How do you know someone is destined for great things? I can’t be certain, but I’m sure Maya Delgado could give you a few pointers.
Maya’s been singing, acting, and dancing professionally since she was eight. She released her first music EP, “Shades of You,” at the age of eight and was most recently featured on the Apple TV+ series “Ghostwriter.” Now, at the age of thirteen, not only is Maya an entertainment triple threat, but she also founded an entire nonprofit business, Hearts of Maya, to give scholarships to kids who need help paying for their own theatre, singing, and dance classes. She even won a SPARK! Award, which recognizes individuals who impact and ignite creativity in children, for her nonprofit work. I don’t know about you, but at thirteen I was busily learning the dance moves to “Bye Bye Bye” and re-watching Bring It On. While Maya does love normal kid things, like binge watching Harry Potter or listening to Billie Eilish, she’s definitely a girl with a plan. To act? To sing? To take over the world? After talking to Maya, I’m fully convinced she could do all of the above.
Some quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What inspired you to start acting and singing at such a young age?
Really, it’s always been a part of me. Since I was little my brother and I would watch movies, like Disney princess ones, and I would be the princess and he would be the big, bad dragon. We’d make my family sit down and watch us. I was just banging on the table when I was seven years old, and my grandma told my mom ‘she can actually sing, you need to put her in voice classes or I will.’ So my mom thought we’d try it out and see how it goes, for fun, and I fell in love with it. It’s never been something I thought of as something I have to do, it’s just been very natural. I’m a singer and I’m an actress and that’s just what I love to do. That’s how everything started really, because of my grandma and grandpa. My grandpa was a mariachi singer in Mexico, so he played the guitar and everything. I would always hear him and I thought he was really awesome. It’s always had to do with family and I’ve always had the family support.
Has your grandpa inspired you to pick up any instruments?
Hearing him sing was really what I loved. He had to get surgery in his throat so he couldn’t really sing anymore. That’s what he loved to do, so I started doing that, and I fell in love with it too, so it was a way we could both connect. I did teach myself the ukulele, so I do play that. Learning the guitar is one of my dreams so I can sing one of his songs that he used to sing with his band, that’d be really awesome.
Is there anyone who you look up to or whose career inspires you?
Well, obviously my grandfather, he’s a big part of that. People that inspire me, honestly, are some of the kids who have gotten my scholarships. Just hearing their story, everything they go through, they still get on stage, they’re still very professional. They still love the arts and to perform. I’m really blessed with everything I have and my family, my mom and dad worked really hard so I’m able to go to these classes. I see [the kids] and they work so hard and they’re still able to feel good about themselves and be talented, and I think that inspires me to work even harder than I already am. So really just seeing the kids that I scholarship and their stories is pretty incredible.
How did you come up with the idea for Hearts of Maya?
I went to a studio when I was nine and I made so many close, close friends there. I was homeschooled because I would act, sing, and dance so much that, really, all of my friends were at the studios I went to. I would very much notice when they weren’t there or when they had to go, and then I just realized that it was because they couldn’t afford classes. It made me really sad because I couldn’t see some of my friends and, even though I was nine, I could recognize that they were so talented and so mature and so willing to work hard, and that made me really sad. I saw this as a big problem. I called a family meeting when I was nine to say ‘this is a problem, and I want to help it.’ My dad works in business and finance and he told me about non-profits and how that would be a way to help. So I said, dope, let’s do it, I was very eager to help people. I was in a very good place where my parents were able to pay for classes and I was able to do all these things. My parents definitely helped me develop a way to solve this problem. I came up with the name for it because I love hearts, I love drawing them, I love doing everything with them, it’s such a beautiful shape. And I really need to thank my family, my parents, and everyone that’s supported me along the way. They’ve been a really big part of that. I’m grateful to say that I’m thirteen now and I still have this and it’s still going strong, we’re still giving scholarships to kids.
How many scholarships do you give out?
It depends. To date, we’ve given scholarships to over thirty kids. Which is really incredible to say and I’m super, extremely proud of that. It depends on when those classes are happening. During the summer there are a lot of schools that have acting camps, so it really depends on when these classes are taking place.
How did you come up with the catchphrase for Hearts of Maya, “Find the art in your heart,” and what does it mean to you?
Really what it means is that everything that I want to do and all my hopes for Hearts of Maya is to help people find their creative outlet and find what they love to do. I think everyone deserves to have a creative outlet, everyone deserves to find something that they love. What you want to do starts from within and who you are, what you want to do with your life, and the impact that you want to make. Find the art, your creativity, and what you love to do, starting with yourself. I feel like that’s what I’ve been able to do and what I want to continue to do, help other people realize their talents and creativity and ask the question of ‘how can I do this for good?’ It means a lot to me, finding the art in your heart, that’s what I want to do and inspire other people to do.
Can you tell me about your experiences meeting the kids who get your scholarship?
That’s really when I realize, oh my god, this is happening, this is what Hearts of Maya is. I get to see it on social media and go to events and see the kids applying, but that’s all digital. But really seeing them, getting to give them a hug, getting to talk to them, not only seeing how talented they are but how amazing of a human they are, is really awesome to see. Meeting them is incredible. I just get utter happiness and joy out of seeing them. I’ve gotten to know some of them really well, and I still talk to them. Some of them are people I’ve grown to really, really care about. It also builds a really nice community among everybody, you know, we’re all in this together, very close. We’ll always be there for each other too, which is really great. I just get a really happy feeling. It’s incredible to know that you can help people.
How do you award the kids their scholarships?
Obviously we can’t really do that during coronavirus, I haven’t been able to go and see them. But we’re able to get them a certificate somehow, someway, we find a way. They get to take a picture with it and I get to congratulate them and definitely still talk to them. Pre-Covid, I would go and see them and we’d take pictures and talk for some time, just to see how they’re currently doing now and what their goals are. Hearing it from them is awesome. I get so much joy out of just seeing them and getting to talk to them.
What was it like winning a Spark award?
It was weird, but it was a really good, good weird. This is just something that I love to do and the fact that I was able to get recognized for it, it was really awesome. I got to go to their facility and speak on a panel, which was really cool because I was the youngest one there. Even while I was sitting on the panel and hearing everyone else talk I was learning things about everyone else, about the industry, about using your creativity for good. I really love Spark, they’re really nice and they’re so creative. It’s about using your creativity and how to do good with it. I’ve always seen Hearts of Maya as something that I just have to do, so to be able to get recognized for it, I was able to give myself a pat on the shoulder. It’s in my room and every time I see it I’m so happy, I love it.
Do you have any other business goals?
Yeah, definitely. I very much like the idea of having an idea, developing it, fleshing it out, and turning it into something great. You also get to collaborate with other creators, it feels good for yourself but you also get to help other people while doing it. Hearts of Maya has been a big project that I’ve been working on for years now, and it’s awesome to have that, but I definitely have plans for the future to do other businesses. I have a little notebook in my room where I’ve kept all my ideas since I first started singing, about how to help the world through art and other things. I’m vegan, so I love to bake vegan food, so I have an idea for some kind of vegan something. I think it’s important to learn about health, I love doing that. In the long run I might do something with that, that’s really something I have to think about. I definitely think I’ll do other business things in the future, one hundred percent.
Do you have long-term plans for Hearts of Maya?
Definitely, I have plans for it in the future. We’re already working on a bunch of things, on how to expand it. Currently we have a chapter in Dallas, Texas, but I’m really excited to announce that by the end of the year we’ll have a chapter open in L.A. which is really exciting. Really, L.A. is where everything is at, like studios, casting, singing, acting, the whole industry. I think it’s going to be really important because that’s where a lot of actors that are in need live. Talk about having classes that are expensive, that’s definitely California. I think I’m going to be able to reach a lot more kids and wonderful talents in L.A. so I’m excited to do that. I would want to be able to do it nationally, really. The big, big dream would be to help kids all over the world. Obviously, that’s not going to happen tomorrow, that’s going to take some time and hard work. But I have a lot of hopes. I think Hearts of Maya is something that’s always going to stay with me, until I’m an adult, and it’s just going to continue to grow bigger. I definitely think it’s going to grow, especially with having a chapter in L.A.
Obviously you’re very proud of Hearts of Maya. What else are you the most proud of in your career?
I’m really proud that I’ve been able to stay in this business for a long amount of time. There are a lot of people that just do it for fun when they’re younger, or quit and then come back to it. I’ve been able to have a lot of stamina and really push through and keep going. I’ve been singing since I could remember and I’ve been doing this professionally since I was eight. I’m going to turn fourteen, I still love the arts and singing and acting and auditioning. Every since I was very little, when I started taking voice classes, I was always thinking about the future and how I’m going to stay here for the long haul. I think the fact that I’ve been able to do this for so long, I’m really proud of myself for growing some thick skin and having some stamina in this business. Because it’s hard, it’s really hard to keep going. Really, what you’re doing is signing up for rejection until you have that one lucky shot. I’ve been able to learn a lot, not only grow in acting and singing and dancing, but as a person, and in life. It’s definitely taught me to be strong, know what I’m worth, know what I’m good at, what I need to work on, and how to gauge that.
Are you working on any projects right now?
I’m definitely starting to write a lot now during quarantine. I’ve been able to find time to write with my ukulele. I’m working on a song right now, I’m working on recording and producing it and hopefully I’ll be putting it out by the end of the year.