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Maya Jama has opened up about how her ex-boyfriend was shot dead outside a pub when she was a teenager - trauma that ended up giving her the determination to grab life by the horns and follow her dreams.
Her first love had been a 21-year-old man called Rico Gordon, who was shot and killed outside a pub in her hometown of Bristol after getting caught in the crossfire of two rival gangs.
Two men from rival gangs were later found guilty of the fatal shooting, and were handed life sentences.
Jama, 25, revealed her painful past in a new interview with Cosmopolitan, recalling how her ex had died she was just 16.
She said: "With my boyfriend passing, it gave me a fearless approach to things. I felt like life was really short.
"Out of everything that [has] happened in my life, that was a reality check on a massive scale. At 16 you think the world is a fairytale and it took me out of that. It made me even more determined."
While Jama admitted she 'went through a lot' at the time, she also said the tragedy helped encourage her to pursue the career in broadcasting she had dreamed of.
Her boyfriend's untimely death spurred her on to make it into TV, and she soon moved to London to make it happen, landing an unpaid job as a runner on Jump Off TV - also working in retail to pay the bills.
"If it hadn't been for going through those difficulties, my whole perception of life would be different," she said.
"I don't let myself get wound up over smaller things because I know what it's like to feel actual pain. I don't dwell on a lot."
In 2014 Jama went to cover the FIFA World Cup in Brazil for football network Copa90, also landing a presenting role at MTV the same year.
But Jama is also all too aware of how differently her life could have panned out, given what had happened to her at such a young age.
She continued: "Statistically I should have gone off the rails then, and it feels like my career was the thing that saved that from happening because I had hope and there was something to look forward to.
"When you go through trauma, if you don't have something to look forward to, that's when you can get stuck in a rut."
Having managed to carve out a hugely successful career for herself, now Jama refuses to let others get in the way of her determination - having spoken out against trolls recently.
Responding to negative comments on social media, she tweeted earlier this month: "I refuse to dim myself down, people will chip away at you in hopes that you stop what you're doing and lesser yourself to make them feel better about themselves and sometimes it can feel heavy knowing your happiness angers someone but as soon as you realise your own power you're unstoppable."
I refuse to dim myself down, people will chip away at you in hopes that u stop what youre doing & lesser yourself to make them feel better about themselves & sometimes it can feel heavy knowing ur happiness angers someone but as soon as you realise ur own power you're unstoppable
- Maya Jama (@MayaJama) July 15, 2020
She also hit back at viewers for suggesting an outfit she wore on BBC's Save Our Summer recently was too 'revealing'.
Speaking to a social media user, Jama wrote: "Appreciate your concern. I am able and allowed to dress how I please. If you feel uncomfortable by my boobs sitting in my dress that's on you sis.
"We're all fighting for equality and similar treatment to our male counterparts. Don't let the side down by hyper sexualising my bod."
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