“I’m good I’m not bad, I’m a little jetlagged but I’m ok.” Between her throwing some serious shapes for Wonderland’s lens and my calling at midday on a Tuesday afternoon, Maya Jama has been busy. Like seriously busy, crossing the Atlantic to spend an excessively sociable number of hours in a car with colleagues while filming a television series kind of busy; the sort few of us will ever properly entertain. A little jetlag, unnoticeable beyond her introductory statement, is the least even those without vivid memories of epic school journey’s might expect.
But Jama’s pretty prepped, presumably: a Rinse FM DJ whose Twitter bio alone claims handles for five presenting gigs – think contemporary broadcast heavyweights like 4Music and Vevo – she’s made a career of, as her Instagram profile confirms, having a great time.
Named after the poet and activist Maya Angelou, (her mum’s pregnancy reading material was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) and brought up in Bristol on Davina McCall and BBC Radio 1Xtra, the “Birthday Girl” muse is the millennial who grew up and bagged the archetypal dream job: you get the feeling the Streetmate presenter would approve of last year’s output – 5Star’s Swipe Right For Sex – while, having single handedly reclaimed some hey day era Popworld credibility for a furiously fluffy industry, Miquita if not Simon would likewise be into her festival reportage. Certainly the rest of us are hooked.
(LEFT) Jumper GUCCI, coat STELLA MCCARTNEY, jeans LEVI’S AT BLITZ LONDON, rung RACHEL BOSTON, ring MARIA FRANCESCA PEPE
(RIGHT) Jacket and trousers MISSONI, top TOPSHOP
You’ve just been in America doing Route 66, how was that?
It was amazing! It’s sad because I can’t actually drive, so I feel like I missed out, but I did love it. I had a great driver, a car expert called Yanni, so he was zooming around the whole place, it was good! I’ve never been to that part of America before and, I’ve never spent that much time in a car before I don’t think – we had like, 18 hours in the car – so I mastered every song on every radio station and literally sang my heart out the whole time which probably annoyed him, but it was wicked, I had a proper good time.
Amazing. So what’s your favourite thing about America?
I like that everyone is really enthusiastic, because in England I always feel like I’m the excitable one to a lot of people, but when I go there I’m like, “Woah, ok, my excitement levels aren’t even half of that!” But yeah, I like the enthusiasm, and that everyone is super cheery and says hey. I feel like in London we’re always in a rush and we don’t want to talk to anyone, but in America they always seem like they want to have a bit of a chat, which I like.
And what’s your least favourite thing?
I think everything’s just well spread out, I don’t know my way around there, but I feel like everything is so far apart, and of course I can’t drive so it’s a bit of a nightmare, but I said to myself that I’m going to take my driving test in the next month because I’ve left it way too long.
I’m nearly 28, you’ve got time.
Yeah see, it’s ‘cause of London, everything’s in the centre.
Right? So as a presenter your day job means that you interview a lot of people, is it a bit weird to be on the other side, like in situations such as this?
Yeah, at the beginning I was like, “aah!” I hated getting interviewed because I didn’t know how to be. I was like, “should I be really out there like a proper presenter, or should I just be withdrawn and give minimal answers?” So I used to get nervous getting interviewed because I didn’t really know how I was supposed to portray myself, then I realised “oh, you just be yourself and it’s fine”, people like you for you. Now I’m ok with it; I feel like I’ve done enough that I can just imagine I’m talking to my mate. But yeah, it is weird.
What were your favourite radio stations growing up?
I used to listen to 1Xtra all the time, that would be the one that was on in my house. So for ages – it was before Twitter and stuff – I didn’t know what any of the DJ’s looked like, but I knew their voices. So when I first moved to London or when Twitter first came about and I would see them in real life I found it very entertaining, because I would make up what I thought they looked like in my mind and then meet them in real life… But yeah, 1Xtra was the main station I listened to growing up, and then my mum used to make little mixtapes, so we had CD kind of vibes in the house.
And across radio and TV, who were your presenting heroes?
Davina, always; love Davina. I liked watching Jameela Jamil because I felt like we looked similar and she was on T4 and I really wanted a job exactly like T4, so she was my goal when I was in secondary school. But Davina mainly, she was my biggest idol, and also Emma Willis – she’s amazing and she’s really nice in person as well.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the industry since being a part of it?
That people do set up pap shots! That was my most surprising bit of information that I found out, and not even that long ago as well. A lot of the beach shots with celebrities are set up; I was shocked, ‘cause I was like, “oh” I’ve spent many years looking in magazines and thinking, “that is a great angle for someone that didn’t know that the photographer was there.” So that was probably the most shocking thing that I’ve learned, that a lot of the pap shots are set up. I haven’t done that btw, just to clarify.
(LEFT AND RIGHT) Top MISSONI, trousers RICHARD MALONE, choker JOOMI LIM, earrings CHARLOTTE VALKENIERS, bracelet and ring MARIA FRANCESCA PEPE, ring RACHEL BOSTON, ring SASKIA DIEZ
(CENTRE) Gilet GUCCI, earrings CHARLOTTE VALKENIERS
Your career’s taken you to a lot of festivals; what was your first experience like?
I used to go to loads of festivals. My mum was a festival goer – she took me to Glastonbury when I was two – so I was a baby in festivals for a while, and growing up, through childhood and primary school she’d bring us, there’d be a crew of mums and then all of the kids – so the mums would have a little set up – and all of us kids would just roam the festival free. We used to go to Womad a lot; I loved Womad. That was the first festival I went to with my friends, so my whole year group, I think we were year 8, we all went to Womad which was great! Instead of going to parties we did the festival thing for longer. So yeah, I was a proper little festival goer; not so much now because I work at them, I still go I suppose, I just don’t camp, whereas I used to; about 30 of us would camp out.
Last year you were Social Media Correspondent at Bestival, right? Do you find it a bit bizarre that titles like ‘Social Media Correspondent’ actually exist?
Yeah, it’s mental. I mean, it’s great for me and people who are on social media 100% anyway, because it just comes hand in hand. I’m getting paid for something that I would do anyway, it is amazing. For the younger generation I feel like it’s the dream job! Literally to go and do what you would do anyway, at a festival – it’s perfect! But it’s not as easy as it seems, you’re either good at it or you’re not.
So what are your top tips for social media?
I go through stages of how I do it, but most of the time I just post stuff that I find funny in the hope that other people will also find it funny, and I try and post as often as possible when it comes to Instagram. And high quality pictures get more likes than, shit quality pictures, that’s what I’ve [learnt]. Otherwise, I don’t know, get some funny Tweets, get some good quotes out!
You’re currently working on a new show, Cannonball, can you talk me through it?
Yeah, it’s basically a new ITV show that is going to be on Saturday nights, and it’s starting I think around September; we’ve filmed nine episodes and a Christmas special. Basically, it’s similar to Total Wipeout vibes, so you get 24 contestants a day, and they come – we shot in Malta – and they just fly themselves off giant inflatable obstacles. It’s hilarious and it was so fun to film; I think it’s just one of those easy watch Saturday night shows that, should make people laugh.
Did you have a go at the obstacle course?
No I didn’t because the water was really cold! I know that’s such a poor excuse, but hopefully there will be another series and I’ll definitely do it then. Because we were filming from really in the morning until the evening, by the time we’d finish it would be cold and I just wasn’t on it. If I’d had a wetsuit I would have.
Fair. So back to socials, who was the last person that you followed on Instagram?
I’m not actually sure (scrolls), it doesn’t tell you who you followed last so I’m not actually sure, but I think it was a makeup artist called @bookjanelle, she did my makeup in LA.
And who’s the most famous person that follows you on Instagram?
It depends in what world, like Chris Brown follows me, he’s quite big. Music people follow me, but then there’s random American basketballers and I don’t know who they are, but they’ve got really big followings. Yeah I don’t know, go for Chris Brown.
Ok, quick round. Instagram or Twitter?
Instagram. Oh actually I just remembered, LL Cool J follows me, I feel like he’s bigger then Chris Brown.
Nando’s or Morley’s?
TV or radio?
This is hard ‘cause I love both but TV.
Because I think that was originally what I wanted to do as a little girl, that was my dream, and I’ve just been lucky enough to present for the radio along the way, but yeah I just love it, I love everything about TV.
London or Bristol?
I’m going to have to say Bristol, ‘cause I love London but I’m here for work originally, but Bristol was what made me into the person I am today.