Rechelle Dennis Encourages Gen-Z to “Continue Disrupting”

Rechelle Dennis Reflects on Growth, Empowerment, and Essence Girls United’s Future
Co-founder of Essence Girls United, Rechelle Dennis at the Disruptor Summit, 2023.
Co-founder of Essence Girls United, Rechelle Dennis at the “Disruptor Summit”, 2023.
Paras Griffin for Getty Images for ESSENCE

On November 11th, 2023, Essence Girls United (GU) held their fourth annual summit in Atlanta, GA, titled “Era of Disruption,” an event for young Zillennials (Gen-Z) Black women and girls to network, take loads of selfies, explore Black women-owned businesses, take notes during panels led by their favorite influencers, and sing along to their favorite artists.

Essence is known for having an amazing lineup. This year, they brought out the fashionista sister duo Jordyn and Jodie Woods, fashion designer Anifa Mvuemba (Hanifa), singer Mariah The Scientist, and many more!

At the Essence GU Summit, I had the opportunity to interview co-founder Rechelle Dennis. Rechelle Dennis is also the co-founder of the Sundials sub-beauty brand Sheagirl. With Sheagirl, Rechelle fought for inclusivity by creating products that celebrated the beauty of all skin types and shades. During her time at the University of California (UCLA), Rechelle was a member of the gymnastics team and led her team to win the 2018 NCAA National Championship Title. As the co-founder of the Essence Girls United Summit and Sheagirl, Rechelle is continuing to make a positive impact on young girls and the world. (Essence)

As I interviewed Rechelle, I learned about the background of Essence Girls United’s theme, her self-growth, and what she hopes the future holds for attendees and upcoming summits.

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KG: What inspired the theme of the “Era of Disruption” for this year’s summit?

RD: Last year’s summit theme was Forever the Blueprint. Black women are forever the blueprint. First and foremost, we were like, “Hm, how are we going to out beat that? We need something even bigger than that.” I told my team, “Okay, guys, we are stuck right now. We don’t know how we can succeed better than last year. Let’s put our heads together,” and the team came up with disruption.

KG: How do you see disruption as a catalyst for positive change?

RD: How do we make people feel like they’re being a part of disruption? So, then, the era of disruption is what came out of that meeting. It’s the idea that everybody can see themselves as a disruptor. Even as they’re saying, “The era of disruption, I’m entering my era of disruption.” And that puts them in the driver’s seat as “I am the disruptor.”

KG: How does the summit offer a sense of agency and leadership among young black girls, encouraging them to take active roles in shaping their own narratives and futures?

RD: Our last panel hit it on the head when Brandra Ringo said, “Everybody here, think about networking with your peers and networking across, and not networking up.” I thought that was so monumental because that was why [Essence GU] was created — to help each other in whatever it is that we are doing. Media can be very challenging. It is about having those relationships, who you know, the people around you that could help you. It is not just about going to the CEOs of these companies or going to all these big people in these companies. It’s about the people next to you who are alongside you who can help you climb up.

KG: Looking ahead, how do you envision the legacy of Essence Girls United? What future endeavors do you hope will continue to make a positive impact on the world?

RD: The goal is to continue disrupting and disrupting into everything we do and how we show up in the world. One thing we have been able to do is get Gen-Zers to festivals. Our role is to increase that number. Essence Girls United is the continuation of Essence. We also have the ability to have the biggest and largest music festival. It is not just a festival. It’s a place of community where conversations with the top politicians, top brands, top marketers, top entrepreneurs, top artists, and top lawyers are there. 

It is really about how we can create the synergy that makes sure that [Essence GU] is the pitstop to Essence Fest. There is no reason that Gen-Z should not be at a festival or this audience is not engaging year-round with what we’re doing. This is what I look at as everything comes together. A lot of people, even on our stages, have been featured on our sites and magazines and have been real parts of our community, helping us build together. That is where I envision us going. I think about longevity. It’s also about having these partnerships between our audience and us and providing values to them every step of the way.

KG: As the co-founder of Essence Girls United Summit, how have you seen yourself grow throughout your time?

RD: That is the most amazing question you could’ve asked me. The reason being that the person that I am today is definitely not the person I was last year, the person I was three years ago, or the person I was when I started this. People don’t understand when you’re building something new, a thing of legacy, an organization, you have to get everybody’s buy-in. Because sometimes people don’t see it or aren’t familiar with this audience, you have to show it.

 I had to work so hard to let them know that this has value. We have to talk to this audience; we have to speak to this audience; we have to invest in this audience. They are our next audience. They are our next generation of Essence readers. If we don’t get to them now, how exactly will we support them? My role in this, or how I saw myself in this, is that I learned to speak up for myself, drive what I thought works, had the ability to fail and make mistakes, and the ability to build a team, and to disrupt and create that disruption. But most importantly, having the confidence to disrupt. That’s what I want everyone to walk out of here with, being able to go out into the world and be confident in what you are doing, how you see the world, and how things should be, and also being open and receptive to feedback and building on it.

KG: Why did you choose Essence?

RD: The reason that I chose Essence is about the legacy. With Essence being a legacy corporation, I am the product of legacy. I am a product of coming from a family company and building a family company, and now Essence being a family-owned company. For me, it’s about how do I leave this legacy for so many other people. How are we creating things for people before us and after us, most importantly after us, and what we’re doing to create that for them? That is how I think about things. I would not be in my right mind if I wasn’t taking everything I have been able to do, the privilege I’ve had, and the access I’ve been given and being able to make room and provide that for other people. I look at it as how we can all, in our own ways, make sure the path for someone else looks easier.

After the interview with Rechelle Dennis, I enjoyed other panels, took selfies, and ate some delicious rasta pasta. Upon leaving, I received a wonderful tote bag from Essence GU filled with goodies from multiple skincare, hair, and makeup brands! Stay tuned!


Want to keep up with Rechelle Dennis? 

Follow her on the following platforms: 

Instagram: @rechelle.dennis 


Want more updates from this year’s GU Summit? Read more on their website!

Make sure to follow Essence GU on their Instagram @essencegu_ 

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