Internet sensation Maya Washington aka “Shameless Maya” talks leveraging her personal YouTube fan base as a vlogger into a starring role in the new Google webseries “GodComplX”
According to USA Today, women represent “26% of computing professionals and only 12% of professional engineers”. With the new web series, “GodComplX”, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Google, is helping to show that representation matters. The 10-part web series was funded through Google’s Computer Science Education in Media team (CS in Media) which is designed to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to not only use technology, but to create it. The show’s executive producers, Joe Sicora and Claire Brown tapped Maya Washington, known to many as “Shameless Maya” to play Sabrina, a successful project manager at a tech company who gets invited to live with five other young tech geniuses in Silicon Beach. Similar to the way in which Hillman College, a fictional school that was used as the backdrop for “A Different World” inspired a generation of students to attend HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) it’s quite possible that Washington with her 700K subscribers are YouTube is inspiring a new generation of women coders through the show. In an exclusive interview with the L.A. Sentinel, Washington speaks on the importance of continuing to explore diversity within the series.
LAS:: For fans of your YouTube channel that are used to your direct to camera videos, was it difficult separating Maya the vlogger from Sabrina the character?
MW: The direct to camera aspect was the idea of the show’s co-creators Joe Sicora and Claire Brown. They knew that they were designing a show for YouTube so they wanted it to have a YouTube feel. I would say the hardest challenge in this entire process has been memorizing nearly one hundred pages of script to say in a few days. I didn’t feel like I really had to get into character, I just had to be myself in certain situations.
LAS:: What are the similarities and differences between you and Sabrina?
MW: I can relate to Sabrina in terms of being a workaholic, that’s very much Maya. I’m similar to my character in having the experience of working in a white male dominated industry as a photographer. When I started photography, I was 18-years-old and I didn’t know other photographers that looked like me. There’s a scene in the show where Sabrina is in an interview and she’s asked what challenges she faces as woman in the tech industry and she goes on to say, ‘I refuse to let my sex determine my struggles’ and I can completely relate. Do I struggle in life? Yes. But do I use that as a representation of me or an excuse? No. I want a lot of things to be non-issues. I want to be judged on the merit of my work versus who I am so Sabrina and I share those similarities. Sabrina has somewhat of a privilege in terms of being educated and being able to live in this complex with other beautiful, intelligent people. I love her life. In contrast, everything I have is a result of the work I’ve done by myself.
LAS:: You recently posted a video questioning whether or not you should quit YouTube and many people commented that your videos had become disingenuous, and overly produced. Since you can’t please everyone, how do you maintain a sense of self while making sure you’re giving your audience what they want?
MW: It’s a matter of perspective. What I learned from that video is yes, people want to relate. People could relate to me because of my struggle but I’m trying to evolve out of that. And when we do, it can be challenging for a large part of our audience to evolve with us because they’re still in the same space and they’re comfortable in that space. I had to change my perspective and truly invest in the people that can evolve with me, there may not be as many; but at the end of the day, I’m here to inspire others while being inspired. It’s hard to take a loss but it’s rewarding in the long run to know you’ve evolved even though some people aren’t willing to evolve with you. You just have to stay faithful and know that the moves you’re making will amount to something in the end. I would rather be honest with myself than play a lie just because certain people want me to stay in a particular place, I physically couldn’t do it.
LAS:: There are a lot of moving parts in the first season of “GodComplX”. If you have input on what happens to Sabrina, what are you hoping to see in the next season?
MW: Delving more into who these characters are, especially the supporting cast. There hasn’t been an dialogue addressing the diversity of the cast. The only mention of anything is that Hakeem is Muslim, that’s it. But we haven’t directly addressed what it means to be woman of color working in the tech industry. Sabrina has a moment where she tells Reid (actor Nick Moss), ‘You don’t get it, you were born rich, I’m not.’ She could have said, ‘You don’t get it. You’re a white man, you were born rich.’ Those things we’re addressed at all. But I guess the writers’ perspective was to leave it open to interpretation. Maybe there’s room to use more direct language in the second season. But I feel like this just the top layer of this cake and there’s so much more that they can explore in terms of the real issues that happen.
To watch the first season visit: youtube.com/godcomplx.