Is the American Dream attainable if you’re from a small country town? The immediate answer seems to be no, and yet, Kountry Wayne—comedian, author and entrepreneur—did not grow up in a place where dreams come true. Instead, he was raised in Millen, Georgia. It’s a town where poverty, limited resources and the “country boy” stigma can make or break you.
But on the road to success, being from the country was just one of many obstacles. At age 11, Kountry Wayne (then Wayne Colley) lost his mother. Several years later, as a high school graduate and young father, his uncle “hired him as a professional drug dealer,” according to one of his stand-up performances. That led to frequent run-ins with the police, and eventually a court hearing that could have sent him to jail for a long time.
But Kountry Wayne always had a lifeline. He used his comedic gift to charm a straight-faced judge into letting him go so he could take care of his family. He also left the street life behind, opting to throw parties and to host at his own club. Eventually, Kountry Wayne launched himself out of Millen to start a comedy career fueled by Southern wit and viral sketches.
Now he’s on a mission to share wisdom through clean, relatable comedy. He has a new book, Help Is on the Way: Stay Up and Live Your Truth, releasing April 18. He’s also filming a Netflix special in May, and millions of followers look forward to his witty videos on YouTube and Facebook.
Kountry Wayne’s early life
What was it like growing up with big dreams in a small country town?
KW: If you’re open-minded, you feel trapped. People try to put you in a box, and it seems like being simple is more accepted than trying to be successful. If you’re in Los Angeles and you’re trying to be successful, it’s the norm. If you’re in Atlanta and you want to be successful, that’s the norm. But trying to be successful in the country—it’s like you’re an outlaw. It’s not a supportive place unless you’re doing something that makes sense to everyone.
There’s a stigma that people from the country can’t make it in entertainment. How did you break through that?
KW: A competitive nature, and just playing sports. Growing up, my dad and my uncles were in the streets, and they all had this competitive nature. They would say, “Boy, your car is slow,” or “I made more money than you today.” So anytime someone challenged me, it triggered my competitive nature. That helped me defeat all the odds against me.
In your book, you describe Millen as a place with heavy street culture that you got swept up in. What steps did you take to escape that?
KW: Oh, man. Before that, I tried to go to the military. But eventually, I got a job and tried to dodge it that way.
One time I tried to get a job at a chicken plant, and I almost threw up when I smelled those chickens! I got right back in the car. So I took a lot of steps to try and dodge that lifestyle, but I ended up crunching the numbers. I thought, There’s no way I’ll make enough money, even if I work here 20 years.
Kountry Wayne on making a change
Was there a moment you knew you had to take another route?
KW: Yes. One day I was riding in the car with my kids’ grandmother, and we were talking about tax money. I told her I would pay all the bills with my tax refund, and she said, “You all should go shopping and enjoy your money.” I said, “No, I have to pay the bills from the furniture store—and it’s not like you all help me with the bills.” They were staying with me at the time.
And she told me, “Well, I could make my daughter take out child support and have you broke around here. So you’re stuck. You already have all those children with her, and you’re stuck.”
That’s when I knew I had to make more money because she was right. I was stuck financially. I would go through that forever unless I found a way to earn more.
What held you back from making more money?
KW: The main challenge was the lack of opportunities in the country, plus I already had a felony on my record. So it was hard to do what I wanted to do or get permits for a business. Trying to be legit in that world was almost impossible.
How did you overcome that?
KW: I drove to Atlanta because I had connections there. I went to different clubs, saw how they were doing things and took that knowledge back to the country. I started reading books and getting ideas and inspiration. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Becoming a Millionaire God’s Way by Thomas Anderson. I read The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.
I used all of that information to get bank loans. I had to use ‘the art of seduction’ to make the loan officer feel comfortable with me and not my 500 credit score. I started gaining knowledge everywhere I could.
What inspired you to post funny videos on social media?
KW: I saw the comedy game take root in Atlanta. Comedians there and in Los Angeles were going viral on Vine and gaining followers doing little sketches. I was like, man, I could do that easily. I’ve always been funny.
So I jumped on it early and started posting skits in October of 2014. I was inspired by comedians like DC Young Fly, Phillip Hudson, Emmanuel Hudson and King Bach. Nobody was telling my stories, so I created my own lane. The skits allowed me to become a standup comedian.
Kountry Wayne’s new book
Your book, Help Is on the Way, comes out soon. What’s it about?
KW: It’s about my life story—where I’ve been, where I am now and where I could have ended up if I didn’t reach my dreams. But the central message is that help is always on the way. That inner help comes from the gifts you’re born with and the lessons you learn in life. You have all the tools you need to reach the next level, and you have to trust that.
So I use my life story to talk about the things I’ve been through and how I overcame them. It’s about relationships, imperfections, finances and family.
What inspired you to write it?
KW: I feel like people need to hear my story because most people in my hometown don’t make it out. They might make it money-wise, but they lose their sanity.
I made it here sober. I’m not broken, and I don’t have trauma. I’m thankful for wherever I am and what God has done for me. So I feel like people need to hear from someone who’s not speaking from a place of judgment or projecting their traumas. I’m trying to reach that person who’s in a dark place, and I want to share information without judging or belittling.
What was it like revisiting your past to share meaningful lessons in your book?
KW: Oh, man, it was like going back down that journey. I felt every moment. At some points, I wanted to stop. I thought, Hold up, we have to make sure the police don’t see this. How many years has it been?
It pulled at my flesh a little bit because the moments were so real. So it’s like you’re fighting at first, and then you make something amazing. Ultimately, it became this piece of painful, happy, joyful art created through my past.
Kountry Wayne talks future projects
What can viewers expect from your Netflix special?
KW: It’s for people who come from where I’m from and that whole culture, for sure. But also, I’m speaking from the perspective of a sober person who’s definitely done some things. I have 10 kids with five different women, but I’m still here. I’m a Black man in this world, but I’m not speaking out of anger. It won’t be about politics or gender because I don’t care about any of that. I love everybody for who they are.
I’m addressing the stuff we need to talk about, like student loans. Because, hey, man, we ain’t paying them back. Everybody’s going to watch it over and over again and find something to love each time.
Any plans for the future?
KW: I want to tell stories through movies and television shows and feed content to people in a creative way. I think that’s where I’m at. I’m also passionate about entrepreneurship and teaching people how to monetize on the internet realistically, hand over fist.
And I think a lot of people are going to come to me for spiritual advice too. I feel it already. I’m just going to be that person who shares the truth.
Photo by Amina Touray