Elise Wright-Maharaj, formerly senior VP of urban music at Universal Republic Records, died of cancer on June 19 in New York City.
A well-respected industry veteran with more than 15 years experience in marketing, promotion and publicity, Wright-Maharaj helmed the urban music division at Universal Republic for five years. “Elise was such a beautiful woman,” says Monte Lipman, founder/CEO of Republic Records. “She was one of the pioneers and early architects of Republic. Her contribution was invaluable.”
Prior to joining Universal Republic, Wright-Maharaj was named VP of marketing for Universal Motown in 2005. During her tenure, she worked with such artists as Toni Braxton, India.Arie, Akon and Chamillionaire. Previously appointed VP of video promotion for Motown in 2003, Wright-Maharaj oversaw campaigns for Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu and Nelly, among others. Her long-running association with Motown also included a turn as director of publicity and media relations between 1995-2000.
“The music industry was a very scary place for me in the beginning,” recalls India.Arie of first meeting Wright-Maharaj at Motown 15 years ago. “And Elise was the most comforting, genuine, honest person in the building. She was nurturing and very straightforward. Most of all she was a friend and I will really miss that laugh.”
At the time of her death, Wright-Maharaj was the principal/CMO of Enhance Agency, a marketing strategy and business development firm based in New York City. She’d held the position since August 2012. The company’s client roster has included Pitbull, Motown, Atria Books/Simon and Schuster, Island Def Jam and Cash Money Content.
“We had the pleasure of working with Elise for many years, first at Motown and most recently at Republic,” said Cash Money Records co-founders/chief executives Ronald “Slim” Williams and Bryan “Baby” Williams in a joint statement. “Her vision proved invaluable to the label’s success, evolution and expansion. What we’ll miss most is the light and love she brought to everyone around her.”
A celebration of Wright-Maharaj’s life will be held on June 26 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s Chapel on the campus of Columbia University (1160 Amsterdam Avenue) in New York City. In lieu of flowers, a fund has been established by her family to support the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Noel Pointer Foundation (www.youcaring.com/elisewrightmaharaj).