It’s time to acknowledge the women in the world today who are inspirational to so many of us, so welcome to the “Inspired by” series. Today we’re going to acknowledge the fabulous lass that is Maya Jama – and why she’s someone we should be inspired by.
Maya Jama is awesome and it’s clear to see that she was always destined for greatness. Upon discovering that she was named after civil-rights activist and poet Maya Angelou, a lightbulb went off in my head and things started to make sense. For those who are unaware, Maya’s mother read Angelou’s famous memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, during her pregnancy (with Maya). It appears that, through naming her child after the activist, she also engrained Angelou’s teachings within her child – in an almost surreal and uncanny way.
There is a quote that specifically stood out to me, during my lightbulb moment, which is from the famous memoir that says: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you”. It was written by Maya Angelou yet it fits Maya Jama like a glove – she pursued her passion for a long while before it paid monetarily and now look, the world cannot take their eyes off her.
Who is Maya Jama and what does she do, you ask? When I think that someone is great I tend to forget that the whole world doesn’t know who they are, forgive me. Well, if you look at her Twitter biography then you’ll see that she humbly describes herself as a ‘presenter on ya (your) tv radio n (and) online’. However, to many people she is also an inspiration for her ambition and hard-work ethic – amongst other things.
If we’re speaking career-wise then the question should be ‘what doesn’t she do?’ Maya was only 16 when she left her home in Bristol and moved to London to pursue a career in broadcasting. She explained in a Friends In The Benz episode, with Tia Ward – another incredibly empowering woman, that she didn’t actually know how she was going to get into broadcasting but she knew that she wanted to be on television. By any means necessary, in a dignified manner of course, Maya was going to be on everyone’s television – and she’s an example that you don’t have to necessarily know how you’re going to get there, as long as you are truly dedicated to your passion, you can succeed.
Initially, Maya landed a gig as a presenter for Jump Off TV as well as setting up her own YouTube channel – she speaks of this in her moving and insightful TED Talks. After that, she worked for Sky on TRACE Sports and then as a weekday DJ on Rinse FM. She then hosted The Wrap Up, a show on MTV Base, before hosting other MTV shows. After gaining popularity within her generation, her following expanded when she hosted a travelogue called Copa 90’s Maya’s FIFA World Cup Cities – in Brazil.
As well as being a TV and radio presenter on 4 Music and Rinse FM’s drive time show, she has also hosted insightful documentaries on Channel 5 Star. Swipe Right For Sex: Half Night Stands and When Dad Kills: Murderer In The Family are both meaningful and deep documentaries that show that Maya’s different from the rest. She documents important issues within today’s society in a way that gets viewers to think – which is so important these days. Maya’s openness is also breathtaking – the way that she shared her personal story about her relationship with her father in order to help people was incredible.
Maya currently co-presents the Saturday night game show Cannonball on ITV. She stated when speaking with Tia Ward that one of her next goals was to be on prime-time television and she achieved that almost instantly after publicly stating it. Not only does she work hard but she believes in herself, which is important. She strategises clearly and concisely – she knows where she wants be and is super-focused on the end goal. It’s working for her.
She was named as a Rising Star for 2016 by Hello Magazine last year and has done nothing but excel ever since. One of her most recent incredible accomplishments was when she became the youngest person ever to host the MOBO awards – on Channel 5 with Marvin Humes. As well as this, Maya appeared on I’m A Celebrity: Extra Camp on ITV2, Children in Need Weakest Link special and ITV’s Loose Women. She deserves recognition for her drive and determination because she’s rapidly succeeding – and for good reason too.
Maya is a fellow woman of colour as well as a working woman in the entertainment industry. To be a minority with dreams bigger than what society think you deserve to accomplish is hard. There are a lot of obstacles that you can face which may feel like too much to continue pursuing, but in order to succeed you must keep moving forward.
Whether you’re a woman of colour or not though, being a woman in general is difficult. Actually, to describe the experience of being a woman in this day and age as difficult would be an understatement. Women are put under so much scrutiny as so much is expected from us. It is important to feel included within a sisterhood, especially as a woman today, even if only to be reminded that we’re not alone.
Through the incredible podcast series When Life Gives You Melons, created by lingerie, swimwear and activewear brand, Freya Lingerie, Maya Jama creates that much required sisterhood. Maya is the host and she is joined, weekly, by a roster of influential and admirable women – to explore the realities and expectancies of being a woman today. Even if you don’t have friends, listening to the podcast will make you feel included in – and supported by – a sisterhood. It’s exhilarating that a young woman with such a platform as strong as Maya’s is genuinely dedicated to uplifting other women.
With all of the above under her belt, and knowing that she will only continue to do great things and become an even better woman, it’s no wonder why her partner, award-winning grime MC, Stormzy, wants to marry her. He told the Sunday Mirror: “I’m still so young but I want to propose, it’s going to happen and I will do it right. She is so sick, she is the best.”
No wonder he thinks she is so sick because with even all of her successes she remains humble. She’s a goofball and proud of it, which is great for her fans because they get to see it all the time on Snapchat. Maya is beautiful but she doesn’t put her focus on appealing to people for her beauty. The presenter has no problem with pulling a funny face and taking a picture or documenting her attempts to sing a plethora of songs (her Sampha impersonation is hilariously spot on) whilst dancing freely. It makes my day to see because I can see myself in someone who is succeeding – without changing. For a lot of other young women alike, it helps to see hard-working humble woman living her dream – in a world where so many people are glorified for fakeness.
When I need motivation or uplifting, I like to look at people who are succeeding in the things that I want to do for a pick me up. Usually, it can only inspire me so much because either their backgrounds are completely different to mine or there’s a wide age gap and I can only relate so much. With Maya we’re the same age, she’s even months younger than me, yet she’s relatable and she’s honest. If she’s tired or unwell, she will still pull a funny face on Snapchat without a care in the world – and she still drags herself to work! When the world is obsessing over her figure or her beauty, she will still point out that others are beautiful too – and doesn’t put herself on a pedestal above others. She’s down to earth, she’s cool and she’s funny – and she reminds me of myself and so many other regular young women. There’s nothing fake or snobby about her, and she’s not one of those “you can’t sit with us” girls. Maya is a reminder that it is not absurd to chase your dreams and that if you put your all in you can succeed, against all odds, as a young woman of colour in the U.K.
Maya is an example of something that I always say: “If you’re true to yourself and follow your dreams, you’ll be surprised of the impact you make on the lives of people without even knowing it”. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m appreciative of the inspiration I get from a fellow young woman chasing her dreams.
Thank you Maya – from all of us inspired women out there.