I came to New York City with the intention of taking the Big Apple by storm. To go out and increase my social and professional networks.
But I found myself feeling incredibly homesick during my first days alone here. All I wanted to do was stay in my apartment curled up in the blankets watching Netflix.
A little over two years ago, Maya Washington found herself in this very city with the very same fear of “putting herself out there”. She started a personal experiment to shamelessly promote herself on social media which has blossomed into a social movement that is inspiring people from all walks of life, all over the world.
I knew when I came to this city I had to make it my priority to meet the shameless one herself, Shameless Maya. But as soon as I got here, I found out that Maya was leaving the city (my big plans were not off to a good start).
Maya and her equally inspiring cousin Jeigh hosted a furniture sale at their apartment. She invited a select few others to her home on her final day in the city to tear through her belongings and buy stuff so she could donate the proceeds to the Harlem Boys and Girls Club. And guess who made sure she was on that list?! (this girl!!!)
I figured while I was in the apartment of Miss Shameless, I would shamelessly ask her to interview her for the blog. So with a nervous hand holding a shaky camera, I interviewed Maya in her kitchen.
We had a quick conversation that I want to share with you guys. Looking back, there are so many more probing questions I wish I asked her but even in our brief conversations, she was dropping honest wisdom that helped me find some confidence and I hope it will do the same for you.
So who are you, exactly?
I am the shameless one they call “Shameless Maya”. I am a social media personality but I am by trade an artist: photographer, actor, diva, you know.
You inspire a lot of people if you didn’t already know that. Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by friends and family especially my mother and my great grandmother that inspire me to keep pushing. Those are the two strong female figures I had in my life growing up. And then I also am inspired by like The Greats.
I’m currently working with Prince. He’s a huge, immediate inspiration right now! I’m also inspired by Grace Jones, Andy Warhol, Shakespeare…For me, they are the definition of “shameless”. They’re artists, and they’re unapologetic, and really shameless about putting themselves out there.
I’d be so intimidated by Prince
I was really nervous at first. But he’s a great guy. He’s actually really funny and very easy to work with.
Do you think being shameless is something anyone can do?
Definitely. Or at least work towards. It’s really about abandoning your fears and embracing who you are and doing that shamelessly, confidently, whatever you want to call it.
What’s the most rewarding part about being Shameless Maya?
For me it’s inspiring others because I have grown and obviously people are seeing my life transform in front of them. I want people to see (and think) “if Maya can do it, I can do it.”
What’s the most frustrating?
Frustrating? What am I frustrated with? Maybe time? At this point I don’t have enough time. I’ve been traveling a lot like in the last week I will have been in four different cities and in the next two weeks I’ll have been in 3 different countries. In the middle of my move! So it’s frustrating to get everything done. I just never have enough time.
Are you moving to LA permanently?
Nothing is permanent. I don’t want to say anything is permanent. Anything can happen.
Is this what you expected life to be like 3 years ago?
Oh man, I thought I would be married with kids! I thought that’s where my life was headed. But clearly I’m now I’m divorced with no kids! (laughs) My life is nowhere where I thought but it’s in a place that I think I’ve always dreamed about. Like my dream has always been to inspire while being inspired and to just create and do what I enjoy doing and make that my job. And I’m just so amazed and blessed that I wake up and I’m like Holy, what do I do for a living? I just have fun basically.
What advice do you have for someone about dealing with the unexpected turns of life?
Go with it. I feel like people are very much controlling. And they have this preconceived plan in their mind and if it doesn’t go according to plan, they still try to steer it and force their life to go in a direction. For me, one of the most powerful realizations that I’ve come to is to just go with it whether it’s good or bad is to just go with it because life is just so much easier and so much more rewarding if you’re just allowed to be surprised. Cause if you control it you’re never going to be surprised. And you will have the life that you expect if you could just let go; You’re going to be amazed.
You’re actually speaking to my life. I’m so intimidated by this city. I was afraid to go out of my apartment, come over here, and meet you. I was talking myself out of it.
.You need to have certain goals that you want to hit. But how you get there is a different story. You can plan and I do advise planning but be open to unexpected turns. For example like photo shoots, I’ll have a preconceived idea but once we start shooting, I’ll go with the flow, I’m not going to be like: this is what I planned, this is how it needs to be! No that’s not going to work.
What advice could you give to someone who, like you, is trying to live shamelessly in NYC
My advice would be to push yourself. I mean in terms of like fear. I mean, don’t do dumb things. When you’re afraid to do something. Like, I’m afraid to meet this person, I’m afraid to do this, push yourself to do that. Everyday should be you pushing your boundaries and limits because the more you push it, the further you’ll go. If you allow those fears and boundaries to hold you then you’re not going anywhere.
Check out the first Shameless Maya video I ever saw (1 year ago). It’s also one of my favorites: