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Singers, actors, philanthropists and activists, all fresh off their high of watching Prince perform at the 20th celebration of the Essence Festival the night before, walked the McDonald’s 365Black Awards golden carpet on Friday (hosted by Terrence J and Tika Sumpter), to give their take on the publication’s legendary festival and its contributions to the black community in New Orleans and globally.

But not before, of course, recapping their “Purple Rain” fueled night.

We ran into Kevin Liles — former Def Jam CEO, entertainment executive, and GlobalGrind family — to talk about his favorite part of this year’s Essence Festival, presented by Coca Cola, and his thoughts on being honored at the 365Black Awards, given each year to celebrate the pride, heritage and achievements of African-Americans.

“I call it the big family reunion,” Liles said of the festival. “Prince performed last night, so I had a great time. I have artists come out every year, Trey (Songz) is on his fifth year. It’s just a blessing to see people grow. Mary J. Blige is going to be here. And then my good friend Lionel Richie performs. So you know, we are here to celebrate Black culture, Black excellence, and I just appreciate them inviting me.”

Liles, who just received a Congressional Award in June, touched on how important it is to give back as a public figure.

“I look at awards as rewards for the things you put in the air. What I try to put in the air is work hard, dream big, and give back to others. And those things I think 365Black Awards represents. The golden arches, they’re everywhere, and McDonald’s has done a lot of great work. I’m glad to be a part of the nominees.”

He wasn’t the only one spreading positivity on the golden carpet. We talked to the original fix-it woman, Iyanla Vanzant, about being honored at the awards and her storied past with the Essence Festival.

“I love the Essence festival. In 20 years, I’ve only missed six,” she said. “It’s very humbling to be honored at the 365Black Awards. I just do what I do. I do my work, I do my ministry, and to know that people notice…it’s just…wow.”

She even had a message for GlobalGrind’s own Russell Simmons:

“What I absolutely adore is that brother Russell has taken an ancient art [yoga] and brought to the forefront of society and young people’s lives. And because he is who he is, they can hear it and receive it. I want to thank him for that so much.”

GlobalGrind also ran into Jesse Boykins III on the golden carpet, as well as Al Sharpton, Ledisi (who opened the awards with a riveting performance), Roland Martin, Naturi Naughton, Mali Music, and Raheem DaVaughn.

But it was this epic selfie face from Soledad O’Brien (and some profound personal words about being a black journalist) that really made our Essence weekend.

You can catch all the stars and honorees of the McDonald’s 365Black Awards by watching the BET broadcast on August 10 at 10 p.m. EDT/9 p.m. CDT. The awards ceremony will also air on CENTRIC on August 17 at 11 p.m. EDT/10 p.m. CDT.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Mitchell/Essence Media Center, Instagram

Essence Festival 2014: The Stars Come Out For The 20th Anniversary Of The Essence Festival (PHOTOS)
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