Why you should care
Because tough people outlast tough times.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Ray “Jizzy Mac” Sadeghi
At 15, I was starving and sleeping on floors; I’d been shot at twice and barely had enough money to buy a 99-cent Arizona iced tea. I was forced into street life.
I had been raised in an upper-class family in Italy. My father was a surgeon, and we were able to live a life filled with designer goods, personal drivers and chefs. Unfortunately, after numerous attempts to stay together, my parents divorced, and my father decided he wanted to move to America to further his career. It was always my dream to live in the United States, so I moved to America with my dad’s financial backing. Shortly after, when I was 15, I moved to New York City with my mother and siblings. For a year, my father paid my mother $20,000 a month to make sure all our needs were met and had us in a luxury penthouse. However, just a few months later, things started to unravel.
My father had moved on and remarried, and as his relationship with his new wife grew, he slowly began to stop supporting us, not even answering calls anymore. In order to reach my father, I had to go through my new stepmother, who made it clear that my siblings and I were not allowed to live with them. Because of my stepmother’s strong influence, my father said he would no longer take care of us. I was surprised. One day everything was going well, and the next day my dad told me he wasn’t sure I was his biological son and that he needed to get a DNA test.
I went over to the Hudson River and thought about taking my own life.
It was a sad time for us all. My father had asked us to move so he could take care of us, and then he just abandoned us and left us without any support. We struggled to make ends meet, and moved to a small studio apartment in Brooklyn with only a few clothes and a blanket. No beds. No water.
My mother started working at a hair salon, lots of overtime. Our rent was about $1,750 a month, and my mom was barely making $1,500. We couldn’t even afford heat, so I used to hold my sister to help keep her warm so she could go to sleep. Things got worse once my mother could no longer cut hair because of arthritis in her hands, and we couldn’t afford to pay for the medicine she needed.
So at 17, I was working two jobs after school to help out. Every day once class ended, I would work at Subway from 2:30 pm to closing, and then stock inventory at a grocery store from midnight to 3 am. After getting home at 4 in the morning, I would take a nap and catch the school bus around 5:45am. I was making $5 to $6 an hour.
I used to sit at the subway station depressed and watch all the people who were doing drugs, homeless or HIV-positive and ask, “God, is this going to be me? Am I going to be one of them? What do you want from me?” After going weeks without food, I started to take snacks and ramen noodles from the grocery store. Sometime later, after being caught on camera taking chips, I lost my job.
Then one day while I was about to buy an Arizona iced tea, I couldn’t find my dollar. As I was leaving the store, a man called me over with wads of cash in both pockets and told me to get whatever I would like. The man asked me to show him how much money I had in my pockets. I showed him empty pockets. He took me under his wing and taught me how to hustle in the streets. Now I could pay all the bills, buy furniture, televisions.
Then my street mentor disappeared, and I had no money and food. Again. So I went over to the Hudson River and thought about taking my own life.
I didn’t. But in order to eat, I would sneak into hotels and wait for people to place their leftovers from room service out, but I was caught on hotel cameras, so I switched to going by local restaurants at night offering to clean toilets and mop floors for food. I’ve trained my mind in a way that I can be without food for a long time. When you stay hungry for a long time, your body adapts.
One day I was walking by a shopping mall in Manhattan and I saw Diddy with his security team and entourage. I asked God to help me work for a big-name celebrity one day, but then I felt ashamed for asking. At the library, a college student approached me to talk, but I was still tied to street life, so I didn’t trust his attention. After three months though, he had helped me apply to college. While I was hustling and living the street life, I attended classes in the morning.
A few years later, I moved back to Europe, to Poland, to continue my studies in dentistry. After completing my medical studies, I started to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and got a pro card. I traveled around Europe cage fighting, and would sometimes watch Floyd Mayweather’s fights. I decided I wanted to return to America so I could take my MBD exams for dentistry. So I moved back to Nevada to attend school. I was struggling to pay student loans, so I reached out to my father for help after not hearing from him for 12 years. He denied me and demanded a DNA test again, which I refused on principle.
By then, I was an active participant in mixed martial arts, and as luck would have it, I started to train at Mayweather’s boxing gym. After training and helping out around the gym, I began to attract the attention of Mayweather himself. At one of his training camps, Mayweather told me that he was receiving an award at the MGM Grand that night and asked me to follow his security. At the end of the night, Mayweather told me to meet him at his Rolls-Royce, and he threw a huge stack of cash at me. “This is for you,” he said. “You’re one of us now.”
Now I’m one of Mayweather’s bodyguards. Instead of cleaning bathrooms for food, I’m part owner of my own health line. You can become successful through your struggles and life journey — if you don’t let any obstacles hold you down, you can overcome anything.