The bottom may be crowded, but there’s plenty of room at the top. Below, the other I Want To Work for Diddy winner talks about his near-loss, his friendship with Kendra and how Mike Barber differs from his alter ego, Mic Barber.
You thought you’d lost, and then Diddy dramatically stopped the plane and called you on board to tell you both Suzanne and you would be working for him. That must have been an incredible shift in emotions for you.
Going into it, Suzanne and I were so nervous. We were holding hands. He walked over and told Suzanne she has everything he needs, said congratulations and then walked away from me. I couldn’t believe that that was it. I didn’t want to tell myself that was it. I looked to the sky and I told Diddy in my mind, “I’ll see you at the top, Diddy. The bottom is too crowded.” So then, I start to walk away and the plane stops and he gets off the plane and yells my name. He told me what was happening, that I got the job, and I had to shake his hand and give him a hug to make sure it was real. It was a great feeling. I went from zero to hero all in 10 minutes. But even if he didn’t stop, I was gonna show up to Bad Boy the next day with a resume. The next day!
Do you think he was planning this all along or was it a last-second change of mind?
I have no idea. You know how Mr. Combs is. And Suzanne was an excellent choice. Either way, we were both very qualified for the job.
And you guys haven’t started working for Diddy yet, right?
Right. We haven’t been in contact with anyone from Bad Boy. Knowing Mr. Combs, by the time the finale has aired, we’ll get a call from him saying, “Report to work.”
Before the show idea materialized, did you ever independently think to yourself, “I want to work for Diddy?”
Oh yeah. I grew up in the Bad Boy era, that ’94-’99 era where Bad Boy was everywhere. I used to say, “Man, that’s somebody that I would love to be next to.” He’s doing what he loves and it makes money from it. I always admired that.
On the flip, did you ever think to yourself, “I don’t want to work for Diddy anymore,” as the show went on and the challenges became more difficult?
No. I made the job a lot harder than it was. I’m such a perfectionist. I was pushing myself so much that a lot of the things that were simple, I made difficult. I’m hoping that it’s not as difficult as I made it. But I hear stories that I ain’t seen nothing yet.
At the very least, he seems extremely particular.
Very, very particular. But I’m ready for it. He has something that I want. He is a place where I want to be. Like I told Boris, it’s OK to be a copycat as long as you copy the right cat.
The interesting thing about this show is that you’re basically aspiring to a stepping stone – the prize is, in the best case scenario, merely a jumping-off point.
We always want more, and me being Mr. Combs’ assistant is to the be all, end all. All of his personal assistants went on to be great people. Capricorn is the director of marketing for Sean John and Norma is the director of events for Cipriani. The list goes on. I’m just blessed to have the same opportunity and I’m hoping to follow in their footsteps.
And as far as where you’ll go, what do you think? You’re a rapper, right?
I am an artist, but I’m mostly a producer. I have a recording studio in the Bronx. But I’m a show host above anything. I host shows at the Times Square Arts Center every month. I also started a company called Mic Management with my DJ. We do event planning, artist booking, artist development. Like I said, Mr. Combs is doing everything that I’m looking to get into. Why not take a piece of the man?
You were particularly accepting of Laverne. At one point, you called her “baby.”
In the beginning, it was difficult for me to get along with Laverne. She has a strong personality and so do I. But I wasn’t looking at her as a transgendered woman. I’m looking at her as someone who’s trying to get a job, just like me, and on top of this, she’s on my team. Laverne is a close friend of mine now. Accepting her was difficult in the beginning, but after a while I realized that she’s just a person.
What about Kendra? She told me that you guys had something romantic going on.
Kendra and I were close. I’m not going to go as far as to say “romantic.” Kendra, Brianna and I were close. When Brianna got eliminated, it left me and Kendra to grow. Kendra didn’t want to open up to anybody else, and as the show started to stress her out more, she felt like she could talk to me.
Any regret over voting her into the bottom?
No regret at all. I would do it all over again. Going into that room, my mind was set on Boris going up for elimination. It was time for him to go home. But as he began to talk, as we all began to talk, my opinion changed. Capricorn asked me cumulatively speaking who should go home. To me, it had to be Kendra. My integrity was on the line. Should I not pick Kendra just because she’s my friend? Or do I pick Boris just because I don’t like him? I felt like Kendra and I were so close, I didn’t think that would make or break our relationship. The way I feel is that if you want friends and alliances, watch I Love Money.
What about Poprah?
I knew from the start that there was something about her that just wasn’t right. I tried to get along with her. She spends a lot of time hating other people and I think it’s because she’s lonely. She’s been fighting all her life. I have a great deal of respect for her because we come from the same place. I wish we could have had a better relationship. But she found a way of making people love to hate her part of her career. I appreciate all the support and publicity that she gave Suzanne and I in her blogs. There’s no such thing as bad press, as long as you keep spelling my name right.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
The show was a humbling experience. It was all about being…not submissive, that’s too much of a word, but just getting along with Mr. Combs in a way that’s respectful and a way that’s not overstepping his boundaries. I learned that the fewer words that you have to say, the better your relationship with him will be.
It seems very intimidating.
You have no idea. Just his presence is intimidating. As the show progressed, I started to get more comfortable with him. At the Janelle Monae concert, I realized that I just had to get over that overwhelming feeling of anxiety. I’m just glad that I made the least amount of mistakes out of everyone.
Your name is Mike, but you go by Mic sometimes. Can you explain that?
It ties into a brand. One thing I love about Mr. Combs is that he branded himself, and he branded his true name, Sean John, and he branded Diddy. I do understand branding and he’s excellent at it. Sean John Combs is the family man, the human, whereas Diddy is the name, the mogul. That’s what I want for myself. Mike Barber is more of the person who’s grounded to his family. Mic Barber is the show host. He’s the one that’s gonna make sure Mike Barber can take care of his family.
Have you been resting? Are you ready for the sleep deprivation this job requires?
Actually, I’ve been practicing. I don’t sleep. If I’m not in the recording studio, I’m doing a show. If I’m not doing a show, I’m hosting a party. If I’m not hosting a party, I’m in the recording studio.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Right now, I’m taking care of the groundwork for my company, Mic Management, and the not-for-profit I’m starting is called the YES Group – Young Entrepreneur Speaks. I’m hoping to have delegated enough responsibility so that I’m able to start another company within five years. Working with Mr. Combs could definitely open some doors because other people look for work, while wealthy people build a network. The amount of people that I’m going to meet is definitely going to take my company to the next level. Five years from now, I don’t know if I’ll be a multimedia mogul, but you’re gonna know Mike Barber.