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Essence Music Festival artist Ledisi, Essence editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White and Essence executives at NYSE Euronext (Photo by Dario Cantatore)

*On Monday, June 4, 2012, singer, songwriter and actress Ledisi was joined by Essence editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White, and Essence general manager Joy Collins, to ring the NYSE Opening Bell during a historic visit to the New York Stock Exchange.  The storybook visit kicked off Black Music Month and celebrated the upcoming Essence Music Festival featuring Ledisi, taking place July 5-8, 2012 in New Orleans; and also marked Ledisi’s writing debut, Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power (Time Inc. Home Entertainment; hardcover on national sale June 5, 2012, $16.95).

Simultaneous with penning her first book, Ledisi was also making appearances to promote her current masterpiece — Pieces of Me — replete with songs of love, intimacy and self-assurance delivered by an unmatched voice at the top of its game.  This album marks the pop singer’s natural progression for a singer possessing an involuntary penchant for growth.

With the continued success of Pieces of Me, which scored three Grammy nominations and launched a significant national and European headline tour, she has proved that quality music can still be successful in today’s market.  Loaded with emotion and charged with unparalleled soul, the CD adds another dimension to the persona the singer has been sharing with audiences since her explosive entrance on the music scene a few short years ago.

Pieces of Me is a natural progression for a singer possessing an involuntary penchant for growth.  Bursting with songs of love, intimacy and self-assurance and delivered by an unmatched voice at the top of its game, this album marks Ledisi’s shining moment.

Having made her successful splash in the recording industry, now the seven-time Grammy nominated songstress is ready to conquer the publishing world with her first book Better Than Alright.  The book, an innovative collaboration with Essence, is filled with the singer’s personal photos, quotes, lyrics and richly detailed stories of the Grammy nominee’s journey to acceptance of her beauty, talent and power.

Better Than Alright is filled with 176 pages of the powerhouse singer’s personal photos, quotes, lyrics and richly detailed stories of the musician’s journey to acceptance of her beauty, talent and power.  Visit Essence.com/betterthanalright to pre-order your copy now.

Fans of the sensational singer’s anthems such as “Pieces of Me” and “Bravo,” Ledisi’s recently released single, will enjoy the uplifting and colorful tone of Better Than Alright.  Readers searching for rich personal tales enveloped in vibrant prose will also enjoy this innovative book, which begins with Ledisi performing at Essence’s first Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon in 2008.

In the book, the tenacious singer travels back and forth to chart the journey of a woman who not only endured, but ultimately triumphed in the music business, on her own terms. Better Than Alright includes the singer’s meditations, musings, poetry, and deeply personal essays.  Ledisi also contributes many of the dazzling images that illuminate the text.

“Ledisi is a rare jewel to us.  She first wowed us with her incomparable voice during our Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon a few years ago and hasn’t stopped since,” said Constance C.R. White, Essence editor-in-chief.  “We then realized there was so much love and power in her lyrics.  It was a natural progression for us to collaborate with her on this project.  Better Than Alright captures Ledisi’s heart, soul and truth.  We know that our readers will find peace, love and power in their own lives inspired by this new literary voice.  Ledisi can write!  She’s a gifted storyteller.”

Essence, the world’s premier brand for African American women, has a tradition of introducing new writing talent beginning in 1974 when Terry McMillan won the magazine’s annual college writing contest.  Over the years Essence has introduced a wide range of Black women authors from Bebe Moore Campbell to recent National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones).

The singer – who has been described as having a mix of Tina Turner’s energy, Nina Simone’s brilliance, and Ella Fitzgerald’s range — quickly connected with Essence readers because of her authenticity and tenacity to strive for success on her own terms.

Ledisi is known and loved by her fans for her honesty, her approachable nature and her fun spirit.  But it has not been easy, she has struggled with many of the same obstacles as her fans but by directing her strength and determination in a positive way working towards her goals, she has achieved many of her dreams from being on stage at VH1 Divas to being invited to the White House to perform for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

She sat down to write a book that could be used as a “real life” inspiration to others.  For Ledisi, it was a long journey to that “a-ha” moment.  “Before I started working on this album and book, I had to figure out what I wanted to offer, not only musically, but also spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.  That meant I had to finally embrace the totality of me.  Now, I see the greatness in me and that I have much to offer to this world.”

Fresh off of a European tour, Ledisi is kicking off her headline “BGTY” (Be Good To Yourself) Tour and will be performing at New York City’s Beacon Theatre on June 27, 2012.

After the highest charting album of her career, Pieces of Me, which debuted #2 in the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, was the No. 1 iTunes R&B Album and earned her 3 Grammy nominations, Ledisi is heading back on the road.  The 25+-city tour begins on June 23, 2012 in Hampton, VA and concludes on August 5, 2012 in Atlanta.

It is clear who Ledisi has become: a complex and colorful woman who is open, self-assured, creative, courageous and, most of all, inspirational.

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Celebrity stylist June Ambrose, celeb hairstylist Ted Gibson, singer Janelle Monae, Essence beauty director Corynne Corbett (Photo by Dario Cantatore)

*Essence, the preeminent lifestyle publication for African American women, hosted its very first Essence Best in Black Beauty Awards which was created to honor beauty innovators who are influencing what’s now and next.  The glamorous event that took place on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at Dream Downtown was sponsored by Motions and hosted by Essence beauty director Corynne Corbett and stylist to the stars June Ambrose.  The fabulous fete featured an ultimate beauty conversation with Ambrose and a special appearance by Grammy-nominated recording star and trendsetter in her own right Janelle Monae.

The Essence Best in Black Beauty Awards honorees included:  Balanda Atis, group leader, and Janine Cherette, color cosmetic scientist, of the L’Oréal USA Research and Innovation team; Ted Gibson, celeb hairstylist to the stars and head stylist on What Not To Wear; Janis Smith-Gomez, vice president of marketing for Johnson & Johnson; Lisa Logan, go-to manicurist of the stars including Beyoncé; and Pat McGrath, makeup artist who masterminds the runway’s most sought-after looks from New York to Milan.

In addition, the evening featured a “live gifting wall” showcasing the winning products from the Essence Best in Black Beauty Awards 2012 listing that were highlighted in the magazine’s May 2012 issue including Essence’s beauty editors and a team of experts who highlighted the best makeup, skin care, nail, fragrance and hair picks.

More than 60 beauty products (makeup, skin care, nail, fragrance and hair) were awarded top honors and many were showcased at the event in a “live gifting wall” that gave attendees the opportunity to take the products home to try for themselves.  Some even sampled the products on-site.  Motions’ celebrity hairstylist Ursula was on-hand for a “meet and greet” with a “Tweetstakes” winner and her friend.

Essence’s Best in Black Beauty Awards will pay homage to the beauty mavens who always know how to make African-American women look good!” remarked Corbett.  “I look forward to hosting this event with June Ambrose as we share our beauty insights and tips.  We also want to congratulate all of our Best in Black Beauty Awards winners highlighted in our May issue.  African-American women are very passionate when it comes to their beauty regimen.  That is why we decided to road test hundreds of products so that we can provide our readers with the best of the best.”

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j bernard

Audrey J. Bernard