MiChaela Barker is a badass. A superhero of sorts, and a role model any college student could look up to.
Born in East Lansing, Michigan, Barker grew up surrounded by music. Her mother played a slew of instruments, her great grandmother was the first African American opera singer in the state of Delaware—music is in her blood.
“In the beginning, my mom said before I even started talking as a baby I would hum to myself all the time,” Barker said.
She grew up singing in musicals and playing piano, but put music on the back burner when she came to Ohio State, focusing primarily on her academics and student organizations.
Barker received a full scholarship to Ohio State through the Morrill Scholarship program. Here she began her undergrad in Public Health and Environmental Science on the pre-med track.
“I’m a pre-med student, but I was really curious about what things happen to people that lead them to go to the hospital. I want to treat people and make sure people are okay holistically, that’s why I chose [my major],” Barker said. “What interventions can we put in place to fix this before you have to come to the emergency room, before you have to go to a doctor. I really like things that are preventative and get to the root of the problem.”
Barker said she hopes to become a Dermatologist in medical school. She said she came to this decision her freshman year of high school after a bad experience with her doctor.
“I went to a dermatologist who was caucasian who had never worked with skin of color before, so the treatment she gave me gave me chemical burns on my face because of the acid. The chemical peel and the acid she used was way too strong, it gave me chemical burns, and i had hyperpigmentation,” Barker said.
“I never expected this to be a problem because when you go to a professional you think, ‘oh they know what they’re doing,’ and so seeing that first hand I was like, ‘what in the world, this is crazy!’. So that inspired me to go into dermatology through my experience and hearing the experiences of other people and how things things are iffy for certain communities and not necessarily other communities and they need more representation.”
On top of her crazy workload, Barker is involved with more student organizations than most students combined. She’s a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a member of the Sphinx Honorary Society, the president of the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, volunteers at the James Cancer Hospital, as well as a Morrill Scholar and a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Scholar.
While she was happy with life as a student, a piece was still missing. She didn’t find that missing piece until she was given the opportunity to participate in Ohio State’s Second-year Transformational Experience Program, which awarded her $2000.
“Everyone [in the program] was doing study abroads, funding internships, which was really great but I was just like I really need to be true to myself and get back to my artistic roots,” Barker said.
So she decided to pursue music again. Through her stage name, Bella Reign, she made her first mini-mixtape titled “Clap Back,” where she took “Hotline Bling” by Drake, and “Love Yourself” and “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, and rewrote them from the female perspective.
“I was listening to music and they were good songs, don’t get me wrong, but I was so sick of only hearing guys perspectives on things about relationships,” Barker said. “Clap Back was mainly about telling people the perspective of the woman, and making people realize you can be strong by yourself, you can tell your truth by yourself, you don’t need another person to validate that you’re moving on or that you’re still strong, or successful.”
“I can be as loud as I want, as direct as i want, unapologetic, and I don’t have to fit into any box you put me in whatsoever.”
You’re probably wondering how the hell Barker is able to do all this and find time to breathe. Barker said her best advice to college kids struggling to maintain a healthy balance is to choose to do the things that make you happy.
“My issue as a freshman was that I was looking at things that I was not only interested in, but things that would only look only great on a resume. That’s where you get trapped and are unhappy. Whatever you spend your time on should be something you have passion for, something you could talk about for hours if someone asks you about it.”
Well, that and keeping a Google calendar constantly updated.
Her busy schedule in the classroom as an undergrad is coming to a close, but after accomplishing so much in such a short amount of time, her future is looking bright. She plans to take a gap year after graduating to focus on her music, however once the gap year is up, she’ll be right back in the classroom for medical school to go back to work on becoming a dermatologist; but one with dope mixtapes.
“The first thing that I live by is if you make a decision, as long as you are ok going to sleep and waking up feeling alright about the decision you made, let that guide your life and how you go about things.”
“Never lose your love. Whether that’s for people, for whatever your calling is, for organizations, for your passions, your hobbies, there are a lot of obstacles that come up in life that you can never plan for, you can never prepare for, but despite all of those things, never lose your love for what you’re doing. Don’t let that shut you down and keep you from being the best person that you can possibly be, because even throughout all those trials and tribulations there’s always a lesson that’s going to be learned, and there’s always something you can take from it.”