UNION, NJ – A surprise awaited 2015 Union High School graduate and two-time Grammy Award winner Nija Charles when she appeared with family and friends near her childhood home at the corner of Revere and Laurel Avenues in Vauxhall Tuesday afternoon.
“Union native, Nija Charles,” said Mayor Michele Delisfort, “welcome home.”
Speaking to Charles and the crowd, Delisfort informed Charles that the township has dedicated Revere Avenue, the street she grew up on and on which her family still lives, to her. “We are renaming the block in your honor,” added Delisfort. “You are an inspiration to all of us.”
A very emotional Charles said, “this was truly a surprise. I never thought something like this would happen. I thank all of you for coming out. It really does mean so much to me.”
Delisfort presented Charles with a Resolution on behalf of the Township Committee and a Resolution on behalf of the State of New Jersey. Delisfort said Charles, a 23-year old is Grammy Award winner, record producer and artist, first became interested in music while listening to her aunt and uncle experimenting on production software. In 2016, she enrolled in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU, where she practiced her production and song-writing skills.
Delisfort said during Charles’ second semester of her sophomore year, she met her current manager, Christian McCurdy, who introduced her to RCA A&R J Grand and flew her to Los Angeles to work with producers and other artists in the recording industry. She continued traveling between California and New York on biweekly trips, allowing her to work on music in Los Angeles while attending classes at NYU.
Charles is best known for her work with Beyonce and Jay-Z, (“Heard About Us”, “LoveHappy”), Cardi B (“Ring”, “I Do”), Chris Brown and Drake (“No Guidance”), as well Post Malone, Travis Scott, and other artists.
Charles celebrated her first number one song with Lady Gaga’s single with Ariana Grande, “Rain on Me”, which debuted number one on Billboards Hot 100 Chart. Delisfort said Charles has also gained attention as the featured artist, alongside Beyonce and Tierra Whack on the record “My Power” from the Lion King” live action soundtrack.
“We applaud you for everything you have done. You’re an inspiration to our youth and our high school students,” said Delisfort. “We congratulate you.”
Later in the afternoon, Charles participated in a Zoom call, hosted by Mayor Michele Delisfort, with Union High School students who were interested in her career path and were provided the opportunity to ask questions. In response to a student asking for advice on producing and songwriting, Charles said, "hone in on your craft. Make sure that you're always learning."
When asked who her role models are, Charles said, "my number role model is my mom. She's my idol. She's the definition of a boss. She always told me, 'you're a strong Black woman. You don't take no for an answer'."
In response to a question about she stays grounded, Charles said, "I talk to my family all the time. So that definitely keeps me grounded. My family and I are very close-knit. Growing up here, it's just in me. I don't change."