The Hustle is sold separately with Jamila Mustafa
Jamila Mustafa is one of the most prominent voices shaping the millennial generation as an international award-winning broadcast journalist, host, and actress. She has corresponded for FOX, A&E, BET, Nickelodeon, iHeart Media, ESPN, and MTV NETWORKS to name a few. Mustafa has hosted for live crowds upward 80,000 people and has sat down with political leaders like Congresswoman Maxine Waters and entertainers such as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Issa Rae, Mark Wahlberg, Migos, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Anthony Hopkins and more. Mustafa is one of the most decorated millennials of her time, having received four Resolutions/Key to the City from Delaware City Council presidents. She also received a letter of recognition from former U.S Vice President Joe Biden and was recently named one of the Most Influential People of African Decent Under 40 by the United Nations.
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Written by: (Brandon Alexander)
tell us about your childhood and what growing up was like for you?
Jamila: I was buck wild and energetic. People always compare a kid’s talent to the superstar of that genre. If they see a kid moving around they're going to say, “Oh, that boy is going to be a dancer like Michael Jackson. If they see a kid singing they’re going to say, “Oh, this is next Mariah Carey.” I was always running my mouth so people would say, “Oh she's going to be a lawyer!” It didn't take my mother long to realize I wasn't hitting those books. I wouldn’t even do homework. Then it became, “Maybe she should be an actress or model because she's nice to look at.” Before this, I started off doing martial arts. I was definitely Bruce Leroy or Dragonfly Jones. These are all idols that I really love. I had no choice; my dad was a grandmaster. Some people actually believed I was a boy until I was about 12. That's how I would go and compete. It was like an alter ego almost.
did you want to chase your dream or go to school?
Jamila: I went to Delaware State University, but of course I wanted to go to Spelman. I had to understand that you don't get everything that you want in life. A lot of students were working for it. They're hitting those books, they're doing summer school if they need to, and they're there being a part of extracurricular activities.
It was rough for me to manage school and my career. Monday would be my audition and there’d be call backs on Wednesday and possibly Friday. Three times out the week I was on the road. School was always something I enjoyed. I looked at that as a back burner. When it was time to go to college, my GPA was embarrassingly low; I barely had a 2.0. I didn't think I had it but I was so smart. I remember being on one interview the guy said, “You must be the top of your class; you must have a 3.5.” It was the first time it dawned on me that I really had a 1.8.
At the age of 10, I was asked, “LA or New York? Do you want to chase your dream or do you want to go to school?” I knew that the more diverse I could be the more I had against my competitors. A lot of my friends were booking auditions but they weren't in school. It was definitely a fight to get me in school, and I ended up choosing the college route.
How did you get your start in entertainment?
Jamila: One day there was an open casting call here in New York for an agency. My mom bribed me with a gyro, a New York hot dog, and some peanuts. I was about 8 or 9 at the time. We came up to New York and I had my Meek Mill straight backs. I had on a hot pink shirt, my straight backs, black jeans and some K-Swiss – I knew I was fly. I had to read a script and it was about milk. It was a commercial but there were a lot of words I didn't understand. The whole premise was that milk was delicious. I’m spitting these facts about why this milk is better than all the other milk. It was rough and I just remember getting out of there like, “good thing I'm getting some peanuts after this!” Because I worked hard. My agent to this day called my mom and tells her, “This girl can barely read. She's very rough around the edges but she has an it factor. It's something about her energy and her spirit; I really think she could make it.” My mom says, “So what do we do?” My agent says, “You have to get head shots.” This is when it all started. I kept getting booked for national commercials. I hit my first TV show at Fox when I was about 12 or 13.
did you enter the realm of being a child star?
Jamila: I would if I had gotten the role in Akeelah and the Bee. That's when I first understood what disappointment and depression was. I wasn’t even supposed to audition for it. I was in the next room auditioning for a commercial. I always had like a raspy voice and I remember the director came out, my mother and I were about to leave when he says, “Hey we want you to come and read for this role.” It wasn't until a few months into the audition process that they attached Laurence Fishburne to the movie. I remember they didn't pick a parent yet because Angela Bassett would be the mother and the dad was dead. If the child was to be light-skinned then they would have gone with me or another girl named Elisha, who starred in “Are We There Yet.” If she was brown skinned then that would still work because the Angela Bassett would be cast and that ended up being KeKe Palmer.
Do you feel like anyone can make a dream your reality?
Jamila: Under the right circumstances. I want to say no because I'm a logical thinker, but yes I can under the right circumstances. In a book it talks about how the most successful people in the world aren't the smartest or the prettiest. They aren't the wealthiest people. These people become successful and get what they want by really wanting to. A dream is simply just that. A dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately. What separates people who’ve actually made their dreams reality is their hustle. Anybody can dream. A lot of people have dreams. More people have died with a dream than those who’ve lived and fulfilled it. It can be controversial because you know we're taught in life we can accomplish anything and to dream big. But just like college they don’t teach you everything. They don't teach you that the dream is free but the hustle is sold separately.
Who are some folks that have mentored you along the way?
Jamila: There were a lot. A guy named Gideon. Tony who's like a big brother mentor. Maureen Carter and Jermaine Hawking, who work with me now, have been mentors. A lot of people who aren’t in my field, but perhaps are in accounting or business, have served as mentors. Mentors are important because you need someone. I think everybody can say, “I'm self-made, but we're not really self-made. Every single person who gave you a compliment, helped you or said, “I think you should connect with this person. Let me go ahead and connect those dots.” I’m thankful for every single person who's ever put me in a position to win or even given me an opportunity to show my greatness.
What was the roughest point in your life?
Jamila: My final semester in college I became physically sick. They say you can work yourself into the ground, and that’s what I did. During that time, it was almost illegal to take the amount of credits I was taking. I had to get the provost to sign off on it. It was well over 42 credits for a semester just to graduate. I had spent time in China creating a documentary. I was still hosting a lot of things on campus, I was still running a television station and on top of that, just the pressures. I graduated in May and that's when I learned the hard way; when you're sick, they don't give a damn about you. It's on to the next. If you're not available they say, “We love you. We think you'll do great. Keep in touch with us and we'll keep that resume on file but we need to start now.” We're not looking for someone who's in the hospital almost dead.
I had a cyst the size of a grapefruit on my uterus and it erupted. I was bleeding internally and they didn't know what it was. I had lost so much blood when I got to the hospital. They had released me about two weeks later and I was home. I couldn't even eat – My dad had to feed me. He’s a very strong man and he was breaking down in tears. I was depressed.
When I was finally able, I opened my laptop and just worked from 7AM to 7PM. Three weeks after that I was covering major events independently such as the Million Man March with Lewis Farrakhan. I was talking to Dave Chappelle independently and some of the bigger stars in the world.
What would you say is your passion?
Jamila: For me, it's hard when they say you have to separate business and pleasure. I know some people who are just naturally talented, so they enjoy it.
I know people who can have a normal job and also be able to do what they like to do. Unfortunately, that’s difficult for me. I'm so passionate about what it is I do and if you know my story, it's really the only thing I've done my entire life; there was no other career. There was no other burning itch, desire. This is who I've always been. I'm so passionate about it because the fire burns for me to achieve what it is that I feel I’m meant to do.
What is the driving factor behind your success?
Jamila: I don’t want to fail. I've always had the trajectory that allowed people to believe in me. Some people have a demeanor that makes other people want to help them. They truly believe that person is going to do well. Most people thought that of me. In college, I participated in different organizations, pageantry and ran a television station where we launched six different shows on a platform. By the time I was done with school, people knew Jamila was going to be the shit.
What are the barriers you’ve faced as a black woman?
Jamila: Patience. For me, it’s patience and staying true to me because the game changes and when the game changes, the rules change. People say, “You’re either going to play the game or you're not. If you compare it to something like doctors or nurses, you either pass a certification or you do not practice. I don't know a single teacher who teaches at a college level without a degree. However, you can be a millionaire artist with no degrees or you can have four degrees. You can come from a wealthy family and then they put you in a position to be a film director or you can come off the streets like Tyler Perry and own your own studio. Atlanta has one of the largest lots and we compete against companies such as Universal, Paramount and others that have been around for 100 years. How is that possible? Because this is the only industry where there are no rules. It just depends on your patience. How fast do you want to get it?
What advice would you give the next generation?
Jamila: Prepare, prepare, prepare. My friend Charlie always made beats while working a very unfavorable job. A job most people wouldn't have wanted to do or would have been embarrassed to do. He was running and had 100 beats just waiting. I remember one time he told me he got a DM and it was from Good Music. Long story short, he sent them over the 100 beats in a very short amount of time. He was signed by Kanye and nominated for four Grammy’s. I often hear people say, “I wish they would give me...” You have to create your own opportunities. You may or may not get the opportunity. You have to figure it out. For instance, if there’s an audition, either my agent will get me in or I need to figure out a way to get the audition. You have to create it if they’re not going to give it to you. Don’t be afraid to just create your own opportunity.
Let everyone know how they can find you online.
Jamila: That's right gang gang! my name is Jamila Mustafa that's @jmedia. My website is www.jamilamustafamedia.com. Between the social media and the website, you guys can find all of my other content and platforms. Thank you, my brother, for making me shine hard. Wakanda in the building!.
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