As we are both a bit buzzing for a reunion, we jump right into the excitement of the day, Maya taking home her first award ever. “It’s my first solo award – it’s nuts! I have always been second place.
I have never come first so it’s a big moment.” And what will the acceptance speech be? “F**k knows! I am just going to thank my mum – actually my mum is quite basic! It’s really nice to finally have an award to put somewhere in my house,” Maya shouts.
Maya Jama certainly isn’t a fan of tidying up – I mean who is? As I check into her LA suite ahead of the E! People’s Choice Awards – where Maya will take home the accolade for UK and Ireland’s Best Dressed- I find her deep in the middle of glam and surrounded by discarded clothes, literally, everywhere. But you wouldn’t expect anything else from the presenter who is larger than life and who’s mind goes at 600 mile an hour, as does her speech. I mean, same, Hun, same.
Speaking about winning the award, Maya flashes a surprising lack of confidence, “It is a bit of validation! I put it on my story twice, I am that kind of person who feels really embarrassed to super push for something in case I don’t get it. So, I didn’t’ want to do a die-hard campaign just in case! I am gassed!”
Best dressed accolades, however, haven’t always been in Maya’s stars. ‘When I was younger Avril Lavigne was my inspo,” she laughs. “I went through the ‘Gothy Stage’ with loads of eyeliner and fishnet sleeves and then it went into ‘Sexy Girl Style.’ Where you just want to wear the shortest, tightest thing and you don’t care what it looks like. Now, Monday to Friday, if I am not on camera I am just in a tracksuit and I am obsessed with doing a lewk – today I am 80s and like Fresh Prince’s Hillary!” And consider it a lewk, y’all.
Having started out life growing up in a council estate in Bristol, being in LA and living her best award-winning life isn’t lost on Maya. It is a powerful symbol of how fare she has come, and teenage Maya would be losing it right now. “She would be like f**k off, you are lying! The most profound swear words would fly out of her mouth and she would wonder how I even got here,” Maya shares whilst attempting to accessorise said look. “I am from a council estate in Bristol – it’s literally the most mental thing ever when I actually sit down and go, ‘you are casually going to LA now and this is your life!’ I don’t take it for granted, every two seconds I think, ‘I can’t believe it – I am so grateful!’”
It has been another crazy year for Maya including holding down her Radio 1 show alongside modelling for the likes of Adidas, becoming the youngest-ever host of the MOBO Awards, entering the Love Island villa, FROWing it up for the likes of Christopher Kane and Fashion for Relief as well as completing the second season of the hit ITV2 show, Don’t Hate the Playerz. Whilst I am exhausted just reading that, Maya takes it all in her sassy stride. “I literally don’t even know what is going to happen in the next month,” she says. “My weeks are always so different. There’s always so much sh*t going on. I am so used to it and if it starts to feel routine, I think, ‘I need to go and do something wild,’ and just to switch it up a little bit. I am living on the edge but in the best way possible.”
Does she *ACTUALLY* look after herself? “I don’t really. I am not going to lie and say I take a lot of time out for yoga and I am zenning vegetables every day. I am relying on my metabolism slightly as long as I can. Everyone tells me, ‘you are going to burn out soon.’”
“I did have a bit of a burn out. Actually, when was that?” Maya turns to ask her team for the timings, such is the breakneck speed she is living life, before continuing, “When I was like, ‘oh my god I can’t?’ It was about two years ago when I was working three jobs a day. I was still on my come up and I wanted to prove to everyone I could do it. I was literally working all day and then DJing at night. I was having one day off every month. Then finally I just had to go off on holiday on my own and shut myself off from the world for a bit to just recoup. Then when I came back, I was back at it again. I have unnatural amounts of energy any way to the extend, that people think I am high or drunk, but I am just like this!”
One markable change this year, however, has also been Maya’s relationship status following her break-up from Stormzy, but she is clearly LOVING it. “I am a single bitch! It doesn’t feel that different, nothing has changed that much except I am just with my friends more and out more,” she says with some proverbial finger clicks.
It gives you time to work on yourself too, I say. “Yeah! Life has come to a nice point of, this all makes sense now. I feel good! I got a new house. It’s my dream home. I never thought I would ever buy a house, no one in my family owns a house except probably my nan and granddad but otherwise I am the first homeowner!” Cling Cling, bitch as the DJ says regularly to her 1.2 million followers.
Speaking ofInstagramin a world of social media which is rarely in touch with the term, truth, Maya is authentically her, speaking – and exhibiting – her own true personality. “I would bait myself out. I would be exposed if I tried to be someone else as I wouldn’t be able to keep it up,” Maya shares. “It’s taken me so long in my career to get to a place where I feel comfortable to be totally myself. Being a young woman in the entertainment world you are always second guessing everything you do and say. All these thoughts go on in your brain and last year I just thought, ‘f**k it. I just don’t care anymore!’ You can either like me for me or not. The people who don’t like me aren’t going to like me even if I put on a posh voice or swear a bit less. It’s been the most empowering thing ever to be able to say, ‘no one can tell me about myself anymore. This is it.’”
Is she scared of cancel culture, though? “I have been through my fair share of internet backlashes and it feels like the world is crushing down on you. Then they move on to drag someone else. It’s an ongoing cycle. People raise people up they like to such an unrealistic level and they do something wrong and all of a sudden, they are the worst person in the world. We are all humans; we can’t be squeaky clean our whole lives and we are going to have f**k ups. I have definitely had them.”
“The internet is a gift and a curse, you can treat it like your own personal documentary, or you can be crushed and ruined,” she continues. “I try not to care too much. It’s about learning from mistakes. I started presenting at 16 years old, I moved to London, I was super naïve and slowly get your knock backs and your no’s, you go through some crazy experiences, some in the public eye, some not and if I could speak to the little girl in me I would tell her to watch out for those things and I would probably have had a smoother path. But I also wouldn’t be the person I am now. Bad sh*t only happens for a reason and if you don’t have anything bad happen in your life you won’t be able to deal with any little loss and tiny things will rock your boat. Because such extreme things have happened to me, small things don’t bother me anymore. If you are sheltered, you won’t know how to act. I am resilient.”
The times her trademark resilience was fully put to the test came from problems much closer to home than via a screen. “Moving to London and being a crazy dreamer, which everyone thought was insane and having to work three jobs, having to sacrifice going home and seeing my friends – the hustle and bustle of it all taught me a lot. My boyfriend was murdered when I was younger. That completely changed everything. Loosing anyone at a young age is hard and loss changes your perspective on life. My aura then changed to just life is too short and I am not going to let any chance miss me. I am going to do everything in my power to be the best person I can be. That age, sixteen to seventeen was my coming into Maya stage.”
This period of time ultimately made Maya the go-getter she is today. “Yes, that is the only blessing to come out of it,” Maya says. “It’s the most tragic thing to happen but to know these things can happen in real life, not just on films and it can happen to anyone at any time makes you appreciate the people around you and it taught me to not waste time. If you want something you have to do it now. You don’t know if you are going to be here tomorrow.”
Maya is certainly more in tune with herself than ever – it’s radiating from her. “I feel like I know myself. I think I do love myself. I like Maya and that doesn’t allow for anyone to make you question yourself. It minimises insecurities, too. Of course, I still get insecurities, everyone does but it allows me to say to myself, I am more than what anyone thinks about me. I am more than looks I am more than my job. I am happy with me.”
With her spiritual Oprah vibes on, it’s almost time for Maya to take to the biggest red carpet of her life but as she proclaims, as every very matter of factly, “I love this Jacquemus dress, I don’t have to breathe in,” I ask whether body image issues ever come into play when the spotlight of the red carpet is placed on her.
“When I was younger, I was so body confident and I didn’t have a doubt in the world. Maybe that was because the internet wasn’t that big. Some of my friends would complain about things and I would be like, ‘no it’s fine!’ My mum was always super encouraging and if I put on an outfit she would say, ‘you look amazing!’ She super gassed me up. In my late teens I started to think, ‘I want to change this bit, I don’t like this bit,’ and then you go on Instagram and think, ‘oh my god I don’t look like that person you follow!’
“It’s an ongoing journey of accepting everything. I can wake up some mornings and think, ‘I am the sexiest woman in the world,’ and then other mornings you think, ‘I am a piece of foot! I am a crumb!’ I go through stages, but I don’t let it get me down for longer than it needs to. I am not too hard on myself,” Maya continues. “I am not Mrs Motivator when it comes to body confidence. But I do think we as women need to be nicer to ourselves and maybe not speak out load the bad things. When you vocalise things, you are putting it out into the universe. Try not to speak the bad things.” WORD.
As Maya and I skip/ sashay/ strut (delete as appropriate) out into LA to attend the People’s Choice Awards – after I was enlisted for tip tape duty – I can’t help but think this TV presenter is truly an icon of the hustle. Go forth and conquer, Maya Jama.