I had the honor of attending the third annual Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit on behalf of Sheen Magazine, and it was nothing short of transformative. This year’s festival, a powerful tribute to female empowerment and community, was brought to life by GRAMMY and Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated artist Mary J. Blige, alongside partners PEPSI®, Live Nation Urban, and MVD Inc. Spanning May 10th to May 12th, this year’s event took over New York City, marking its debut in the birthplace of Hip-Hop after two successful years in Atlanta.

Mary J. Blige, a newly inducted Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honoree, expressed her joy at bringing the festival to her hometown. “This past weekend was a whirlwind in the best way possible,” she said. “Getting to bring this home to NYC is something I won’t forget. Thank you to everyone who came out, to all my family who participated and to everyone involved, including my partners at Pepsi, who made this dream come to life. Until next year!”

The festival kicked off on Friday, May 10th, with an intimate welcome party at Corner Social in Harlem, hosted by none other than Mary J. Blige. The event set the tone for the weekend, featuring cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and music by Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex. The night continued with two sold-out jazz shows at the legendary Blue Note in Greenwich Village, headlined by 5x GRAMMY-winning artist Robert Glasper. Mary J. Blige herself joined Glasper on stage, sharing personal anecdotes and leaving the audience with the inspiring mantra: “Each one, teach one, help one.” Celebrities like Tiffany Haddish, Tasha Smith, Rapsody, and Bryan Michael Cox were among the notable attendees.

Saturday’s Strength of a Woman Summit at The Glasshouse drew over 4,000 attendees and was a cornerstone of the weekend. The summit began with a motivational prayer from Tasha Smith and welcome remarks from comedian Jess Hilarious. The day was filled with star-studded panels, including “Girl Talk with MJB,” featuring Mary J. Blige and her close friends Angie Martinez, Taraji P. Henson, and Tasha Smith. Another highlight was the “Our Men Honor the Strength of a Woman” panel, with stars from Starz’s hit series, including Method Man and Larenz Tate.

The summit’s programming, free to the public with registration, showcased nine panels emphasizing empowerment, education, and equity. Speakers included Marsai Martin, Pinky Cole Hayes, Crystal Renee Hayslett, Misa Hylton, and many more. The diverse sessions covered wellness, culture, finance, entrepreneurship, style, beauty, and podcasts, embodying the festival’s mission.

Beyond the panels, attendees enjoyed various activations. Highlights included a tooth gem station by Get Gem’d, a build-your-own bouquet bar, and “Mary’s Living Room,” a sanctuary featuring Sun Goddess wines, Sister Love jewelry, and exclusive Strength of a Woman merchandise. Guests also relived the magic of Mary J. Blige’s iconic “My Life” album in a custom listening booth.

PEPSI®, a key festival partner, offered attendees delicious food, custom cocktails, mocktails, and complimentary beverages at the Pepsi Dig In Village. This initiative featured dishes from five female-owned restaurants, spotlighting Black-owned businesses. “Pepsi returned as co-presenting partner for the Mary J. Blige Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit, this time bringing our shared vision to elevate, educate and empower women to New York City – our own backyard and Mary’s hometown,” said Kent Montgomery, Senior Vice President, PepsiCo Industry Relations and Multicultural Development.

Saturday evening culminated in a spectacular concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, headlined by Mary J. Blige. The lineup included 50 Cent, Jill Scott, Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Lola Brooke, Honey Bxby, and Funk Flex. The night featured tributes to “Hip Hop Moms” and a surprise performance by WanMor, who serenaded their mother with “A Song for Mama.”

50 Cent’s set was particularly electrifying, featuring surprise appearances by G-Unit members and cast members from his hit Starz series. Mary J. Blige joined 50 Cent on stage for a powerful performance of “Hate It Or Love It,” and continued to thrill the crowd with her hits, including surprise performances from Vado, A. Boogie, and Method Man.

The festival concluded on Sunday with a sold-out Mother’s Day Brunch at Brooklyn Chop House in Times Square. Hosted by Mary J. Blige, the event featured sounds by Funk Flex and DJ Smooth Ski, and notable attendees like Taraji P. Henson. The final event was a gospel concert at Brooklyn Paramount, featuring The Clark Sisters and Jane Handcock, presented by Femme It Forward.

This year’s festival not only celebrated women but also gave back to the community. On April 25, Pepsi launched the Pepsi x Mary J. Blige Strength of a Woman Community Fund, offering $100,000 in grants to local organizations supporting underserved women in Yonkers, NY, Mary’s hometown.

The Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit was a remarkable celebration of female empowerment, community, and culture. It was an honor to witness firsthand the impact of Mary J. Blige’s vision and dedication to uplifting women. The festival’s success in New York City underscores its significance and promises an even more spectacular event next year. As Mary J. Blige herself said, “Until next year!” We can only anticipate more inspiration, empowerment, and unforgettable moments.


Photo Credit: Antoine DeBrill

Photo Credit: Sterlingpics for Mary J. Blige

Photo Credit: Wendy Ngal

Photo Credit: Ellen Qbertplaya for Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit