Maya Jama, the effervescent star bringing a fresh burst of sun to Love Island

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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 t...