Maya J, also known as Maya Jenkins, is a recording artist, actress, and songwriter. You’ve definitely heard her music before! Freeform’s Famous in Love featured her honest single “Tell Me” and the bop “Come Find Me” blew up Radio Disney.
Maya Jenkins got her TV start on Sam and Cat. She made her film debut alongside Chandra Wilson in HBO’s Muted. Since then, Maya continues to appear in various shorts and TV shows. She’s currently working on her own series, Live Out Loud.
Maya’s motto is Stay Sparkly. I sat down for a quick Q&A with Maya J to find out more about her career, her style, and what makes her sparkly!
Which of your songs is your favorite? I hope that’s an easy question.
MJ: That’s actually not as easy as you’d think. I don’t know, I really… I appreciate each of my songs for what it is. If I had to choose, ‘Like You’ and ‘Tell Me’. Between the two, I’m leaning toward ‘Tell Me’ because it’s heartfelt and the process of recording it was amazing.
Which of your songs inspires you the most?
MJ: ‘Like You’ inspires me the most. The style, in terms of artistic reach, the mode, it’s ‘Like You’. The Mood of “Like You” is smooth, sultry, emotional and pretty, and that is the vibe I like to give off in all of my music. I also was more in charge of the creation process, directed exactly how I wanted it to sound, and the artistic choices were my decision.
You mentioned artistic reach, are you as creative as you want to be?
MJ: I feel I should be as creative as I’d like to be, but unfortunately I’m not always able to be. I have to let producers and engineer’s take control at times, even when I don’t want to. If I could produce myself by clicking all of the buttons, I would — but it takes a village. I might write all of my music & lyrics to every song I put out, but I have to involve a producer on the record making process. Ultimately, it’s about creating art that people will be able to love and relate to. I have done that so far, and just hope I can continue. Art is the goal. It’s the craft that matters.
You’ve done a bunch of shorts. Which is your fave and why?
MJ: The film I love the most is Muted, the HBO short. Muted was my first true professional film, it was the first I’ve done. I was super young, I was eighteen. Not only did I get to watch Chandra Wilson and Malcolm-Jamal Warner work, but I got to work with them too. It was very inspiring and such an honor! I felt safe. Brandi Nicole Payne was an amazing producer and so mom-like. I had three mamas around me. My mom wasn’t there, so to have three strong women around, it was like three moms. It was very safe, there was no time for Me Too, or any fears. It was all very protective and wonderful. I’ll never forget them. I don’t think you could ever forget a cast like that.
I know you just came out with a single. Are you working on an album?
MJ: I’m working on new music all the time. I’m working on a Come Find Me treat. It’s a 2.0 version. I’m not going to tell too much though, because I want it to be a surprise for my fans.
I went through your Instagram and you have such an amazing sense of style. What’s your go-to outfit?
MJ: What I know will fit me without even trying it on is a skirt and an off shoulder top. I like bohemian, boho, and fit and flare styles. Bright colors and I love pink. If you don’t have pink, blues and purples will work too. Reds are new for me. I used to stay away from red, but I’ve noticed it looks great at premieres and I look good in reds. I’m a girly girl. I have to have my bows and strappy sandals. I’m loving that you love my style. I used to get a lot of flack for it, and people who aren’t frilly can’t understand my style. Now, I’m much more confident with my style and who I am as a person.
Do you have a stylist?
MJ: Listen, I’m not Tiffany Haddish yet. I don’t have a stylist–I am my own stylist. It’s all me. My mom and I have similar styles. I taught my mom my ways so that she can help me pick my pieces. Together, we go HAM. So I do have a little partner in crime in my mom. It’s definitely my own style. I already told my mom at three, “That’s not my style” and she’ll still say that to me today. I’m sorry to gush, I just care a lot about fashion!
What’s your favorite song from your favorite artist? I know you’ve mentioned Nicki Minaj and The Weeknd as favorites before.
MJ: My music taste is so all over the place, and it is very broad. Since I have that kind of eclectic taste in music, my favorite song depends on my mood. I have a pop favorites playlist, a classical playlist, a rap playlist, a country jam list, and an R&B list. I have so many more playlists of course, but I could always give you favorites of each of those!
Right now, 2 songs that I’m currently obsessed with and cannot stop playing, are ‘God is a woman’ by Ariana Grande, and ‘Thought I Knew You’ by Nicki Minaj. Those are rotating heavily right now, and I am jamming to those multiple times a day!
What was it like when you first heard your song on the radio? Like what did you do?
MJ: I was sick that day and I was listening through the Radio Disney app. It took a whole minute to realize it was me. Then my cousin called and said my video was on the screen at the mall. My mind is in a million different places and I’m always doing something so it takes time for it to register what’s happening. I’m overwhelmed and I don’t spend enough time appreciating my success at any time. I need to realize that life is a climb, and take more time to smell the roses.
What is the most unexpected moment a song has come to you?
MJ: The most unexpected time a song has come to me…I got the inspiration for 10 songs, I’ve written a few full songs, and it was like wow, it all came from that one little situation–from eating dinner in Palm Springs after Coachella. It’s crazy how things come in five seconds. I wrote ‘Tell Me’ in one night. I know when it’s coming. It’s like “It’s coming. I need a keyboard, I need a guitar, I need to get this down.”
I know it’s still in pre-production, but what are you most excited about for Live Out Loud?
MJ: I’m most excited about Live Out Loud because of the comedy and the antics I know will go on. I know it sounds common but, through reading the script, I think Live Out Loud is something that hasn’t been done, and I can’t wait to share the piece. When you share something, you want it to be appreciated. After all the people involved and our journey together, I think it’s something really special.
Is there a network you’re hoping will pick it up?
MJ: We’re hoping Netflix and Freeform will give it the angle it needs while keeping it a young adult drama and dramedy. There’s so many venues out there. I feel like it’ll have a home somewhere. I think we’ll find someone to create with us. Everything is going well and I’m hopeful.
Do you ever go back to the violin?
MJ: I will always love the violin more than any other instrument. I still play. It stares at me on the stand, it’s super cute! I’ve been playing since I was eight. You know? It’s the reason why I love music. That’s why I know the musical things I do. I’m able to write because I was at art school for so long. Music theory was a big thing with me. I need to play it. I’ll play tonight.
One last question. Out of everything and everyone, what or who inspires you the most?
MJ: In all honesty, it’s my sister that inspires me the most. She’s so cool and so successful. She’s so driven and determined and vivacious–everything I want to be. She has this way of doing everything she puts her mind to. If she can do it, I can do do it. I think she’s amazing.
Get Maya J’s single Like You now!