Hustle Hard Interview Project: Ghetto Genius


To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that lead me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.


When you start out from a place of Nothing and arrive at Something, it’s easy to get caught up in The Come Up. People lose sight of keeping it real and shed their barometer on humility, kindness, and loyalty because it’s easy to replace those qualities with self-importance and entitlement. But Jay Wunder, widely known as the Ghetto Genius, has lost none of his humble, self-deprecating humor or his proclivity to stay loyal to those who loved and cared for him back in the day. He has managed to keep kindness king during his Come Up.

With over 4 million hits on his popular blog, Inside the Mind of a Ghetto Genius, and 160,000+ fans on Facebook, Jay, along with his CREW, dish out real talk advice and cutting-edge humor on a daily basis.

I stumbled onto his site last year and loved it so much, I sent him an email. I didn’t expect a response. Jay not only took the time to email back with a personal response and words of encouragement, but he also asked me to be a part of the CREW. Hanging out with the Ghetto Genius family while writing under the alias “Flo-Rich” has been a test in avoiding arrest and alcohol poisoning. I’m happy to report that the entire CREW has managed to stay true to Jay Wunder’s two rules for our nights together: No one goes off on their own. No one dies.

EJL: I respect people who find a way to get their shit together and make something of themselves, even when they have the odds stacked against them. What gave you the focus to stay out of trouble and pursue your passions?

JW: I’ve had to hustle my whole life. Growing up, I lived in fear because my 4 siblings and I were in an unstable home with an alcoholic father, and the people I knew were heavy into gang activity, drugs, and scamming. I was the first one to go to college, somehow made it through, and ended up in Chicago after I graduated. One night, I was crying, feeling sorry for myself because I had fallen into drugs and seen some shit go down. I still cared about what other motherfuckers thought of me. Then, I starting thinking about my mom who commuted 1.5 hours each way to work for over 20 years and never complained once. NOT ONCE. She supported a family of 7. And I realized that I had no right to fuck up. I owed it to myself and to the people I loved to keep a straight head.

I didn’t need to get into trouble to prove my manhood.

EJL: Is your past what has allowed you to be so compassionate towards the fans who write in seeking advice? A lot of people are so casually cruel in the name of being honest, but you seem to have the perfect balance of keeping it real and not sugarcoating anything while staying away from the unnecessary bullshit.

JW: I’ve been burned a lot back in the day, and I know the hardest thing to accept is honesty. It’s difficult to take advice from people you know, even when it comes from a good place. I think that’s why people write in. And I respect that they trust me enough to share their tough times with me. This isn’t a job for me. I do it because the emails I get back thanking me for 10 minutes of laughter or the clarity I provided keep me going. It’s rewarding.

EJL: Do you ever get hate? How do you not let it affect you?

JW: I almost quit the blog because I got a lot of backlash from people I knew. The day I said, “Fuck what people think,” my whole life changed. No one else is going to make you happy or pay your bills, and you’re going to care about what they think? People say what they say out of jealousy and spite. But I’ve gotten good at pinpointing my Ride Or Dies- the people in my life who have my back no matter what.

EJL: You’ve saved me from myself a few times. If you had to school me on how to be a little more street smart, what would it be?

JW: Know your surroundings. Don’t come off as someone who can be taken advantage of. I always think of the worst case scenario when I’m in a place I don’t know. You can either start shit and get arrested or you can make friends or you can get the fuck out. And unless you owe them money or you gave them herpes, be suspicious of people who try to come back into your life.

GGandEJL(GG and EJL recording. On Instagram.)

P.S. GHETTO GENIUS ON THE RADIO: There is a good chance “Some shit went down” is going to apply to this show. And I mean that in the best way possible. Much love, GG. I got your back. Always.

HERE’S A LINK TO THE PODCAST in case you missed the show.

P.P.S. Stay connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for (t)hug life thoughts, random shit, and not-seen-on-this-blog pictures.

Hustle Hard Interview Project: Felicity Huffman

To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.


Although I’m not shy about giving compliments, I rarely refer to anyone as “hardcore.” It’s a term I save for someone who is effortlessly graceful and tough and real and sharp. Emmy award-winning actress Felicity Huffman is, well, undeniably hardcore. And because she’s blown me away each time I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her, it was difficult to pinpoint just one quality to celebrate.

Before meeting with Felicity for brunch a few weeks ago, I browsed through posts on her latest project, What the Flicka, an entertaining self-help blog that Forbes named as one of the Top 10 Parenting and Homemaking Sites for Women in 2012. It was for “interview research purposes,” but I got distracted by her Health and Fitness posts and stared at her well-defined arms and awe-inspiring physique for half an hour instead of doing actual research. Sure, go ahead and judge me for being creepy. It’s one of my better qualities.

During all of my laborious “research,” my thoughts kept going back to a comment that Felicity made about her husband, William H. Macy, during another chat last fall. It wasn’t the words I found so memorable. Without thinking, she smiled a little more as she shared a story about Bill. Sixteen years of marriage these days is a major coup. To see someone smile because they just can’t help it after sixteen years of marriage…that’s hardcore.

EJL: How did you meet Bill? I love….love. And I love all love stories.

FH: I went to this acting studio while I was at NYU, David Mamet’s studio, and he was my teacher. All the girls crushed on Bill because he was so cool. After we graduated, our theater company was doing a season up in Vermont, and he came to see us. Somehow, as we were all leaving the play and going to a party way out in the country, he and I ended up taking the same car. As we headed into the party, Bill asked me to take a walk with him. He took me up into a field and kissed me. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Why he chose me, I’ll never know.

EJL: The whole concept of marriage fascinates me because until I married my husband, I don’t know that I even believed in it. My parents were miserable for a long time. How did you know you wanted to be with Bill?

FH: I knew what a good man looked like because I have six older sisters. I listened to their stories as I was growing up. Bill and I broke up for quite a few years, and I was so miserable without him. Just as I was becoming okay on my own, he came back. The perspective I got from losing Bill for such a long time and then having the opportunity to be with him again made me know what a good guy he was.

EJL: Did your time apart make the second incarnation a different experience?

FH: I was finally able to say, “I’m not a perfect girlfriend.” And he still cherished me. He gives me a lot of room. The day after we got married, I sat in my family’s kitchen surrounded by my sisters and cried for about 4 hours because I thought my life was over.

The next day, Bill and I went on a backpacking trip, and I brought a shitty paperback novel. Every time we stopped to rest, I whipped out my book and started reading. When I pretty much hadn’t said anything for two days, Bill asked me what was going on. I said, “I think my identity is done because I married you. I feel like this was a huge mistake.”

He calmly replied, “Okay.”

And because he gave me all that room, it was like a mountain wasn’t there anymore.

EJL: There are men who are uncomfortable with their spouses pursuing their own passions or becoming successful. I think these men are afraid to see women shine. But, you’re…so shiny. Do you think you could have the career you do now if Bill wasn’t so supportive?

FH: It would be impossible. Bill gives me a lot of room, but he does it because he knows that my importance or worth is not defined by him.

EJL: When I married my husband after dating him for just 18 days, I was afraid that when he started to know everything about me, he wouldn’t love me anymore. It’s still a fear I have. It’s impossible to know the inner-workings of a marriage, even a successful one, but do you have any thoughts on…how I’m supposed to…do this thing and not mess it up?

FH: I’m glad your husband lets you be yourself. I don’t know how to keep a marriage going, but I do know that I can still feel a spark every time Bill comes home. I don’t put in effort all the time. I don’t dress up. I wear workout clothes all the time. And he still cherishes me.

EJL: Thank God. I’ve worn yoga pants for 15 days in a row. Wait. I think I have the wrong takeaway here.

Throughout brunch, I made references to hip hop and rap artists, and as we were getting ready to leave, Felicity asked why I liked rap so much. I had never been asked that question before, and it gave me pause. It dawned on me that the music that I still love so much today has been one of the few consistent things in my life over the past two decades. And because Felicity is Felicity, she said, “Would you write me a list of stuff to listen to? I’m not into that ‘fuck bitches’ stuff though.” If anyone were to ask me for a moment of kindness that someone showed me, this might be near the top of my list. I didn’t realize what a profoundly positive impact it makes to show curiosity for someone else’s passions until it happened to me.

Please help me make a list of must-listen rap/hip hop music for Felicity. And no “fuck bitches” stuff.

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 photo credit: Stephen Busken