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Chaka Khan is experiencing a well-deserved career resurgence lately and looking good while doing so. She may have blown out 59 candles on her birthday cake this year, but the iconic diva’s recent weight loss has made her the object of adoration again. At the recent BET Awards, she was part of a stellar Whitney Houston tribute, putting the stamp on her signature song “I’m Every Woman” which Houston famously covered in 1993. This weekend, at the 18th annual Essence Music Festival, Khan will be part of another special tribute immediately following the closing night performance from Aretha Franklin.

Khan, Faith Evans, Syleena Johnson, Monifah Carter, Nicci Gilbert and KeKe Wyatt will perform a 60-minute tribute to the fallen stars of R&B to close out the Essence Festival.  These ladies, with the exception of Khan, are starring in an upcoming reality show “R&B Divas” on TV One, which premieres on August 20th.

‘R&B Divas’ was created to help instigate balance. We are mothers, wives [and] positive women first,” says Gilbert.” ‘R&B Divas’ will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that we can captivate an audience without hurting them.”

Khan, born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, is the musical godmother to these divas, enjoying a well-deserved new spotlight after a career that has spanned 4 decades. (In fact Khan celebrates her 40th year in the business next year.) Without her contributions to music, none of the abovementioned divas might have a career today. While Aretha and Gladys mined the R&B landscape with their extraordinary vocal gifts, Khan ushered in a new category, becoming the First Lady of Funk in both her career with the band Rufus and in her subsequent solo career. Her music combined elements of gospel, jazz, R&B and funk and over her career she’s won 10 Grammys and recorded songs written by both Prince and Stevie Wonder.

Khan will be honored for her activism at the McDonald’s 365 Black Awards held this Thursday at the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans. The 9th annual event honors African-American leaders in entertainment, business, activism and more. T.D. Jakes, Tamia and Grant Hill, a teenage inventor and a youth empowerment activist will all be award recipients this year. Fred Hammond and Mary Mary are among the performers and CNN and TJMS correspondent Roland Martin will do red carpet commentary.

“This year’s 365Black Award honorees showcase an incredible range of talent, intellect and leadership,” said Rob Jackson, U.S. marketing director, McDonald’s USA. “From a high school student blazing new paths in medical technology to a legendary spiritual leader who motivates millions of people every day, McDonald’s is proud to honor and recognize all 2012 recipients for their extraordinary contributions that positively impact communities across America and the world, 365 days a year.”

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