Pop superstar Usher gave team members in downtown Detroit an unforgettable surprise Monday when he appeared unexpectedly in the halls of the First National Building and the Chase Tower along with Quicken Loans chairman and founder Dan Gilbert and Detroit relocation ambassador Bruce Schwartz. The trio, with a camera crew in tow, walked excitedly toward the desks of Briana Mcswain, 24, and Adina Ellsberry, 42, to deliver the good news – both women won VIP passes to Usher’s Nov. 4 concert at The Palace. To win, they had to write in 20 words or less why they are the “most GINORMOUS Usher fan.”
Ellsberry, a commitments typist with Title Source, Inc., the largest independent provider of title insurance, property valuations and settlement services in the nation, was sitting at her desk feeling down about the recent death of her sister when the contest email appeared on her computer screen. She had previously seen Usher perform in Georgia, Alabama and Florida, so she decided to give it a shot.
“I wrote, ‘I am Usher’s biggest fan because I have literally followed him to three different surrounding states while he was touring before,’” Ellsberry explained.
She hit “send” and had no idea what would happen later that day.
Ellsberry’s sister, Crystal Clark, 38, of Detroit passed away one week ago following an agonizing battle with breast cancer. She left behind two teenage children, Antoine and Nachelle. It was Nachelle’s 15th birthday — her first birthday without her mom.
But, what began as an emotional, draining day took a sudden, uplifting turn when Ellsberry saw Gilbert and Schwartz walking in her direction.
“I was totally caught off guard,” she said. “Then Dan just said, ‘You’re the winner!” Then, I kind of looked around the corner and I saw Usher!”
The camera crew captured Ellsberry’s priceless wide-eyed and stunned reaction as team members crowded around her to clap and cheer. Usher hugged her and placed the VIP pass on a lanyard around her neck. Ellsberry is taking her 15 year old niece to the concert as a birthday gift.
“This was such a blessing because my family has been through so much,” Ellsberry said. “My mom kept calling me, my aunts kept calling me. They said it was my sister sprinkling down blessings on me that helped me win.”
The good news and excitement continued on the 9th floor of the Chase Tower on Woodward Avenue. Briana Mcswain, a client care specialist with Quicken Loans, was in the middle of a phone call when she saw Gilbert out of the corner of her eye and a look of shock came over her face.
“She thinks she just won a couple of tickets which she did,” Gilbert said to the camera as he waited. “Wait ‘til she sees what happened. Meanwhile, she’s so busy doing business I can’t even get to her… which is okay.”
Mcswain hung up the phone and learned she too had won VIP passes. While she was looking in Gilbert and Schwartz’s direction, Usher walked up behind her.
“I turned around and I was really so surprised. I was at a loss for words,” she said. “The first thing I did when he walked away, I just thanked god because I’m a very religious person.”
Mcswain smiled and posed for pictures with Usher and Gilbert. She could be heard on camera telling the pop star, “Thank you so much.” Her winning contest entry read, “I am his biggest fan because I can sign most of his songs in sign language.”
Mcswain’s sister, Salena Bryant, 34, of Mount Clemens has been deaf since birth. While she can’t hear the music, she can feel the beat. Salena has been an Usher fan for years and Mcswain has used sign language to communicate the lyrics and the meaning behind his songs to her sister.
“She can’t embrace the music like I can,” Mcswain explained. “It really means a lot to me that I can sign those words to her.”
As team members shared a flurry of Usher photos and posts on social media, Mcswain called the surprise “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“For this to happen at work – I was blown away,” she said. “Big things are happening in Detroit. Anything is possible when you believe!”