Zendaya and Christina Milian Bring the Wow Factor to Essence's 7th Annual Black Women in Music Celebration

Zendaya Christina Milian
Photo: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Nights leading up to the Grammy Awards are all about mirroring the big event with honors, stylish threads, and live performances; and the 7th annual Essence Black Women in Music celebration delivered on all of those fronts Thursday night in L.A. The event included a mini concert from nominated songbirds Andra Day and Jazmine Sullivan, and drew names like Zendaya, Christina Milian, Yara Shahidi, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kendra Foster, MC Lyte, and Lalah Hathaway to the Avalon Hollywood.

But before the serenading began with ballads like “Forever Don’t Last,” a true story of losing at love by Sullivan, the Philadelphia native also told InStyle how she was no stranger to losing in the entertainment business. “I’ve had a billion nos before I had a yes,” she said. “People who have yet to achieve their dreams need to keep pushing and keep trying. I think that’s true for every artist, every star, everybody that you see out on the forefront. They had to get a no before they got a yes. So just keep pushing.”

Rae, who took the violet carpet in a black top and glittering Gucci pants, which were just as golden as her Grammy awards for Best R&B Performance and Album of the Year, agreed. “I think protecting [your dream] is really important,” she said. And while the British songstress echoed sentiments of perseverance for dream chasers, she went a step further in her encouragement saying, “Life is full of a lot of change; that’s the only certain thing. So protect your dream, but don’t define yourself by it. I think there’s so much luck in success, I don’t think people talk about that. People say everything they ever do is well-deserved, but I think life is a wheel of fortune. Sometimes you’re going higher and higher, and sometimes you’re going low and getting trapped under. It’s cyclical in that way. Success is a great thing, but some people aren’t successful and it’s not their fault.”

If you’re wondering which category you fall in, Lyte suggests asking, “Is it meant for you?”

“Often people get caught up in other people’s dreams,” she said. “I would just ask what’s really your purpose. For those that are sure, I would say to work hard at it.”

So, don’t worry if you haven’t struck your equivalent to a gilded gramophone... yet. The consensus of the night was to keep playing your hand. And if you need more inspiration, let Foster, who raised funds online for her debut solo album and picked up her first nom for lyrics to D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s “Really Love,” inspire. A "no" is eventually a prelude to a yes. “Keep pushing and working for it," she said. “You will be surprised pleasantly someday.”

Watch the stars on the Essence Black Women in Music red carpet discuss impactful #BlackGirlMagic moments in the above video.

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