She's a comedic genius, one of the UK's most in-demand presenters and is fast becoming the fresh new face of British beauty. Oh, Maya Jama, what did we do to deserve you?
The 24-year-old is warm, friendly and constantly oozing the confidence that’s landed her presenting gigs on MTV, DJ slots on Radio 1, a fashion range with Pretty Little Thing, a Maybelline beauty contract and rapper boyfriend, Stormzy. But Maya is the first to admit that fame and success didn’t fall at her feet. The star, who recently became the youngest-ever presenter of the MOBOs, was forced to work three jobs to fund her London rent after leaving Bristol following the tragic murder of her then-boyfriend who was shot in a London pub when Maya was just 16.
Citing faith, prayer, hustle and a guardian angel as the keys to her success, Maya has gone on to become one of the UK's freshest stars.
Maya joined us at GLAMOUR Beauty Festival 2019 to chat all things career goals, diversity in beauty and handling the haters. Here's what she had to say...
On diversity in the beauty industry
There’s such a long way to go. It’s a struggle to find a shade for every skin tone, especially on a budget. I do think that brands are starting to realise there’s more than one shade of human and we get suntans, too. It’s annoying that it isn’t standard. We are in England, we are multicultural so we need colour shades for everyone. Brands need to realise that people have dark skin so we need a shade to suit - and we also get sun tans.
On hustling to get her name out there and still having to pinch herself about her career success
You work super hard at the beginning, you’re desperate to get your name out there. I was that annoying person who’d make YouTube videos and tweet everyone asking them to repost me. Once you do start getting paid work, you don’t want to take time off because you’re worried someone else will take that job.
I still have complete imposter syndrome - I remember shooting my Maybelline advert and thinking 'Omg that’s Jourdan Dunn, why am I stood next to her in a photo?' It’s insane to see yourself on such a big platform.
On social media trolls and learning to laugh off the hate
Social media is a massive gift but a huge curse at the same time. You are your own promotional tool so I’d say if there’s something you’re passionate about, put it out there. Or you can just harass everyone like I did. Social has helped my career because as a presenter, you don’t get your personality out as much as you’re promoting someone else so that’s where social media has been helpful for me.
I often pull silly faces and you get people like ‘she’s so weird, she is so cringe’ but then I am like ‘don’t look then’.
I’ve got a recent troll - I don’t know if it’s a guy or a girl or a thing - that’s been painting beards on my face. Last week someone kept coming into my DMs saying ‘I can see your Adam’s apple’, ‘oh did you shave today?’ I blocked them but then it was happening multiple times a day from different accounts and they had very well Photoshopped photos of me with a beard, they’d made my skin rougher, and had their name as ‘Maya Jama man’.
I was sat wondering 'What does this person want? Do you want me to confess I am a man?' It’s kind of funny because the pictures are jokes and I kind of look like a mix between Russell Brand and Theo Walcott and they obviously want attention so I re-posted it and everyone had a laugh. It doesn’t really affect me anymore. I get that I am in some people’s faces a lot, I will just block them and move on. Sometimes I just mute them so they can see me but I can’t see them and then I get smug about it.
Jokes aside, if you are being trolled, you just have to understand it’s not personal. They obviously have an issue with themselves to go out of their way. Carrying anger is a lot more heavy than carrying love.
On down days and downtime
I am like Stig of the Dump when I’m not working - I won’t wash or brush my teeth and lay inside playing with my dog.
When I feel down I have a little cry and I go through why I am feeling the way I am feeling. If there’s a reason, I ask myself if I can change it and if not then I just roll with it. That helps me. We are human, we’re not built to be happy every single day of our lives. I always feel better after having a cry in the corner.
When I am feeling sad, I list the things I am grateful for: I've got my house, I have got my family and a great dog.
On the biggest challenge she's ever faced and how faith pulled her through
The biggest challenge I have faced is when I first started out when I moved to London from Bristol at age 16 amidst my boyfriend at the time being murdered.
I was literally in some mad place as a teenage girl. It was one of those moments where I could have either gone back to Bristol and stayed at my mum’s house and had a normal job and healed with all my friends or I could do everything I have always wanted to do and push for it.
I remember so many times I thought: “What are you doing? You are so in over your head. I had no money, I was bumping trains and blagging it. I didn’t have a fiver to get across London. I remember thinking I was just a little girl in this massive city who was heartbroken and messed up in my mind but one thing I did always have was faith and I didn’t want to lose what I had always wanted so I prayed a lot and reinforced my career dreams. I was so confident I was going to do it. I was a little dreamer. I must have had angels helping me through that period.