The Secret Code of “God ComplX”:  Google’s First Scripted Series Starring Shameless Maya Features Diverse Cast, Smart Scripts & Great Acting By Rising Millennial Stars

God ComplX star Shameless Maya reveals how she went from socially unsavvy to YouTube & Google series star.
•Google’s first scripted series highlights the life of computer programmers outside of Silicon Valley.
•This original series showcases diversity and promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
•Shameless Maya also shares how YouTube led to unexpected collaboration with Prince at Paisley Park.
•Find out how to utilize social media and other digital platforms to create entertainment job opportunities.

“Hollywood has a problem, but the solution is digital.” -Shameless Maya, star of new Google series “God ComplX”

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“God ComplX” premiere in Venice, CA, October 28, 2016 | Photography: Rich Polk, Getty Images

YouTube and other digital platforms have become an effective means of self-promotion and global branding that has led to unconventional success stories for novices looking to break into the entertainment industry like the subject of our Q&A: Shameless Maya.

From make-up tutorials and fashion tips to creative music videos and dance displays, Shameless Maya capitalized on this new digital frontier and turned it into a thriving business and platform of success while garnering hundreds of thousands—and sometimes millions—of views.

That’s why there’s nothing “shameless” about Maya’s awe-inspiring sojourn and life-changing epiphany.  Growing up poor taught Maya the importance of humility and also gave her an unwavering tenacity that simply won’t take “no” for an answer.

This intense fortitude drove Maya from a poor neighborhood in Canada all the way to proverbial “overnight” stardom as a digital darling.  Her newfound fame as a “Jill-of-all-trades” as a photographer, producer even garnered the attention of legendary music icon Prince.

Prince loved her photography and she shamelessly displayed it, along with her many other talents, for 365 days straight on YouTube.  She ended up working with Prince and had the great fortune of designing one of his album covers as well as capturing his live performances, which left Maya both gracious and humbled by the experience, as she states in our interview below.

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Photography: Maya Washington

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Photography: Maya Washington

It was at that moment that she fully understood the power of digital media for novices like herself looking to break into the entertainment industry, after many years of struggling and dealing with self-doubt.

From make-up tutorials and fashion tips to creative music videos and dance displays, millennials and young people, like Shameless Maya, have capitalized on this new digital frontier with her multi-faceted, shameless and fearless form of expression.

“On my channel, I try to keep a balance, because sometimes we want to escape our own realities and play.” -Shameless Maya

Shameless Maya was first introduced to her legion of loyal fans through her YouTube show in 2012 bearing her name. The success of her relentless image management, business acumen and undeniable talent ultimately landed her the starring role in Google’s first scripted web series, God ComplX. The series bows – with all episodes available – on Tuesday, November 1st at 8PM (EST), and English and Spanish subtitles following soon after.

This innovative digital series features a diverse set of characters striving for success in the high-tech and highly competitive world of computer programming. Maya is self-proclaimed gadget-obsessed and tech guru, so the starring vehicle is tailor made for the YouTube sensation. “I did audition, but it helped that my platform showed my interest in tech as well as that I am a businesswoman.”  And for a unique spin, the series is set in Venice Beach and not the tech capital, Silicon Valley.

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On set of of “God ComplX” | Photography: Miriam Bribiesca

Shameless Maya’s rise to success has been a journey of pure determination and inspiration that has taken her from her home in Toronto, through New York, to finally bursting through the gates of Hollywood.

“The real transition and change happened when I said I was going to be “shameless”.  -Shameless Maya

This classically trained actress is making bold moves toward achieving success in Hollywood and she utilized an unconventional formula to bring her dreams to fruition.

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“God ComplX” premiere Q&A in Venice, CA, October 28, 2016 | Photography: Rich Polk, Getty Images

We spoke with Shameless Maya about her 365 days of perpetual and innovative self-promotion that led to YouTube stardom, a scripted series, and her eventual leap into feature films. With many hopeful actors and actresses creating personality-specific YouTube channels, Shameless Maya’s story is a signal that the path to your dream job in entertainment can be as close as your digital reach.

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Photography: Miriam Bribiesca

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Q&A On How Shameless Maya’s Social Media ‘Experiment’ Paid Off BIG (In Less Than A Year)

RB: You give advice on everything from fashion and photography to health and gadgets, and you said that your mission is ‘not perfection’ but rather to inspire. Can you tell us a little more about how Shameless Maya accomplishes this?

SM: Yeah, my mission when I started my YouTube channel that continues until today is to inspire people, to abandon their fears and live out their dreams shamelessly. I just feel that because I have struggled with pursuing my dreams – because so many people and the voice in your head – tells you that you shouldn’t or you can’t. I am challenging that whole notion that you can’t live your dreams; you have to be safe. You have to be put your head down and go about doing whatever is you’re doing. My channel is to inspire people to be their best “them”. Life isn’t so one-dimensional.  It’s 360.

RB: Struggles and roadblocks are inevitable in this business. Can you talk about some of your struggles in New York before Shameless Maya took off?

SM: When I moved to New York, I was 26 and I was a photographer and an actor. I’ve always done the two, but to break into “the scene” – not knowing anyone – was daunting. I worked for production companies; I did get a voice over agent, and I booked small work here and there, on both fronts, but it just wasn’t enough to motivate me to keep going. There are people that have lived in New York for a while or moved to New York that were way more aggressive and hungry, and I didn’t feel I could compete anymore, because I had been doing it for so long. I built so much back home in Canada that I was like, “What’s a way that I can bypass all of this?” I already put in my work and to start all over again was not enticing. My friend suggested that I go onto YouTube, because I had skills as both a performer and entertainer, in front of the camera and then – as a photographer and eventual editor and producer – behind the camera.

Shameless Maya’s first YouTube video posted July 15, 2012.

I thought it [YouTube] was super tacky, and I didn’t want to do it, and I was like, “Well, why!?” I question a lot of things; I was questioning why I thought this was shameless, and I was like, “Well if that’s how you feel about it, what would happen if you did something else?” I tried everything else to get ahead in this industry but being “shameless” and really putting myself out there and being exposed was liberating in and of itself. Everything else that followed after that is great and awesome.

RB: Were you a naturally shy person to start with?

SM: Oh, yeah! I grew up with a strict, Filipino, Catholic mom who always told me to be humble to just ‘tone it down’. Be quiet. Do good work and be good.

So, when I started thinking about the whole concept of being “shameless” – because mind you, social media had already started by 2012 – I’m on the sidelines seeing people really being shameless; and I’m like, “What the heck are they doing?!” I don’t see opportunities opening up for them, so it was a huge challenge. Even though I’ve been doing this for four years now, there are different levels to it, but I still find it challenging. It’s all a matter of perspective and everything is relative. To some of my peers in this industry, I’m not that shameless. But to artists – most artists are very introverted – I’m totally up there.

RB: Was there ever a moment during your struggle as Shameless Maya when you thought about giving up and getting a regular “day job”? 

SM: Funny enough, no. It’s never crossed my mind since I’ve done it. I haven’t dealt with that; I’ve never struggled with this “not panning out”. If anything, I’m just trying to keep up. The only thing I was focused on at the time: get out of the hood, get out of the hood. Once I got outta there, then it was, get outta debt, get outta debt. I’m just focused on my goal and what I need to do to get there. I do have moments of doubt, but never like, “If this doesn’t work out, let me do this,” [laughs]. But I do have moments of, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” That’s what I struggle with and that’s what I work to figure out. “Okay, I don’t know how to run a production company,” figure it out, ask for mentors or guidance. You just need to focus on the goal and work on the steps daily to get there.

RB: You’re a classically trained actress, so is there something from your acting training that helped you with your Shameless Maya YouTube videos?

SM: Definitely. Some people have no problem being themselves in front of the camera…that’s a lot of YouTubers. So, that is what helped me, just being comfortable in front of a camera. I feel that came with the training I had as a performer. But in terms of my training as an actor that has helped me beyond YouTube.

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Shameless Maya rehearsing her lines for “God ComplX” | Photography: Miriam Bribiesca

I would say what really influenced my success online is my “know-how” as a photographer and making sure I was able to produce quality videos. Even with that, you don’t need to be a professional to figure that out. You can use anything [YouTube] to figure out how to set up a camera.

A lot of YouTubers can upload videos; they can film in their bedroom. They’re totally comfortable in their own skin, but the minute you take them off of that platform and put them with a host, in front of cameras with a crew on a stage – that’s the difference between being trained and being yourself. You need the training to branch out and do bigger things and to work with other people. If you wanna work by yourself for the rest of your life, you could totally do that on YouTube, but if you’re trying to expand beyond YouTube and collaborate and meet with people, I do suggest everyone taking acting or performance class. It helps in all areas of life and gives you the confidence to share your voice with other people that you don’t know.

RB: So it’s safe to say that while YouTube was the ‘bounce’ you needed, the training took Shameless Maya past the platform?

SM: For sure. Because I was trained, I was able to book roles as an actor. I did a feature film and I didn’t even audition. They booked me based on my YouTube channel and they knew that I had training so they were like, “We know that she’s trained and we can see her talent. Let’s just hope she can deliver,” and thank God [laughs]. Same with the show GodComplX – I did audition, but it helped that my platform showed my interest in tech as well as that I am a businesswoman.

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On set of “God ComplX” | Photography: Miriam Bribiesca

I have my production company. I’m myself 360 online, so it’s easy for people to hire me because we know that, “Maya’s into drag“, but she’s also into tech and fashion, so they can cast based on my channel, but it’s really my abilities that take me beyond. Even as a photographer, Prince discovered me on YouTube.

“I get a call from Prince and I know it’s him because I can hear his voice…” -Shameless Maya

Because of my abilities as a photographer, I can also work on album cover with Prince!

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Shameless Maya served as photographer and Art Director on Prince’s “Artificial Age”. The late artist discovered Maya on her YouTube channel.

RB: How far into the 365 days of your Shameless Maya YouTube channel did you notice your brand gaining traction?

SM: I was uploading videos on the notion of promotion and putting ‘yourself out there’, but it really didn’t start to pick up until my seventh video.

The first six videos, I was talking about promotion, being yourself, putting yourself out there – and those were “okay” videos – but it wasn’t until I uploaded my natural, curly hair routine that [laughs] my channel and my videos exploded.

Despite what I had to say – the thoughts that I had, the curiosity – people on YouTube are very much driven by looks and beauty. I was talking about things that I think are relatable to a lot of people, but the people that are watching are like, “yeah, great, but can you talk about your hair? How do you maintain it?” I was like, “Who cares about my hair?! I’m trying to talk about real stuff!” But when I finally did, I was like, “Wow!” But then in the next video, I’m talking about “shameless” street performers in New York promoting their music and you don’t care about that. So I try to find a balance of things that matter to me – in terms of personal growth – as well as giving them what they want, which is beauty and fashion.

On my channel, I try to keep a balance, because sometimes we want to escape our own realities and play.

RB: Your campaign is described as journey into your own “self-discovery”. What’s the most unexpected thing that Shameless Maya has discovered about herself?

SM: For someone like myself who’s very shy, I’m unexpectedly fearless. A lot of people ask me, “aren’t you afraid to do that?” I never thought about it [laughs]! I’m so focused on doing stuff that I never really stop to think about it. I have ideas like, “Oh, I could shave my hair off!” I don’t think, how will life be like when I shave my hair or what kind of response that will attract from people? I’m a typically shy person; I’m not an extreme person…I don’t do drugs. The only question is the first initial question, “What would it be like to jump out of an airplane? Oh, go find out!” Just do things then deal with reaction or response after.

RB: You’re the star of Google’s new original series God ComplX. Can you tell us more about the series?

SM: God ComplX follows a programmer and an aspiring CEO. She’s an over-achiever, Sabrina [Maya’s character]. She moves into a live-work space with fellow programmers in Silicon Beach. What we all have in common – the common tendency with programmers – is having a God complex, hence the title God ComplX.

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Photography: Miriam Bribiesca

It was produced with Google, and it was Google’s first scripted series. It was designed to inspire people, especially young adults to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), because there is a disproportionate amount of blacks, Latinos and women in tech careers. There’s an overwhelming amount of straight, white males, and it’s a problem. A lot of the tech companies in Silicon Valley have acknowledged it and showed reports that there’s less than 3% of African-Americans working – not only in Silicon Valley – but in tech careers. The way to inspire change is by what you see. I wouldn’t believe I could’ve achieved a lot of the things if I hadn’t seen the greats before me achieve it. I look to them to get inspiration. God ComplX is again designed to inspire young people to pursue these careers in tech.

RB: Can you tell us more about your character, “Sabrina”?

SM: My character isn’t too far off from me, Maya [laughs].

RB: Shameless Maya has a God complex?

SM: Yeah, I guess I do [laughs]. I am a CEO now, and I did pursue photography at a time when it was dominated by white males, so I totally identify with Sabrina and what she’s going through. A lot of people tend to judge a book by its cover. I remember pulling rentals for cameras and just the attitude I would get at a desk, because they didn’t think I knew what I was talking about because I “looked different” than what they’re used to dealing with. I’m completely in the same boat with her; she’s one aspect of me. It’s funny, because a lot of people don’t know that side of me; they don’t see the business side of me. They see the personality side of me. The personality side of me is crazy, shameless, out there, but then there’s the other side of me that’s very much structured. I’m a work-aholic. If it can happen it will happen; I will make it happen.

RB: Who are your other favorite, stand out characters on God ComplX?

SM: I do like Reed who’s played by Nick Moss. He plays [laughs] in a nice way an asshole. An arrogant, entitled, asshole – that’s on the surface – but when you dig into the layers beyond that – he’s really someone who’s a social outcast because he’s awkward. He’s an introvert. He’s used his genius as a way to cope and deal with people. I like the layers that his character has and how you’re able to see that through Sabrina. I – as Sabrina – challenge him to be a human being and not be such an asshole. It takes his best friend to tell me he is socially awkward. He doesn’t have friends and this is why he created a live-work space so we can all come together, so he could have friends.

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“God ComplX” Q&A in Venice, CA, October 28, 2016 | Photography: Rich Polk, Getty Images

RB: You talked about diversity and the cast is 95% women and minorities: Have you ever been a part of something like this on this scale thanks to your Shameless Maya persona?

SM: Yes, it’s so interesting the projects that I’ve been invited to be a part of. It is that diverse. The feature film I did last year, which is set to come out soon, Alaska Is a Drag. It’s the story of two twins living in Alaska that work at a fish cannery, so it’s another example of fish-out-water. You don’t picture a mixed family living in Alaska, working at a fish cannery. When you think of Alaska, you don’t think about drag queens, gays and people of color. This is actually a common theme that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.

RB: Does an atmosphere like that ease your transition from your Shameless Maya channel into scripted programming, especially being involved with a diverse group of filmmakers?

SM: It’s refreshing to see people that look like me, but it definitely doesn’t change my work ethic or my performance. It’s comforting to see and it’s inspiring. But what has helped is that these projects like God ComplX and Alaska Is a Drag – very indie, very grass roots – speaks more volumes to me because we’re all coming together to create something that they aren’t producing on traditional, scripted shows. We’re all invested in a bigger story, a bigger picture, even though it’s on smaller budget. That has helped my transition.

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“God ComplX” premiere in Venice, CA, October 28, 2016 | Photography: Rich Polk, Getty Images

RB: How do you feel about diversity or the lack thereof in Hollywood? Do you think it’s improving?

SM: I’m kind over Hollywood [laughs]. Who is Hollywood speaking to? Sure, they have the blockbuster films but people that I’m trying to effect and reach are online. I think it is an issue; it has always been an issue, but for me, the solution is to create and tell your own stories, and that’s what I love about the digital landscape. We don’t need people telling us “no” because we can come together and create our own thing, which is what we’re doing. God ComplX is an example of Hollywood saying “no, you can’t have this cast,” so it’s like okay, let’s create it online and prove you wrong.

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A packed house at the premiere of “God ComplX” at Google’s Venice office. | Photography: Rich Polk, Getty Images

Hollywood has a problem, but the solution is digital. It is getting better though with shows like Insecure and Atlanta

RB: You built a brand online to better your odds of breaking into the business; do you think your self-made path to success as Shameless Maya is a new business model for creatives? 

SM: Definitely, 100%, yes. We live in a time of “do-it-yourself”. You have all of the resources at the tip of your fingers. When I started in the industry acting, we didn’t have the Internet. I had to ask friends who would lead me to another person who would lead me to another person. But information was so hard to come by. Technology is right in the hands of your phone. There is no excuse for you not to build your own [brand]. Why are you waiting for someone to tell you “yes”? You only need to give yourself permission to put yourself out there. That’s the number one struggle that I have with the questions that I deal with on a daily basis: How can I do that?! Girl, have you not been to my channel?! [laughs] And not only that, but why don’t you take the question that you’re sending me in an email and put it in a Google search! That’s what I do for everything. There’s no excuse to be waiting around. You have a phone. I have a video on “How to Film and Edit on Your Smartphone”. Films are being shot that way. Tangerine, which made it into Sundance, was shot completely on an iPhone.

RB: There’s so much competition online: does Shameless Maya have any advice for standing out when there’s so much saturation of people creating their own web series and being influencers?

SM: I think what all this competition is doing is it’s either inspiring people to copy or really motivating people to search within themselves to discover what they really want. When you focus on what you want, you will automatically distinguish yourself from someone else because you have your own unique story and your own unique way to tell that. Because there is so much over-sharing, there are a lot of social media insecurities, a lot of confusion because people are trying to do this whole rat race, and trying to keep up. My advice is focus on: Why, Story, and Content – and less about the popularity. Then you can figure out, how do I reach a large amount of people and then that’s collaboration, cross-promotion.

That’s a way to build your brand, but you need to know what you’re trying to build before you build it.

RB: You live in Los Angeles but do you have to live in L.A. to be successful in this industry?

SM: No [laughs]. I think you can do a lot from where you are. People have the notion, “I need this to achieve that,” and it’s just like, no, you need to start from where you are and maximize the fuck outta that. Before I even bought my pro camera, I ran my amateur camera into the ground until it actually broke, the flash exploded [laughs]. You have to work with what you have so you can be trusted with more. With the Internet, you can reach people anywhere. But in terms of collaborations – things of that nature – if it doesn’t work online, then, yes, you do need to be in a place that will connect with you other people. But it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to create a film that involves a lot of people when you need crew and cast, you do need to be in a place where you can connect with other people.

Once you maximize that, L.A.’s definitely an option, but you can build success from where you are. Be known in your city. Drake is a perfect example of someone who was successful in his own city, Toronto, before he stepped out. Now, he actually put Toronto on the map. You can be the next Drake and put your town on the map! You don’t need to abandon everything for this whole gold rush of Los Angeles.

RB: Can you tell us why you moved to Los Angeles? Was it based on the trajectory of your own career as Shameless Maya?

SM: I moved to Los Angeles because I found myself flying out here for work nearly every other week. I did the most I could with New York, before I moved out. I came out here when I was eighteen; I came out here because I wanted to come out here, and it just didn’t work out, and I had to go back home.

I stayed here for not even a year, and I went back home to Toronto. I trained as an actor, and learned and honed my skills as a photographer. I did all my training in my hometown and then when I got as much as I could have out of it, then I switched things up.

RB: You stated that you suffered from social anxiety and bouts of depression? Has your Shameless Maya videos been a boost to your overall confidence?

SM: It’s great that I get feedback consistently on a daily basis, but I don’t think my confidence comes from that. It comes internally and I would say that the confidence I have today is the same I had before I started YouTube. The major different is my relationship with God.

Throughout this entire journey of me being shameless, yes, I discovered a lot about who I am, but I discovered a whole lot about my relationship with God. The only reason I am where I am because of that, and because I keep listening and pushing myself and my faith. I guess that could be chalked up to confidence, but I chalk that up to my faith. It definitely is a lot stronger now than where I was four years ago.

RB: What’s next for Shameless Maya?

SM: I have a production company that I started back in May. I have an office, so the next thing is to create my own scripted series.

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Photography: Rich Polk, Getty Images

In God ComplX, Maya’s character “Sabrina” is a lot like her.  She’s strong, smart, beautiful, competitive, determined and immersed in an industry that has a disproportionate number of successful men in comparison to women with the same skill sets.

And in true “Sabrina” form, Shameless Maya has also figured out how to navigate around the system to make it work for her.  How?  She became “Shameless”. In other words, she fully connected with her own potential and stopped allowing fear of failure (or other people’s opinions) to negatively affect her.  This gave her creative wings the room they needed to soar as high as her imagination would take her.

It can work for you too.  All you have to do is believe in yourself and dare to be “shameless”.

 

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