Exclusive: Maya Jama Talks Imposter Syndrome – And Why She Deletes WhatsApp

‘I think when you go through really bad things in life, you’re forced to look at things differently’.

Maya Jama

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

‘I think when you go through really bad things in life, you’re forced to look at things differently,’ Maya Jama says from her make-up chair. We are sitting in the dressing room of an east London warehouse where the BBC Radio 1 host has just finished shooting a new campaign for adidas Originals.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Superstar sneaker, the campaign is all about positive change and being free to express who you are – a perfect collaboration for someone so known for her endless positivity and energy on the mic. In a tracksuit-style off-the-shoulder jumpsuit – paired, of course, with custom Superstars – she makes dressing comfortable appear glamorous even on this dreary Wednesday afternoon.

Adidas chose Maya for her street-style credentials, but also because her cool confidence has attracted 1.4million followers on Instagram alone. Her daily dose of funny content, mixed in with effortlessly beautiful lifestyle shots and selfies, feels necessary at a time when people are craving more than just pretty pictures.

She brings this attitude into the campaign, telling me that when it comes to fashion she just wants to have fun, be comfortable and, frankly, doesn’t really care what people think. ‘You just have to accept not everyone has the same taste as you and that’s fine,’ she says. ‘You can't please everyone - in outfits, in life, in your career, there's always going to be someone.

‘I always say you could be the loveliest sweetest cupcake in the world and there's going to be someone that doesn't like cupcakes, so you just have to take it with a pinch of salt and just know that if you like it, fuck everyone else.’

It is mantras like that – she also loves ‘everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it’s not the end’ – that keep a smile on her face despite the issues that can come with being a woman in the public eye. Yes, she has a seemingly fun job that she’s immensely successful in, but she’s also subject to trolling and tabloid speculation of her every move, especially in her personal life.

‘I’ve always been the type of person to look on the bright side and maybe that’s the way I was raised,’ she says. ‘But I think when you go through really bad things in life, you’re forced to look at life differently. A lot of big things happened that were negative in my life in my early days, so I built up a tolerance and anything little didn’t really affect me as much.’

Maya Jama
©Rebecca Naen

Maya takes the time to actively work on staying positive when life throws her curveballs. ‘I’ve got a whiteboard in my room that one of my friends got me, I think it was to write silly inappropriate things but instead I’ve been writing affirmations to myself,’ she says. ‘So things like “you’re loved”, “todays going to be amazing”, random things like that. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up. It does make a difference’

Every morning, before she checks her phone, Maya also recites everything she is grateful for (‘stuff like “I’ve got a lovely family” or “my friends are nice”, “I’ve woken up in a bed”, “I have a house”’) to ensure she starts the day on a good note.

When it comes to confidence – another trait she’s known for, and if you’ve watched her Instagram videos dancing in her radio booth you’ll know why – she has similar tactics. Because, despite her good-vibes-only attitude, Maya suffers from imposter syndrome like most of us (or at least like 66% of women, according to a 2018 study by One Poll).

‘There'll be times when I'm in a room and I'm like, “What the fuck am I doing? I don’t belong here”’ she tells me. ‘Again that’s just talking yourself through it. I sometimes go to the bathroom - like if I’m at an award show and I don’t know anyone or a posh dinner or something – and just tell myself, “Okay, you don't know anyone but you’re supposed to be here. You're fine, just go and talk to people”

‘So like it's like giving yourself a pep talk in the mirror,’ she continues, before adding, ‘And I have a glass of wine.’

When life gets too much, Maya has a tendency to cut and run. Going on holiday alone once a year, Maya recently treated herself to a trip to Dubai staying in the world’s most luxurious hotel, the seven-star Burj Al-Arab. ‘I don’t know if it’s a good coping mechanism and I know not everyone is able to do it, but when things are stressing me out I just leave the country,’ she admits.

On a smaller scale, she suggests that if you can’t leave the country, staying at a friend’s house or changing your environment in any way can be helpful for getting out of a negative headspace. ‘Even just having solo time with no phone,’ she says. ‘I love swimming because you can’t have your phone and there are no distractions. You’re just going up and down in the water. I swim quite a lot now.’

Our connection to our phones – and social media – is endlessly brought up as the crux of society’s problems when it comes to self-esteem issues and negative thoughts. Last year, Dr. Kaitlyn Regehr – a specialist in the psychology of online subcultures like incel-dom –told Grazia that since this phenomenon is only a decade old, we can’t yet know the full phycological impact of how dangerous it is.

I don’t reply to texts, I don’t call back. I delete WhatsApp all the time

Maya has a solution, though: she just doesn’t use her phone. ‘I’m the worst person to contact,’ she says. ‘I don’t reply to texts, I don’t call back. I delete WhatsApp all the time and I sleep with my phone on airplane mode.’

When it comes to social media, she has the same mentality, periodically deleting apps whenever they overwhelm her and never has post notifications turned on.

‘My friend Julie always says to me, “It's not your responsibility to be there when someone wants to contact you every single time”. It's weird that someone thinks that they can just get through to you, no matter what you're doing. That's your time.’

Maya Jama
©Rebecca Naen

It’s a simple solution, but surprising given how in-demand she is. Doesn’t she worry about missing an important message or group-chat dilemma? ‘I just think, if you really want to get hold of me, you can call me.

‘I'm just trying to have a good time at the moment,’ she continues. ‘I’m just trying to have fun.’

Maya Jama features in the adidas Originals Superstar campaign ‘Change Is A Team Sport’. adidas Originals Superstars are available now from www.adidas.co.uk/superstar

Read More:

Maya Jama On Navigating The Politics Of Female Fashion

Maya Jama On Staying True To Yourself On Instagram

This Is How Maya Jama Looked So Good At Coachella

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