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Essence Birthday Party Launches Grammy Week

Event celebrates Mary J. Blige

As fast as magazines are folding, any and all publishing anniversaries are worth celebrating.

Essence magazine kicked off the Grammy week party schedule by throwing itself a 40th birthday party at the Sunset Tower hotel on Wednesday night.

The Essence Black Women in Music event honored nine-time Grammy winner Mary J. Blige (left, with L.A. Reid).

Ludacris, Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union joined the Lincoln- and Belvedere-sponsored fete for the one-time “first lady of hip-hop soul.”

Interscope/Geffen/A&M boss Jimmy Iovine strolled in holding an old iPod and promoting his company’s “Beats by Dr. Dre” headphones on his neck. Outside his presence, the headphones are often ridiculed for their $299 price. (Iovine, below right, demonstrates to L.A. Reid his strategy for keeping the music industry solvent.)

Iovine’s predictions for big winners this weekend? “I hope Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas.” He may be biased (both acts are on his labels), but with 24 nominations his weekend looks golden.

Simultaneously, the lead actor in the biggest movie of all time, "Avatar’s" Sam Worthington, was sampling margaritas at the non-award-winning dive bar across the street from the Essence fest, Cabo Cantina.

So what gift does the studio send you when you’re the lead in the No. 1 movie of all time? “(A) woo-hoo,” Sam Worthington told TheWrap exclusively, intimating that he neither expected nor wanted any celebratory gift from Fox.

“It’s not like that — we’re all one big family,” Worthington said over an empty glass in the half-empty dive. “We all had a beer together last week.”

(Photos courtesy of Essence)