TV Interview: Maya Jama on Channel 4's The Circle.
A brand new reality show for the social media age, The Circle is a brand new reality show on Channel 4.
The Circle’s players will all move into the same building but live in completely separate apartments. Living just inches away from each other, they can't see or hear one another and will never meet their competitors face to face while playing the game.
Instead, to win the cash prize of up to fifty thousand pounds, they’ll communicate only using a specially-designed voice automated social media platform, called - you've guessed it - The Circle.
The only thing they’ll see of each other is what they choose to share. They could portray themselves as younger, older, fitter, frumpier or foxier. They could become a totally different person. Or simply be themselves.
The Circle is a fascinating and entertaining reality TV series, presented by the all-girl dream team of Maya Jama and Alice Levine.
Maya Jama tells us more…
What attracted you to presenting The Circle?
I'm a social media and reality TV addict, so combining the two is pretty much my dream outcome. It's a fascinating social experiment. We're all on some kind of social media - you tend to be the odd one out if you're not - so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. When the players are on a mission to become popular, will they be their real selves or a fake version?
What would you do?
I'd probably just be a catfish. It might be my only chance in life to get away with being somebody else, so why not? That'd be fun.
Which reality shows are you addicted to?
Mainly the dating ones: Love Island obviously, Ex On The Beach, First Dates and especially First Dates Hotel. In everyday life, we talk about relationships and who we fancy so much, it's naturally pleasing to watch other people go through it, while you commentate on their lives. There could be romance on The Circle. Someone could fall in love with a fake profile and when they finally meet, it'll be like: duh-duh-DUUUN, drama! But there's also no guarantee that everyone's going to get along, so it could kick off.
What's your own attitude towards social media?
Social media is both a gift and a curse. It's great for some many things: you can make new friends, build a career, promote your business, document your life, have a laugh with it. But the downside is that there's a lot of comparison and envy, which can lead to insecurities. A lot of people aren't their true selves. It's a dibble-dabble, just depends how you use it.
Which social media do you use?
Instagram and Twitter. Not so much Snapchat anymore. I was heavy on the Snap but they changed it, so I came off. I've got more followers on Insta than Twitter, so I probably put more effort into that. I feel like Instagram Stories is my personal documentary. I go behind-the-scenes, show my new outfits and do silly videos.
Has social media helped your career?
Definitely. It's the place where people got to know my personality and where I built a genuine following. It's like a showcase you control. It goes hand-in-hand with everything I do. Without Twitter or Instagram, my career probably wouldn't be in the same place.
You recently posted that your Insta was getting "too posey" and put up a less flattering pic. Why?
I try to make my Instagram reflect how I really am and I don't always look glamorous and dolled-up. So I thought, "Right, I'm going to put up a silly pic that's not pristine or filtered." It's also a self-protective thing: I feel like nobody can get any ugly pictures of me because I've posted way worse already. If I'm already laughing at myself, you can't get to me.
Does social media ever affect your mood or self-esteem?
Not in terms of "likes", I don't care so much about those anymore. But maybe if you're feeling rubbish about yourself, then you scroll down your timeline and everyone's looking really happy and glamorous, it's not going to help you. But I'm secure enough in myself now to not compare myself to online images. I know the effort that goes into getting a good picture and I realise that's not how everyone wakes up. You have to take social media with a pinch of salt. Get your happiness out of it, have a lovely time, try not to depend on it or set too much stall by it. Remind yourself that it's everybody's highlights reel, not actual reality. The real world is still happening, regardless of how many followers you have or how many likes you get.
Have you ever used dating apps?
When I was single years and years ago, I went on a dating website for a day. We had a girly sleepover and all signed up. I matched someone and used a technique which I think is a great tip for online dating. I sent a video to the guy I was going to meet for a date, just speaking to camera saying: "Hi, this is me, just sending this so you know I'm a real person and not a catfish. Can you send one back?" Then he did one too, so we weren't shocked when we saw each other and I knew he didn't have a weird squeaky voice or anything. It avoids nasty surprises or shock-horrors.
Have you ever been trolled or catfished?
Yeah, I think everyone gets trolled as soon as you have a certain amount of followers. It's not nice but it comes with the territory. Not everyone's going to like you and that's fine. They don't know me, so I try to laugh at them and not let them ruin my day. And there's a catfish out there right now, pretending to be me. Every time someone tells me about the account, they block me and start a new one. I get a message every couple of weeks saying "Oh my God, I've been speaking to someone using your picture for ages, and I've only just found your real account." They're usually German, Belgian or Danish men who've been chatting to this fake person. She's been keeping it up for years, having a field day, using my pics and videos. It's really weird. Years ago, I also heard from this guy who'd been chatting to a fake me on a dating app for two years. He nearly married the fake me. Shocker. There's loads of catfishes out there. Even in my teens, I got catfished on MSN. I'd been speaking to this boy and this girl at my school claimed she'd met him and he was real. But he'd never go on webcam. We arranged to meet up loads and it never happened. The girl from my school was probably behind it. What a weirdo.
How would you cope in The Circle?
I'd be on The Circle loads, because if that was my only form of communication, I'd be trying to make friends as quickly as possible. Play games. Have a laugh. Be a catfish. Maybe I'd be a boy, just to see what it's like being a bloke. It'll be fascinating to see how the players approach it, watch them weighing everything up and go through the process with them.
What about being alone in an apartment for three weeks?
I'd probably be bouncing off the walls and doing handstands on the ceiling. No, I'd read a lot, hit the gym, cook healthy food, sing and dance around. I'm OK with my own company. I went on holiday to Sri Lanka on my own for 10 days and loved it.
What would you do if you won £50,000 prize money?
Hmm. My mum doesn't own a house, so I'd probably put a deposit down on a place for her. And I'd give loads to charity. But if you'd ask me this back when I was working in Urban Outfitters, I'd have gone travelling and done loads of wild stuff.
Are you looking forward to co-presenting with Alice Levine?
Very much. Alice is lovely and hilarious. We cross over on Radio 1 every Friday and Saturday, so it'll be like "Hi, radio! Hey, TV!"
Finally, what are your five most used emojis?
Hang on, let me check my phone. Laughing face, love heart, shy embarrassed face with rosy cheeks, eye roll and the A-OK finger and thumb. Vomit face is next - I don't know what was happening there. I send selfies of my own reactions too, like I'm a human emoji. It's quite entertaining.