Maya Jama, the effervescent star bringing a fresh burst of sun to Love Island
The announcement, in October, that Maya Jama would be the new host of Love Island was met with elation from fans across the country.
“This is PERFECT,” gushed one commenter. “They couldn’t have hired someone better!!!!!!” buzzed another. Many joked that Jama is so gorgeous, the ITV2 reality show’s contestants would want to dump their partners for her.
But the new job probably didn’t come as a huge surprise to the woman whose mother has videos of her, at the age of six, declaring she would be on TV one day.
Jama, now 28, has always been determined. In interviews, she’s variously described her teenage self as “fearless” and being “tunnel-vision focused”.
But back then, life was not without its complications.
Jama was born in Bristol, to a Swedish mother and Somali father, and spent many of her weekends up until the age of 10 visiting her father in prison.
A 2019 interview with Jama in Vogue said: “The years before he was sent away are coloured by vague memories of seeing her mother’s blood on the kitchen floor and ‘just knowing that something wasn’t right’.”
Jama cut ties with her father completely when she was a teenager. “I just felt like, if you can’t even make the effort to stay out of jail, why am I making the effort to go and see you?” she told the magazine.
Things were about to get more difficult still. When Jama was 16, her first boyfriend, Rico Gordon, was shot and killed when caught in the crossfire between two gangs. Jama, who had been on the phone to Gordon at the time of the shooting, moved to his family’s London home straight afterwards, and lived for a while in his old bedroom.
After that, she moved in with a close family member who was also grieving after a similar tragedy. But that relative went off the rails and, according to Vogue, developed a crack and heroin addiction. While things were tough at home, Jama threw herself into work.
Jama’s ascent in showbiz was remarkably fast. One of her first jobs was an internship as a runner for a production company called Jump Off TV. Within months of being there, Jama was given an onscreen presenting role, on the weekly music video countdown. Soon after that, in 2014, she was sent to Brazil to cover the World Cup for football network Copa90.
She also had a gig as a DJ on Rinse FM, and presented on MTV (in Topshop clothes she’d return the next day) and BBC Radio 1.
It was while Jama was presenting her Rinse FM show that someone requested she play one of Stormzy’s tracks – when he was a relative unknown – and he tweeted at her to say thank you. The pair slid into each other’s DMs and a relationship blossomed from there.
Jama and Stormzy dated from 2015 to 2019. “We were so young when we met, just beginning our careers. I was starting at MTV. He’d not even released a single at that point. We were just little babies,” she told The Sunday Times’s Style magazine this year.
In the same interview, Jama said she is currently “really, really single” after her split from the Australian basketball star Ben Simmons.
During the latter half of the 2010s, Jama hosted the 2017 Pre-Brit Awards Party, co-presented the Saturday night game show Cannonball on ITV with Andrew Flintoff and others, appeared as a guest on Loose Women, and became the youngest person, at 23, to co-host the MOBO Awards on Channel 5 with fellow presenter Marvin Humes.
She also co-presented the first series of The Circle on Channel 4 with Alice Levine, and had a presenting gig on Stand Up to Cancer.
Jama made a documentary, in 2017, exploring how growing up with a father in prison affects people, which led to a short-lived reunion with her own dad. “I didn’t speak to him again after that,” she told The Guardian in 2020.
In recent years, Jama has also presented BBC One’s Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer and the channel’s New Year’s Eve programme The Big New Year’s In. In January 2021, the BBC announced that Jama would be the new presenter of Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star, replacing former presenter Stacey Dooley, and in February 2021, Jama appeared as a celebrity guest judge during the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Later that year, it was announced that Jama would be the host of Simon Cowell’s new music competition gameshow Walk the Line. She has been, to put it mildly, quite busy.
Now, it’s all about other people’s love lives – other people being the contestants on Love Island – and whether they’re, as they say, “100 per cent each other’s type on paper”.
Jama – who is Love Island’s third host after Caroline Flack, who died in 2020, and Laura Whitmore – didn’t have to audition for the presenting position. Yet she is the perfect match for the show. She’s been a fan since its first ever episode, and before she started hosting, she practised her slo-mo walk into the villa (both the “smiley” and “sexy” versions, she has said).
Plus, Jama has already made it clear she’s not going to put up with tabloid gossip – something that will likely increase now she’s presenting Love Island.
“Looool that’s my makeup artist and my hair stylist you silly things,” she tweeted earlier this year, reacting to a report about her being spotted with different men.
With Love Island, it seems like Jama has found something the contestants are dreaming of – a match made in heaven.