There were so many gems being dropped, here are some of my key take aways: Bethann spoke about how she never had self esteem issues as a child. She said it started at home; she always felt beautiful and never felt like she wasn’t good enough. Afrobella talked about how she wants to continue to see us (AA women) reflected in media. And speaking of image and how we feel about ourselves, check out what Gabby has to say about the ever present, selfie! The day also included appearances by June Ambrose and Viola Davis. Gigi New York was on hand at the luxe pop up shop. And of course there was a live performance by Essence Festival alumn Marsha Ambrosius. If Upfront and the previous Essence festivals I have attended are indicative of what’s to come for 2014; we are certainly in for a treat! Stay tuned for more information. Check out photos below!