If you aren’t yet familiar with Maya Jama, don’t worry. After this I guarantee you’ll be seeing her everywhere.
From presenting on 4music to appearing on every relevant red carpet this season, it seems as though the bold decision to leave home at 16 in order to pursue her dreams is definitely paying off in a big way.
One of Maya’s first stops for 2017 was to interview some of the biggest music industry names as nominations for the BRIT Awards were announced, and to simply say she was camera ready would be an understatement. While a fair amount of credit must be given to a stunning combination of Somali and Swedish heritage (not to mention the charisma to back it up), there was also a secret weapon behind the scenes – her fabulous makeup artist, Abbie May Hopkins.
In fact, working on the BRITs was quite a special occasion for these two – who arguably seem to enjoy posting behind-the-scenes snapchat masterpieces even more than they do their polished looks – because the BRITs in 2016 were actually what brought them together! “I approached Maya via social media to do her make-up for the BRITs,” Abbie May explains of their meet cute, “and since then we have been working together on a regular basis.”
“We have this amazing energy. We’re always up for having a laugh, but also keep it professional.” That connection is something Abbie May considers invaluable when it comes to her regular clients, and it tends to help things run smoothly. It’s easy to imagine that getting ready for a high-pressure live event could start to slip towards stressful territory, but not for these two. Set up in their own fully-catered dressing room (the dream), Maya went over her interview prep whilst Abbie May got to work on the makeup, leaving plenty of room to enjoy the day. “We played trap music whilst snapchatting and flicking through all the filters,” Abbie May explains, “Maya always makes me laugh.”
So the vibe was chilled, the energy was high… but what about the look itself? From the sound of things, it was very much the result of a collaborative vision. “Makeup is a very personal thing,” she states frankly, and cites this as one of the reasons she’s so selective with her work. “I like to be open with my clients, and vice-versa, and like them to feel comfortable in the way I make them look.”
That trust was enough to convince Maya to take the plunge and go with a green eye look – a decision both of them ended up absolutely loving. “It was great to it change up a bit. Maya really can pull off any make-up look though, to be honest.”
Though Maya does sound like essentially the dream client, this connection and excitement is something Abbie May brings to all her work, which is incredibly clear to me from the palpable pride she exudes when telling me about another incredible talent she’s been working with – Raye. “I’ve been working with Raye for nearly a year now, and she is just a dream. Not only do we get on really well, I am a massive fan of her music. She is a super star in the making.” This genuine investment in her clients and their work is a running theme in our conversations, and I believe every word.
“I need to make sure everything I do and share is a great representation of my art.” It’s clear to me that Abbie May treats everything she creates with the same consistent level of care and respect, so I’d say she’s succeeding. However, though she does place importance on maintaining her professional integrity, the facet of herself that she hopes comes across most clearly in her work is her personal creativity. “I like to deliver strong and bold looks that capture the eye,” she explains, “It’s important to me to not do the same thing as everyone else, and to be daring, unique and experimental with make-up.”
For some this innate creativity may manifest as an excuse to go all-out with crazy colours and allow their creations to overshadow the individuals beneath them, but Abbie May’s philosophy is quite the opposite. “I think it’s important to make women feel beautiful without having to cake on the make-up.” Society, she notes, is unfortunately geared towards making women feel as though they should be using makeup as a mask, and her aim is to inspire a change in that mentality, through showing the diverse ways cosmetics can be used to simultaneously enhance a person’s natural beauty, “true identity” and confidence.
With her ambition and incredible focus on meeting the high expectations she has of herself, though Abbie May has already achieved some incredible things, I’m willing to bet this is barely the surface of what she’s capable of doing. When a vivid creative vision meets an innate refusal to settle for anything less than personal best, there’s no limit to what can become reality – in fact, the only person who can have any clear idea is Abbie May herself. Big picture aside, what’s most important more often than not is the sense of fulfilment one gets from everyday life, and the future – as exciting as it may be – doesn’t seem to have distracted her from the present. In years to come she may be head of her own brand, or setting worldwide trends as the personal MUA to a superstar, but for now she’s laying strong foundations, and taking time to enjoy the moment.
There’s something incredibly special about working with people you genuinely connect with, and the looks Abbie May creates with Maya are a testament to that, time and time again. At the end of the day, the impact of having two people’s dreams and ambitions work together is absolutely invaluable. Throw in a couple of face masks and a snapchat-fuelled pre-BRITs sleepover? Priceless.