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Steve Harvey and Nene Leakes will join a slew of tastemakers at this year’s 2011 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience taking place July 1-3 in New Orleans at the 17th annual ESSENCE Music Festival.

Kicking off on Friday (July 1st), the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience, sponsored by My Black is Beautiful, will offer a themed day of “Transforming Your Life” with appearances by Steve Harvey and Iyanla Vanzant, as well as an opportunity for attendees to meet the producers and audition for a chance to appear on “Family Feud” hosted by Steve Harvey.

In addition, author Terry McMillan will present an exclusive “book club” experience with up-and-coming authors.

On Saturday (July 2nd), ESSENCE will be “Transforming Your Community” through conversations with Rev. Al Sharpton, Soledad O’Brien and Terry McMillan, as well as a panel discussion entitled, “America I Am” featuring: Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, Iyanla Vanzant, Tom Burrell and Jeff Henderson.

In addition, a panel discussing the portrayal of women in the media will feature the leading women of reality television including: NeNe Leakes, Cynthia Bailey, Shaunie O’Neal, Evelyn Lozada and Tami Roman.

Rounding out the weekend on Sunday (July 3rd), ESSENCE and Verizon will present a day of praise and worship during an “All-Star Gospel Salute to CeCe Winans and Marvin Sapp” featuring Bishop Lester Love, Kierra Sheard, Deitrick Haddon and Dr. Juanita Bynum.

Speaking on the Empowerment Experience, Michelle Ebanks, President, Essence Communications Inc., released a statement saying,

“The Empowerment Experience is what truly separates ESSENCE from other music festivals. Our audience has the rare opportunity to have their voices heard – by engaging with some of our most influential thinkers and leaders, who are shaping conversations around the issues that matter most to our community.”

For information about ticket sales, accommodations and the latest news about the ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL, visit

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