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CHILLing with MIKEY

You never know where your degree will take you.
 
Michael “Mikey” Mercer wanted to be a criminal profiler, with eyes set on working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This led him to pursue tertiary studies in psychology and sociology.
 
But an earlier dream of analyzing evidence dissolved while he attained his own prominent profile in entertainment. His musical talent and megawatt smile endeared him to legions of fans, earning him widespread acclaim and a household name in Barbados and beyond.
 
Today, with 12 titles from 15 years of national competition, the Barbados Soca Monarch credits his university education for much of his success.

Watch full interview with reigning Soca Monarch Mikey. 
 
“Who would have thought that psychology would have helped me so much in what I am doing now? Even my peers tell me I think about things on a different level, and I have to thank psychology for that because it opened my eyes … and I find it to be extremely helpful,” he told CHILL Magazine on a breezy summer day.
 
He uses the knowledge in several ways; from specific chords to convey upbeat messages of joy, love and merriment, to making quick assessments of his audience in an effort to elicit their maximum enjoyment. Most recently, he improved on an already winning formula when he captured the MQI/98.1 The One Soca Monarch title in an inaugural competition held on 26 July 2019, with his popular Action Time Again.
 
General knowledge acquired from a number of foundation academic courses has helped him to traverse the many social and corporate settings into which his musical talent and philanthropic endeavours have taken him.
 
Also a physical fitness aficionado, the 2018 Party Monarch and Starcom Network People’s Monarch is a black belt in karate, who can boast of being one of the strongest men in Barbados after capturing the Barbados Strong Man title at the inaugural Strong Fest Barbados in 2017 and retaining it the next year.
 
Although having a strong musical background, soca was not part of Mikey’s singing repertoire when he entered university in 2001. A member of a capella group G-Syndicate back then, he and his bandmates would practise by the staircase at the rear of the Leslie Robinson Building.
 
“The acoustics out there would show up any nonsense that we were singing,” he recalled with a laugh.
 
He was still a student and a member of a popular dance group, Grass Skirt Posse, when he won his first Road March title with Come Together in 2004. The semester after he captured that title provided yet another teachable moment for the soca singer who would go on to become a multiple monarch with a string of hits including I in Dat, CEO, Enjoy Meh Life and this year’s Wukkin Friend, Energy and Good 2 Go.
 
“Before that summer, I used to go into the cafeteria by myself and everything was cool. [People might say] ‘Oh dat’s de fella from Grass Skirt Posse’. But after [winning], I came back to school and did the same thing and the [response] was ‘Oh, he feels he is all ah dat.’ I was doing nothing different, but people had something to say,” he quipped.
“That itself prepared me for my career because I realised that you can’t please everybody, and from the time you get some success, people will have something [negative] to say. It was hard to swallow at first, but then I realised … everyone will not like you or what you do … Everyone won’t be a fan, but the majority will at least respect what I do. I take what I do seriously and my peers respect me on a serious level, and corporate partners do too.”
 
Mikey’s Cave Hill years also emphasised the importance of another key tenet in his life: giving back to those in need. The Team Mikey Charity was launched in April 2012 and has been guided by the simple, yet transformative mission “To make the act of giving charitably an everyday occurrence.” He has also lent his talents to the university, in acts such as performing after the RBC/UWI Race for the Kids in 2017.
 
The entertainer recalled one pivotal night that helped to cement his resolve to give back. While studying in the Law Library, another student’s pen ran out of ink – and she did not take it well.
 
“She started to cry. Initially, [I thought], ‘you could just get another one’. But then that psychology again: the average person is not going to freak out like this because of a pen running out of ink. Possibly, she doesn’t have the funds to buy another; she needs the pen to finish the work; and she is depending on this degree to ‘get out’ and get a better life. Maybe this is why she is taking this so hard. She may also be the person that her household is depending on to get an ‘out’. I lent her my pen and she asked me what I would use, and I told her that I could get another,” he reflected.
 
“[Years later] I met that same student when I went into a meeting to solicit sponsorship. I never even knew her name; I just gave her the pen. She asked if I could remember her … but I didn’t. She told me: ‘we were studying in UWI’s Law Library and my pen ran out of ink and you gave me your pen. Whatever you want to do, I am willing to be involved.’ When you do good, positive energy comes back.”
 
Currently, the charity provides two scholarships for students who are entering secondary school, covering their total first-year expenses, along with providing a laptop. Mikey added that they are looking to expand their scope by covering the first-year expenses of a student entering university. Along with its educational component, Team Mikey Charity also conducts food drives and works with corporate sponsors to assist families in need.
 
It is many of these interactions that “restore my faith in humanity,” he added.
 
“Last year, we had a request from a mother of four who asked for breakfast food items. When we went to visit her, she did not want to let us in because she was embarrassed about her living situation. When I opened the door, there was no floor; just four planks of wood to walk on. I asked her why she only asked for breakfast food items, and she said she did not want to be greedy since she knew there were people who were in greater need … [and she] at least had a roof and running water.”
 
With the aid of corporate sponsors, the charity was able to fulfil the mother’s request for breakfast food items, as well as a new floor for her home.
 
“It is a passion for me,” he emphasised. “… One thing people always tell me about is my smile; and I believe I was put on this earth to help people smile, whether it is through my music, through fitness, or through the charity. And it is contagious.”
 

 

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