Maya Jama on her tragic past, her meteoric rise – and why her ambition is to become a Bond villain

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TV host Maya Jama talks like they’re fast-forwarding, so fast it’s challenging to keep up. I wonder if she’s ever afraid of drying up on live television? Stupid question.

Of course she isn’t! “If there’s one thing I’m worried about, it’s saying something stupid. Once it’s there, it’s there. So a filter is turned on. I put my sensible head on. And before I continue, I give myself a pep talk in the mirror. “Okay, you can do this!” It’s my Mr Motivator talk.’

Difficult to name, but Maya is only 26. Ten years ago she arrived in London naked, a ‘loud, boastful’ teenager with dreams of TV stardom.

Since then she has surpassed all expectations, from her own Radio 1 show to the youngest person (aged 23) to present the MOBO Awards on Channel 5 with Marvin Humes and host of BBC3’s recent make-up contest Glow Up.

Maya Jama, 26, (pictured) who lives in London, revealed her latest TV project and future goals when she was nominated for Best Presenter at this year’s National Television Awards

This year she has been nominated for Best Host at the National Television Awards, and four shows she has worked on have also been nominated. “I went to the website to vote and thought, ‘I hope I’m nominated one day.’ And then I saw that I had been. It was a huge surprise!’

A staple of celebrity magazines during her four-year relationship with grime superstar Stormzy, which ended in 2019, she doesn’t want to talk about the breakup or rumors of a reconciliation, or even about whether (or not) they’re in a relationship right now. “I won’t talk about my love life until I get married,” she insists.

She likes to admit that she is already a millionaire. However, she seems a little incredulous about it.

“When my manager told me, I thought, ‘Nooo!’ I’d worked pretty much every day for years, but it still seemed crazy.’ She bought her first home a year ago – a split-level flat in south-west London – but since then she’s been so busy that she hasn’t had time to put her mark on it.

“In an ideal world I would plan it and magically it would come about without my involvement,” she laughs. ‘I’m not homey. When I get married, I want my husband to do all the cooking and cleaning.”

Warm and chatty, she sits in her open-plan living room in off-duty trackies for our Zoom call, her hair in a thick braid, her caramel skin flawless, chattering about her latest TV project for BBC1.

I WON’T WAKE UP IF I LOOK LIKE THIS!

Maya said she keeps filters and edits to a minimum on the photos she posts (photo)

Maya said she keeps filters and edits to a minimum on the photos she posts (photo)

With her tucked-in waist, curvaceous hips and a river of raven hair, Maya Jama is impossibly beautiful, and I wonder if she feels the responsibility to her 2.2 million Instagram followers to post pictures of herself before she puts on her makeup. had on the screen. surpluses.

She nods. “I may look like this today, but there’s a lot involved: hours in the glamor chair, lighting, makeup. On Sundays I usually spend all day in my pajamas, on the couch watching movies with a takeaway.

“It’s important to show that I don’t look like this when I wake up. I always say “to each his own”, but I keep filters and edits to a minimum on the photos I post. I take care of my skin.

“I have light therapy facials and I change my pillowcases three times a week because I am convinced that all the gels and products I use on my hair give me breakouts.”

She is not concerned about the fluctuations in her weight. “It goes up and down. I’m not a healthy eater,” she admits.

‘I like a kebab and chips. My mother says, “You have to eat well, otherwise it will catch up with you.” So I try to take my diet a bit more seriously.’

Following the success of last year’s Save Our Summer with Peter Crouch – a Saturday night mix of music, comedy and sports aimed at filling the gaps left by Covid – she rejoins the former England striker and Daily Mail- columnist, along with comedian Alex Horne, to co-present Crouchy’s Year Late Euros: Live, which kicked off after last night’s opening match in the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament.

The series will follow the biggest matches as well as the progress of the participating countries, England, Scotland and Wales. We’re treated to a mix of expert knowledge and entertainment from celebrity guests, including Jamie Redknapp, singer Anne-Marie and comedian Mo Gilligan, as well as live music from house band Alex Horne and The Horne Section.

Our trio of presenters will preside over the chaos while the genius Crouchy talks to football players.

“It’s like a party after the game,” Maya promises. “We’re so happy it’s live, anything can happen. I like the adrenaline rush of an immediate reaction right after the games.

“Alex is funny without even trying and his band is making up songs as they go on. We have a big sibling dynamic… but I’m in control! And Crouchy is the best neighbor you could wish for.’

She’s going for England – she grew up in Bristol – but hopes Sweden will do well too: her mother Sadie, 45, born of Swedish parents, grew up there and taught Maya the language. She tells me that her love for the game is rooted in childhood when her now estranged father, who is from Somalia, took her to watch their local team, Bristol Rovers.

“I remember my father taking me and my brother Omar to Wembley for a play-off final. I got dressed, we got on the train, waved our flags and sang songs. It was amazing.’

Her father spent much of her early life in and out of prison, often for violent crimes. When she was three, she accidentally told the police where her father was hiding – under a bed – when they rang the doorbell at the family home.

‘After that, there were regular visits to her father in prison. “We got in the car, there were duvets and candy and it felt like a road trip.”

But as she got older, she realized that her father had a choice—he didn’t have to commit those crimes.

She was about ten when she chose not to visit him anymore. That changed in 2017 when she presented a documentary, When Dad Kills, about children growing up with abusive fathers and reconnecting with him. “I wanted to try to understand why he had done the things he did.

“We had a conversation, but it was difficult. I didn’t get the answers I was looking for. We have no contact at all now. But my stepfather, Martin, was a very good role model, calm and sensible – and he loved my mother very much. So I had to see how a man should treat a woman.’

Maya, Peter Crouch and Alex Horne, the co-presenters of Crouchy's Year Late Euros: Live

Maya, Peter Crouch and Alex Horne, the co-presenters of Crouchy’s Year Late Euros: Live

Though not academic, Maya was fiercely ambitious. She was 16 when she decided to go to London to pursue her goals, and there she met her first boyfriend Rico Gordon.

Their happiness ended tragically when he was killed at the age of 21 by a ricocheting bullet intended for someone else during a fight in Bristol in 2011. Two men were given life sentences for his murder. The sadness Maya felt was crushing. “It’s a huge reality check,” she says now.

“People can just go, no matter how young. But I got through it. I prayed. I always have and I still do.’

During that time, she learned her craft by hosting events for YouTube channels and shared a home with a family member who had a severe drug addiction.

“I was going to lock myself in my bedroom, but I had stolen food, a camera. I’ve never been involved with drugs and it was crazy looking back. I stayed because I was grateful for a roof over my head. But I never lost faith or hope. I learned from it. No matter how difficult it gets, everything will be fine in the end.’

Today she is recognized everywhere, and an admirer posted a poem about her on a billboard outside the Shoreditch train station. Did she find that scary? “Actually, I thought it was cute and very flattering.”

However, there have been detractors, trolls who have attacked her on the Internet. “There have been a lot of things. “B***h I hate you. Why are you here anyway?” But you just get used to that. It’s not real life.’

What worries her more are the people who assume, “I just came here for the TV or I came here because I’m beautiful or for a million other reasons.” Actually, I’ve worked really hard and the only way to shut up comments like this is to keep working really hard.’

I wonder what her ambitions are and she says she would love to be a Bond girl.

“I’m bringing that out because I’m trying to act and that’s my dream. I think I’d like to be a mean Bond girl; something against the norm. A little mean or funny.’ However, she is rumored to be appearing on Strictly.

“I’ve been asked, but it’s not the right time,” she says. There will be a holiday as soon as possible. Where however? “Anywhere there’s a beach and some bars,” she smiles, and the down-to-earth girl she is adds, “Ramsgate would be pretty nice.”

Crouchy’s Year Late Euros: Live continues tomorrow at 10.30pm on BBC1.

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