Preparation plus opportunity equals success. If that is the case, then dial in track and field star Me’Lisa Barber to the hotline. Some professional athletes struggle with what they want to do when their careers are over. Barber is not one of those individuals.
The transition of going from one existence of making a living to another can be quite challenging. The aftermath can be daunting for those athletes if they are not prepared to move on once the applause stop and the special talent they’ve been blessed with unceremoniously slide into the twilight.
Barber has made sure that didn’t happen to her. Barber’s company-The Honey Collection Jewelry-is proof of that. But it was an unwanted assist seven years ago that forced Barber to make bracelets, necklaces and gemstones that have now taken precedent over shoe spikes, warm-up sweatsuits and getting into the starting blocks.
In 2009, Barber was at the height of her track and field career. In a four-year window (2005-2008), Barber was one of the premier female sprinters in the U.S. Before Allyson Felix officially kicked her Hall of Fame track and field career into overdrive, the Barber twins were running the show when it came to top American female sprinters.
By the time the year 2009 rolled around, Barber, who claimed the No. 1 spot (100 meters) among all U.S. sprinters in 2006, was on the verge of superstardom. With her flowing black hair and stunning beauty, Barber, along with twin sister, Mikele, reminded some of the late, great Florence Griffith Joyner (FloJo) when it came to glam and fashion on the track.
Barber’s steady climb up the track and field ladder was beginning to hit a crescendo after she found herself being ranked as the No. 2 U.S. sprinter in 2005, and the No. 3 female runner two years later.
It was a good place for Barber to be in. Then, in a literal sense, Barber’s track and field career crashed into a not-so-pleasant speed bump.
Sitting at an intersection in Atlanta, Georgia, Barber was rear-ended by a drunk driver. The force of other car’s momentum drove Barber’s right leg through the floor of her car.
“The accident was more of a timing incident,” Barber said. “I was at a stoplight and a car was coming off the interstate and they ran into the back of me. She just didn’t stop and she was intoxicated. When I tried to brace myself, I slammed into the car floor with my left foot and then pressed hard on the right brake.”
Barber wound up ripping apart her Achilles, stopping cold her chance to participate in the 2009 USATF Indoor Championships and erupting her track journey for a significant amount of time.
“I tore my Achilles. I partially tore my Achilles. That put me out for a while, and messed up my season,” Barber said. “It changed my whole mindset. That was the first time that I actually tore something or have been injured. I’ve been injured before, but tearing your Achilles is a total different monster. Really tearing it, it changed my walk. It changed my foot strength.”
That accident derailed Barber’s career path. Instead of going up against the competition for the opportunity to earn the mantle of “World’s Fastest Woman,” Barber was left to contemplate her future. Rehabilitating her debilitating injury would be a slow process.
This was a time of reflection and personal uncertainty for the New Jersey native. The time away from the track gave Barber a chance to dabble her thoughts on how to keep herself occupied and encouraged. The idea of creating jewelry came naturally for her.
“I’ve always loved jewelry, and I started making bracelets for myself…It just took on a life of its own,” Barber said. “I’ve always loved big earrings and bracelets. My mom and aunt, they made bracelets and jewelry. So I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. That kind of just came into my life.”
“The Honey Collection Jewelry” illuminates what Barber has done throughout her track career.
The collection is beautiful, magnetic and commands your attention much the same way Barber does in her eloquent style on the track.
The line, which has grown over the years, is a reflection of the synergy, good vibes and vitality that Barber is all about as an individual. There are beads for love. Gems for healing are included in the collection. Barber makes bracelets that stand for peace. Graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in retail management, it is suffice to say that Barber has been putting that degree to work.
She certainly picked the right field to expand her entrepreneurship line of thinking. The jewelry thing spells money. Jewelry is big business here in the United States. And it’s getting bigger every day. In 2014, U.S. jewelry sales climbed to just over $68 billion in domestic sales. That includes a $19 billion bump in holiday sales alone, according to a 2015 report put out by Edahn Golan Diamond Research & Data.
If Barber’s business moves along anywhere near the successful level that she has operated on as a world-class track star for the last 16 years, it’ll make the eventual transition away from the sport a little bit easier.
As an NCAA champion, U.S. champion, and a world champion, Barber understands attaining success pretty well. So what she has managed to achieve on the track can certainly transfer over to the business world. And it starts with an idea. Barber drew on “The Honey Collection Jewelry” name from her college days when some of her school sisters gave her the moniker of “Honey.”
“That was my name in college,” said Barber. “Me and my roommates gave each other names. It was longer than that (honey). My timeline is ‘Honey Collection Making Sweet Love.’ It’s coming from a sweet place, a healing place. Honey also have a lot of healing properties for the body. It’s all for healing.”
The driving force behind all of this is Barber’s mission to lift other people up, encourage them and show them kindness. The jewelry line Barber created reflects this, she said.
“When I started it I had just got into a car accident, and I was looking up stones for healing,” Barber said. “There are stones for healing. There are stones for peace, and tranquility and keeping negative energy away and protecting you from all that.
“I started from a place of love. Like energy-wise, I wanted to come from a place of love and I wanted to help heal people.”
So far, “The Honey Collection Jewelry” is assisting Barber in doing those good deeds.
“Some like to choose the gem stones and some people just like the look,” said Barber.
“Whichever way they tend to look at it, you’re definitely getting good energy from me.”
Barber was hoping that good vibe would carry over to a berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team that competed at the Rio Olympics. That card was not dealt to her or Mikele, with both sisters finishing out of the running for a roster spot.
Hitting the mid-30 mark (36), there probably won’t be too many U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials left for the Barber sisters to compete in. The clock is winding down on their marvelous careers. For Me’Lisa Barber, her curtain call on track and field, whenever it may be, will just be the closure of one chapter of her life.
“The Honey Collection Jewelry” represents the opening of another chapter. Working as a fitness instructor is another. Some people like to talk the talk when it comes to self-fulfillment and purpose. Barber has chosen to walk the walk. Track and field is not the game end for this self-motivator.
“Faith without works is dead. That’s in the Bible,” Barber said. “That was one thing that has always stood out to me. Faith without works is dead because you can pray all you want, but if you’re not active about it, it doesn’t matter. What are you doing in trying to get that?”
I write about sports, racial and social justice, culture, and everything else in between. Beat writer for the Rams, Chargers, Lakers, and Clippers. Part of the inaugural Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship class. Howard University alum.