Maya Jama: ‘Growing up, I never saw TV presenters that were like me.’

Words by Chloe Mac Donnell

From the editors of InStyle UK

‘When I first heard they wanted me to do it, I screamed. And then I told my friends and they were like, “Whatttt!”’ Maya Jama is telling me about how she reacted when she got the call to say that she had landed a Gap campaign. Aged only twenty-three it’s been a whirlwind couple of years for the Bristol born TV presenter. After moving to London aged sixteen, she set up her own YouTube channel before kick-starting her career on Rinse FM. Bubbly and bright, she quickly started landing presenting roles across MTV, Sky, Channel 4 and ITV.

It didn’t take long for her to build a loyal following who adore her cheeky sense of humour and self-deprecating attitude. When her and her boyfriend Stormzy (the pair have been dating for over three years) comment or post photos of each-other, mainly joking about one thing or another, their fans go crazy for their ‘normal’ relationship banter and each post practically becomes a tabloid news story.

And whilst Stormzy, may be busy touring sell-out shows and racking up awards, Maya is just is busy juggling TV slots, interviews and appearances. And now she can add a global campaign to her ever burgeoning CV. Celebrating its evolution over five decades Gap have launched the ‘Archive Reissue: Logo Remix’ – a collection spanning t-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans across menswear and womenswear featuring logos from the brand’s huge archives. And the campaign to celebrate is just as cool, featuring a cast of stars – think music stars SZA and Metro Boomin, YouTuber Connor Franta, the Japanese actress Naomi Watanabe and of course Maya, who the brand describe as ‘all remixing creative culture on their own terms.’

Here Maya talks clothes, confidence and being #couplegoals…

maya jama interview

How does it feel to have landed such a massive campaign?

Growing up you’d see those massive Gap billboard campaigns so it’s incredible to be on one. And then when I heard about everyone else who was it in I was OMG! We shot it altogether in New York. I love SZA and Metro Boomin so I spent the whole day trying not to fan-girl.

Do you have a favourite piece?

I actually took the t-shirt home from the shoot. I love a plain basic tee and it’s the perfect one. And I loved the tomboy shirt. It’s genuinely all stuff I’d wear.

The campaign is about more than just clothes right?

Yes, it’s dubbed the Gap Logo Remix campaign and it’s all about celebrating people who are doing stuff in a different way. Growing up, I never really saw TV presenters that were like me or from a background like mine. And it made my goal of becoming one feel that much more out of reach. I didn’t have a conventional family upbringing. My dad was in jail and I was raised by my mum before I moved to London by myself at only sixteen. I had no one to relate to career wise and it would make me feel like maybe I’m not worthy of certain jobs because I’m lacking in certain areas. I don’t want any young people growing up in similar situations to go through that. I want other people to know that just because you don’t have the best beginning doesn’t mean you can’t make a perfect ending.

The documentary you made in 2017, exploring how children are affected if they have a parent in jail received an amazing response. What was the greatest lesson your learned from those you met?

I met so many different people with different stories. We spoke a lot about forgiveness, to hear people out and to give second chances. If I took anything from it, it was that people are really brave and there are situations that are much worse than my own. It’s important not to get wrapped up in thinking that it’s the end of the world. It will get better in time.

You moved to London by yourself when you were sixteen. Have you always been super confident?

In the weirdest way ever I think I was more confident when I was sixteen. I was one of those children that was loud and proud, I was in your face saying “I’m going to be famous” or “I’m going to be on the telly.” When I got to London I kind of had this innocent naivety. I thought why wouldn’t I be successful; I’m good at what I do, I’m fun and I’m a nice person and people are going to like me. I hadn’t really experienced any nos at that point and I didn’t really know anything about the industry  And then as you get older you’re a bit more like; “Ok, the reality is there are loads of people and it might not always work and you’ve got to deal with the nos.” So sometimes I have to channel my inner child again and think if I want it, I’ll get it.

How do you deal with being told no?

They kind of get easier when you get more. When you get your first one, you’re like: “Gah I’m shit and I can’t do anything.” And then you discover it’s nothing to do with you personally, the job just wasn’t right for you. So I try not to work myself up, and just tell myself; “Maya, it wasn’t for you, there is something better around the corner.”

You originally wanted to do acting. What made you switch to presenting?

It was when I got down to the final auditions for Skins but didn’t get it. I realised then that most of the characters I was going for were over-exaggerated versions of myself. Presenting is me being myself, and talking to people and finding interesting topics. So it’s perfect.

Would you ever pursue acting again?

One hundred per cent if the right role came up. I’m only 23 years old. Presenting is going so well at the moment that I’m focusing on that. But if Hollywood came knocking, I’m not going to say no.

You’ve got a huge following on Instagram? Do you ever feel pressure to portray yourself a certain way?

I have had times in life when I’m like OMG everyone looks so perfect on Instagram. But I think I’m quite good at talking myself around times when I do feel like that. I know that there are filters, and people edit their photos and it’s the best of ten shots. People don’t wake up looking like that so why should I compare myself to them in the first place? You have to understand it’s a highlight reel, it’s the best of everyone’s time so if you are comparing your worst day to someone’s best day then of course, you’re going to feel rubbish about yourself.

Is there also pressure being in such a high-profile relationship?

The only times we get papped is if we go to an event together. Otherwise, we’re alright. We can do normal enough dates, obviously some people recognise us but we don’t get followed around.

3 years with the love of my life ❤️

A post shared by Gang Signs & Prayer (@stormzyofficial) on

Did you buy anything to celebrate your first big job?

I was never a designer girl as my mum always told me, ‘Never buy anything unless you can buy three of them because if you can’t then you can’t afford it.’ But I bought myself a Gucci watch recently. It looks like a bracelet. It doesn’t look designer, it’s a subtle piece that I really loved and saved up for but it’s not flashy. And then I always wanted one of those business woman coats. So I got a classic one from Coach. I’m more a casual girl day-to-day but if I’m going to an awards show that’s when I’ll pull out all of the colours.

Did you have any embarrassing fashion moments?

I went through a stage in primary school where I absolutely loved Avril Lavigne so I  went through a child punk phase. I wore those massive shirts with fishnet arm sleeves, you know the ones where they’re not actually attached to the top. And then in secondary school I’d put my hair in ponytails in ringlets and then stick lollipops in them and gel my forehead down!

Do you have anything now that your boyfriend is like ‘what are you wearing’ and you vice-a-versa?

No to be honest, I feel like my clothes are quite good! He’s never complained and I don’t have any complaints about his, even if it is just tracksuits. I mean there’s nothing really to say about those. We’re quite respectful of each-others clothes.

Do you ever discuss what you’re going to wear to events together?

Omg no, no, no! And most of the time we don’t even go to events together. I’ll be working and he’ll be performing so you might see each other across the room. But no, we won’t be doing matching outfits anytime soon.

The Gap ‘Archive Reissue: Logo Remix collection is available online now and in-store from 5 February 2018.

Shop our favourites below…

Logo Remix Pullover Hoodie in French Terry

Logo Remix Pullover Hoodie in French Terry, £44.95, GAP

Buy now

Logo Remix Short Sleeve T-Shirt

Logo Remix Short Sleeve T-Shirt, £19.95, GAP

Buy now

Logo Remix Pullover Sweatshirt in French Terry

Logo Remix Pullover Sweatshirt in French Terry, £39.95, GAP

Buy now

Better jump over to the site now if you’re keen on the threads, we’re expecting these to go snappish.

Lazy day chic just got a major upgrade.

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