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Essence has announced the initial lineup for the 2017 Essence Festival Concert Series in New Orleans and it features some heavy hitters! Diana Ross is set to headline the uber-popular festival, along with Mary J. Blige, who will headline a special night, themed My Path to Strength, introducing her highly anticipated album Strength of a Woman.

Artists confirmed to perform at the nightly Essence Festival concerts over 4th of July weekend also include Chaka Khan, Doug E. Fresh, Erykah Badu, India.Arie, Jazmine Sullivan, John Legend, June’s Diary, Lalah Hathaway, Lizzo, Master P, Michel’le, Moses Sumney, Ro James, Shaggy, Sir the Baptist, Solange, Teyana Taylor, The Jones Girls Feat. Shirley Jones, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Tweet, Yuna, and many more to be announced soon.

“This year’s Festival lineup puts women at the forefront of an incredible weekend of entertainment featuring more than 40 of the world’s most gifted artists and performers,” said Essence President Michelle Ebanks. “It is an honor to welcome the inimitable Diana Ross to the Festival for the first time. Plus, Festival veteran Mary J. Blige is back to share ‘Strength of a Woman’ with her most passionate fans.”

The 23rd annual event will take place June 30-July 2, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tickets go on sale Friday. Will you be there?

EXCLUSIVES

Exclusive: Sorry, Folks, Diddy Did NOT Offer H&M Model A Contract

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Last week rumors started circulating that Diddy had offered Liam Mango, the young model featured in the H&M ad a Sean John modeling contract. Unfortunately those reports, as sweet as they sound, aren’t true.

Diddy spoke to reporters backstage before a tapping of his new show The Four  and clarified what really happened.

“I didn’t actually offer a modeling contract to him I told my people to reach out to him so we could use him in the next shoot that we do,” he explained.  “But with that being said, I think that what we’re seeing is just a general insensitivity to how we feel you know. I think that H&M is going to feel the results of that.”

H&M has issued an official apology for featuring Mango on their website in a “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” hoodie, saying in a statement : “We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top. The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”

After photos of the young boy hit the web, folks started speaking out against the retailer calling them racist and insensitive. But one person not feeling that way was Mango’s mother. She posted her thoughts Facebook questioning what all the fuss is about. “I really don’t understand but not coz am choosing not to but because it’s not my way of thinking, sorry.”

She and the boys father Terry Odhiambo have since had a change of heart appearing on ITV on Monday, saying they don’t think that there’s ever an “overreaction when it comes to racism”.

They also said they’ve had to move from their home in Sweden, and haven’t been able to live a normal life since the controversy started.

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