“If you don’t take her to singing lessons, then I will,” said Maya Delgado’s grandmother when she was about seven years old. At only 14 years old, this Cuban-Mexican is a fully-skilled performer. She can sing, dance, perform, and she even has her own NGO Hearts of Maya, where she offers scholarships to youth in financial need who want to study singing, acting, or dance. We talked to her about the road of a Latina to become a renowned artist.
How was the beginning of your singing and acting career? Do you remember the first time you performed for an audience?
I do. Singing has always been 100% a part of me and performing in any way, shape, or form. So, my grandma told my mom, “If you don’t take her to singing lessons, then I will,” and my mom proceeded to take me to singing classes. I think I was like seven years old when I took my first class. I went to my first showcase with all my classmates at my singing school, and I sang Funky Town. I watched the video yesterday, and it’s like I was so big! I was extremely big, walking around on the stage and everything!
And the first time I performed was like, “well, I don’t want just to take classes. This is really cool, and this is what I like to do.” And since then, it has just kinda snowballed to taking dance and then wrapping the bow by taking acting and doing theatre.
In terms of acting, the first time I performed was in a theatre show, and that was incredible because I had never performed in front of an audience that big, and I think I was about nine, so that was amazing to be part of a big production.
I always felt comfortable on the stage. It wasn’t very scary for me. Of course, everybody has nerves, but I just turned them into exciting energy. And that always just made me perform better.
Do you remember when it was that you first thought, “This is what I want to do! This is my life!”?
“This is my life!”…Since I was little! I don’t even remember that moment! Because I just have been doing this for so long that it is only normal. But I am still very thankful that I can do this, go to classes, and perform. Obviously, the circumstances right now on lockdown are different, but I’m still grateful that I can do it. But when I was seven or eight, I took at least three classes a day: whether it was acting, singing, or dance except for Sunday. So, it was so routinely, so very normal to me, that it was just kind of part of my life.
So, I don’t think there was an exact moment. I have just always loved it since the very first class. I just always loved to perform and sing.
In this intersection of singing, acting, and dancing, there is a whole spectrum of characters and stories. Is there anyone you daydream about?
If they were making a movie about Gloria Estefan, I think I would like to perform mini-her or a young version of her. I have always dreamed of playing mini-Gloria Estefan because I just love her music so much. She is Cuban, and I’m half–Cuban, and I love her story about how record labels would always turn her down. They would say, “It’s not Hispanic enough” or “It’s not Cuban enough.” And then they would say, “It’s not American enough,” “There’s too much Spanish,” “There’s too much English,” and she didn’t let that stop her. And I think that allowed her to spread a message that people who understood English and Spanish could listen to it, people who only spoke English could listen to it, and people who only spoke Spanish could listen to it. So, she reached a broader audience by doing what she loved. She’s definitely a great inspiration to me.
My dad would always say how, when he was younger, his family would play her because his friends were able to understand her, and his family was able to understand her too. So, our family plays her a lot, and we love dancing and listening to her music.
Who else do you look up to?
I really look up to my grandfather. He passed away three years ago. He is a great inspiration because I think I got a lot of my voice from him. He was in a mariachi band when we lived in Mexico, and he played the guitar and would always sing. So he would sometimes play the guitar for me, and I just loved how he sang, and I honestly think I got my voice from him because that’s what he loved to do as well. So I look up to him as a great inspiration in my family. The style of music he played, which was mariachi, I still listen to some of the old records he had in our basement.
Did you use to sign together?
Yes, we did. We used to sing around the house, and I would sing him a song in Spanish, or I would teach him how to sing in English, or we would work on my Spanish.
What projects are you up to right now?
We have plans for Hearts of Maya. We are incorporated in Dallas, Texas, right now, which is where we are from. And we moved to LA about half a year ago because that’s where the business is booming! That’s where you go if you want to be an actress or an actor, that’s where auditions are, that’s where you live. So we are opening a chapter in LA by the end of the year. And I think by doing that, we will be able to reach a whole new spectrum of people, have unique talents, and work with a lot of incredible schools. By opening a new chapter in LA, we are going to be able to spread even more the message of “Find the Art in your Heart” because there are just so many people who perform who live in LA.
You can find more of Maya Delgado’s work in Season Two of Ghostwriter, now available for streaming on Apple TV.