Dominique Rhodes was there when Life Remodeled began in 2011, the vision of a young pastor partially inspired by the popular TV show “Extreme Home Makeover.” Even then, Nique, as most people call her, thought “how cool would it be for Life Remodeled to be in Detroit.”
Six years later, she is the first Group and Events Director for Life Remodeled, whose CEO is that former pastor who in 2013 expanded his original build-a-house-in-six-days effort to a more far-reaching mission to remodel lives one neighborhood at a time in Detroit. Nique has worked on most of those projects. Twice she has shared her hip-hop talent, first in 2014 in Cody Rouge and last summer as the first artist to take the stage in the new performance pavilion at Skinner Park that was a centerpiece of the Life Remodeled project in Denby.
How this poet-turned-musician came to work full-time for Life Remodeled is a story that began when Chris Lambert attended one of her concerts at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit and invited her via YouTube to perform at Ekklesia, his former church in Westland. Soon after, Nique and her mother became regular attenders and heard about Life Remodeled.
“I was still in college around this time, and I thought it was incredible,” Nique said. “My Mom and I both worked on the first project. I helped sweep up streets and helped with a garden.”
Nique originally planned to attend Drexel University and pursue music in Philadelphia, a hotbed of hip-hop. Instead, honoring her parents’ request to visit one Michigan school before packing up and leaving the state, she felt an immediate spiritual tug at Spring Arbor University. Nique finished her Urban Ministry degree in 2011 and went to work full time at Westland Youth Assistance, where she still volunteers as a mentor to at-risk teens. She accepted a part-time position with the Knight Foundation in 2015, which exposed her to civic engagement and relationship building, two critical requirements of her work with Life Remodeled.
“Chris reached out to me around the time of the Denby project and said he was getting ready to hire some people in full-time positions,” Nique said. “Working with volunteer groups, building relationships, facilitating dialogue and conversations… expecting me to do what I do already. It was a perfect fit.
“I’m excited because for the first time, I am using all of my skills and putting that very expensive degree to good use,” she said. “It’s a God thing how all these connections have come together.”
Nique sees interconnection of her lifelong commitment to social justice, her Life Remodeled position and her music, which has grown from solo act to a band called the NLR Experience. . The group will perform at one of the music festivals at the 2017 South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas in March and release a live album later this year. Nique’s first CD under her rap name Nique Love Rhodes in 2012 was called “Against All Odds.”
“My music is intended to inspire and empower,” she said. “The Life Remodeled mission is similar.”