ESSENCE, Director, Live Events and Experiential

Jovanca Maitland

Written by The World's Best Events

Jovanca Maitland is an experienced Director of Event Management with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry, with an added fashion background. As Director of Live Events and Experiential at ESSENCE, much of her work is focused on the magazine’s annual Black Women in Hollywood event. She gave us an inside look at what happens behind the scenes, from the initial planning stages to the glamorous night-of.

How did the annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood first come about? What makes the event so special?

ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood was birthed by ESSENCE’s editorial team who saw a need to celebrate black women – both in front of and behind the camera – who are doing amazing work and impacting the Hollywood landscape. The event is so special to the many who attend simply because there is no other event in Hollywood that is so intimate and so supportive of the black women we serve.

What form does the event take?

The event is invite-only and begins with red carpet arrivals – featuring press from around the world – and a cocktail reception, which then flows into a seated luncheon and awards program complete with video tributes for our honorees.

Tell us about the preparations and planning process. How does it work?

Planning meetings kick off in July until the event date, which is always the Thursday before the Oscars. The meetings are cross-functional with leads from our Editorial, PR, Marketing, Sales, Creative, Video and Social departments.

Once we decide on the honorees and theme, we then work with our production partners at AgenC Experiential to begin our design, look and feel, and Galex Media Group who beautifully create our honoree videos. We continue throughout the entire time working with our sponsors and partners to develop their on-site activations and objectives. We also communicate frequently with The City of Beverly Hills, The Beverly Hills Police department and the Beverly Wilshire, who we’re thankful to for the support.

What is it about ESSENCE that gives the event such credibility?

It is core to who we are as a brand. For 50 years, ESSENCE has been committed to serving black women deeply across all of our platforms—including experiential. ESSENCE’s Black Women in Hollywood event allows us to show our audience that we see them; it empowers them to continue to demonstrate greatness in everything they do.

How important are events to the mechanics of your business?

It is extremely important! As the number one media, technology and commerce company dedicated to black women, we create multi-platform programs that include experiential, as many of our partners look to us for that deep consumer connection and to provide engagement and brand influence to our global audience of more than 20.2 million.

How have events evolved since you have been working in the industry?

I have managed and executed events for over 20 years and had seen the industry grow with social engagement/digital media; masterclasses and college degree programs; multiple day-long events with large scale build outs and budgets. As more brands ask for events, it creates an invaluable need for us experts to help shape it. I’m excited for where we are going!

You must have been to your fair share of incredible events. What have been the most memorable and why?

I recently attended a movie screening that was hosted by Spotify. There was a panel conversation that followed with both the film and the musical director who spoke about the musical journey of the storytelling and how all the music was intentionally selected for each scene. The event ended with a concert by the top artists featured on the soundtrack—and of course, available on Spotify. It was a unique way to bring the film to life in a meaningful and memorable way. It made me fall in love with the film!

What makes a great event?

I believe that a great event begins with the arrivals. It is what you see and feel. It is the first touch point and sets the mood for the rest of the guest’s experience. Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.