Photo by Julia Cartwright.

Nobody should’ve gotten hurt. It was supposed to be a clean deal. 

Sign up for our newsletter!

* indicates required

Janna Wilson was in her early 20s, selling drugs for a living in what she calls “her first job.” One night, she drove with her friend to purchase 10 pounds of marijuana from a supplier. When he left the car to make the deal, Wilson heard gunshots.

“He (came) running back with his shirt ripped and told me he got jacked for the money,” she says.

The two took off. 

Days later, members of a gang associated with the drug deal gone bad showed up at Wilson’s door demanding $10,000 of stolen cash. She had no idea what they were talking about.

“They came in with a gun and tied me up. I had a roommate at the time and they tied them up too,” Wilson says. “They pistol-whipped me thinking that I would just confess that I took the money they thought I took.”

Confused and beaten, Wilson offered to try and pay them back in debt just to get out of the situation.

“I was like, ‘If y’all just give me a minute I’ll give you all the money. Let me make the money back and you will get your 10 grand; I’m good for it,’” she says.

Hoping to sort through the confusion, Wilson called the friend who had ridden with her days prior and asked him to come to her apartment. When he arrived with another associate in tow, they were pistol-whipped, too. 

The scene was becoming desperate. Wilson knew nothing about a stolen $10k, and trusted that her roommate and friend didn’t know anything either.

“They already checked my entire house; it’s trashed. It’s not in my house. So I gave them an idea,” she says. “Why not go check his house?”

The friend had recently asked Wilson to cosign on an apartment, before saying her assistance would be unnecessary a few days later. When he gave the assailants his former apartment’s address, “it clicked,” and Wilson knew he was lying. 

“We’re all getting lined up; they were about to kill us execution style on the bed,” she says. “His friend said, ‘Just tell them what happened.’ They went to his other address and recouped seven grand of the money.”

Even with some of the money found, the gang members set off back to Wilson’s apartment. They were intercepted by the police, who had been notified by neighbors of the suspicious activity taking place. 

The police had potentially saved her life, but their arrival also meant the downfall of Wilson’s operation. Everyone in her immediate circle got arrested on drug crimes. Somehow, she was able to slip through the cracks as each offense was pinned on someone else.

“I’m the only person out of every single person I know that didn’t get busted,” she says.

That was Janna Wilson over 20 years ago. In 2024, she lives a reformed, modest life as a McAfee salesperson. 

She’s the little sister to three older brothers, and spent her formative years attending Lake Highlands High School. Each night, she returned home to a single mom and a revolving door of new men in the house. Wilson recalls being threatened and molested by some of them, leading to some of the dangerous decisions she made when she got older.

“Trauma is the gateway drug,” she says. “People don’t just go and start trying things because they were loved at home.”

Now 49, she wants to use her story to ensure others don’t follow the same path.

“I want my life to be a testimony as to why and how not to do. Make good choices. Don’t isolate,” she says. 

Finding an avenue to share her story took some time. 

In 2021, Wilson signed up for a stand-up comedy open mic at Chocolate Secrets, a chocolate and wine bar in Oak Lawn. She realized how quickly a community could be formed around it, and transitioned from performer to full-time host and curator of the shows. 

She named her shows “The Love Mic,” dubbing it a “mental health open mic.”

“I call it The Love Mic because we’re born of love until life happens. My goal is to bring love back into the community and not isolate,” she says. “One of the main things that is highly suggested in therapy is to find a support group. Be bold, get on a stage, feel supported and have somewhere to go on a weekly basis.”

Wilson incorporates a wide cast of regulars, ranging from stand-up comedians, music artists, magicians and even a puppeteer in the weekly rotation. After two years at Chocolate Secrets, she took The Love Mic to Sundown At Granada.

“I have one Hispanic guy that calls me tía, I have somebody else that calls me auntie. Somebody wished me Happy Mother’s Day on Mother’s Day. It’s beautiful,” Wilson says. 

The Love Mic recently celebrated its 10th show at Sundown, with Wilson only planning to grow from here. Tickets are $8, available weekly via Eventbrite. 

“If I can just affect one person, I’m doing my part,” Wilson says. “It’s my purpose.”