Michelle Lee Runs says music was her outlet because it was a positive way to express herself.

Michelle Lee Runs, known as MzShellz, says her upbringing was tumultuous. Her mother was murdered when she was young. And in off reserve schools, she dealt with racism but she found her voice in poetry.

“I think writing to me was always my biggest outlet. As a youth that was transitioning into being an adult and at the time, I was in foster care. Once I turned 18, I aged out of care, right on my birthday, I was like out. I was out of the house, it was mind blowing,” MzShellz. “I had nowhere to go.”

MzShellz was always inspired by the work of Tupac, and like her hero, she started writing poetry. When she moved to Regina she found the hip hop community and MzShellz remembers sitting with a group and just writing bars.

“Then by the end of it, we had this cool little verse. I hung on to that. I hung on to that verse writing, almost like freestyle writing. It wasn't really poetry, it was like freestyle. Yeah, then I found my voice through that,” said MzShellz.

She tried post secondary but struggled because of outside influences and a violent relationship she was in. The relationship was so toxic one of her children was seized from the home, and she knew then she had to make a change.

Illustration by Shaikara David

MzShellz escaped that situation by moving in with her sister in Vancouver. A city she still resides in because she was determined to show her children a better life.

“You never know what a change of environment can really do for your life. I came out here and I had no one. I knew no one, but I knew that I had to get out of there,” said MzShellz.

Now, she's pursuing her music career and she and her three children are in a safe and healthy environment. MzShellz hopes other Indigenous people know that by pursuing their dreams they could paint a brighter future.

“Finish everything that you want to accomplish in life. Believe in your dreams because dreams are a real thing. Dream big, aim for the sky because no one else is going to believe in you besides yourself. You got to go hard for yourself by any means necessary,” said MzShellz.

“Keep dreaming, keep growing, keep building.”

Thanks to Oscar Baker III for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    British Columbia
  • Date
    February 17, 2023
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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