The ESSENCE Girls United Disruptor Summit is coming to Atlanta on November 11. Empower Atlanta Magazine spoke with Rechelle Dennis, co-creator and program manager of ESSENCE Girls United to gain insight about the upcoming summit. In this interview, Rechelle provides a captivating insight into the strategic choice of Atlanta as the summit's location, shedding light on its profound significance as the epicenter of black culture, history, and legacy. Rechelle also shares the core values that drive ESSENCE Girls United, with a strong emphasis on individuality, creativity, and embracing diversity. Read our conversation with Rechelle below.
Why did you all choose Atlanta as the location for the summit?
So first and foremost Atlanta is the hub of black women, black people, and black culture. Also, Atlanta is a culture and city just really rich in it's history; it's legacy. Atlanta for us has also been a very big demographic that we see that comes to the festival or that we really want to engage with the festival you know there's a whole bunch of HBCU's in the area and what we've really been trying to work towards and work on is how can we get young students that would benefit from something like an ESSENCE festival to come so we really wanted to have a presence. We really wanted to create like a pipeline from Atlanta to New Orleans because there's so much benefit in attending an ESSENCE festival. There's so much benefit in being a part of the ESSENCE ecosystem and being a part of what we're building and Girls United being the future of ESSENCE, it was important for us to tap into the future of black.
How did you all select the influencers, creatives, and entrepreneurs to be part of the summit?
So we always have brainstorms throughout the year of how can we show up. It's not just about showing up for us and it's not about the whole celebrities and bringing celebrities but it's more so about how can we bring impact and how can we bring value to this audience. We wanted to make sure that we also had a mixture of people and that everybody's aligned with what we call disruptors or the theme being the era of disruption. We wanted to make sure that anybody that's up on that stage aligns with that, aligns with our theme, and aligns with our mission now being disruptors, creating disruption; whatever it is that you want to do and most importantly how can we make sure that they're providing value to this audience and they're not just getting up there and taking a photo and posting it saying I did my work for the day but you know they're able to really leave this audience with gems.
Could you share some of the core values of ESSENCE Girls United?
Our core values are first and foremost, individuality. It's super important because each individual, especially our audience being Gen Z, everybody shows up differently. No longer are people put into one box or does Gen Z believe you have to be put in a box, but you can be in multiple boxes at so many times right so that has been one of the core values for us is how can we be a place where people can bring their individuality and individual and in individuality you know you have creativity you know creativity being how we decide to show up in this world how we decide to exist in this world creativity is as small as what you decided to wear you know it's how you know how you really put yourself out there and so you know selecting even the creative and the creatives it really was who really aligns with individuality who aligns with disruption aligned with you know our values and and who can provide value
Can you share any personal anecdotes or stories that have inspired you in your role at ESSENCE GU?
Yeah, so one of the things that was very inspirational for me and that I actually use as an example almost every time I get the chance to has been the ability and the impact that Girls United has been able to have on our audience and the impact being we've had a partnership with Ulta Beauty. We put out a national search for six young women and those six young women were selected to be part of our Ulta Girls United Beautiful Possibilities program where they created a limited-edition makeup collection sold at Ulta. They got a whole bunch of advising and mentorship from the Ulta executive team as well as the ESSENCE executive team and then those products were sold in stores and they were also given $10,000 to put towards college. What actually came out of that is that we were able to not only give these young women college scholarships and give them the ability to have this experience but also some of those members are now members of my team. So, it's been also creating a pipeline of these women and giving them a place and the space to create the way that they want to show up, how they want and how they need to, and be able to be a resource for them and help them really on their milestones in their life's journey. So, really having somebody now part of our team and part of building every single day things that we do like the summit has been invaluable to me and it's only made me want to do and work even more to create opportunities like that and create pathways for these women to be at these different companies and corporations that we work with. Also empower them to start their own thing or whatever it is that they may want to achieve; to be able to do that.
What are some of the key takeaways that you hope the attendees will leave with?
Confidence to create and cause disruption. I think this for me has been something that I've been even building towards or working towards as well. You know, it's having the ability when you're in a room or when you feel like have something to contribute is being able to have the confidence to be like, "You know what, I think that this is right or I think that this is wrong or I think that we should do something this way or we should do something that way." So, it's really having the confidence to really create disruption and cause disruption. I mean really show up as your full self and not feel like you have to minimize yourself in whatever space it is that you're in
This year's summit boasts a lineup of notable speakers, influencers, creatives, and musical performers, including the dynamic sister-duo Jordyn Woods and Jodie Woods, South African singer-songwriter Tyla, and cast members from "If Not for My Girls," BIA, Muni Long, and Pretty Vee, among many others. It will also feature an array of activities, including live tapings, workshops, speed mentoring sessions, and the Soko Marketplace, where attendees can support a mix of Black-owned businesses. Click here to register for the 2023 ESSENCE Girls United Summit!