You should never judge a book by its cover because if you do, you will certainly miss what is inside. An age old piece of wisdom, Bronx, New York native Stormi Maya is not only asking you to do just that, but she is also looking to re-write the story within the pages, as well. Working as a model, actress, and musician, Maya has not backed down from the challenge of being herself in a world full of judgment.
You see, Maya refuses to fit any mold. She has overcome personal obstacles in her life and risen above them as a talent who is making waves in mainstream roles but also looking to rock the world with her band, Cinnamon Babe. A project she is deeply passionate about that offers a new level of artistic freedom, Maya recently sat down for an in-depth conversation about the band, her dedication to being genuine, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in entertainment for some time as an actress, model, and now you have your band, Cinnamon Babe. What has your career been like to this point?
Stormi Maya – I first got into the entertainment industry 10 years ago, modeling, acting, and music all combined. When I first started off it was kind of like a hustle, I was trying to get some gigs and get some extra money. I was a young girl and a lot of people thought I was pretty, so I was able to get a lot of music videos and photo shoots for extra money at the time. Now it has evolved to a more mature career where it’s more directed. Before it was all over the place, gig to gig, and I don’t do the gig thing anymore. Now it all about planned and thought-out moves.
Currently my main focus is Cinnamon Babe, the music with that, and developing Cinnamon Babe. The other thing that is in focus now is my acting career. Currently I’m the lead actress on a new TV show out in Atlanta. I have some great managers and I’m making some really solid career moves now. I do get a lot of offers for little things, but we’re in a position now where we’re only taking things that help progress me in a certain direction.
Also, I recently became the Penthouse Pet. I have a really good relationship with Penthouse, they promote Cinnamon Babe really well, and even my spread in Penthouse magazine was all focused on the band. They are even booking me out for shows this year. Those are the main things with the direction of my career.
Cryptic Rock – It seems like everything is going in a good direction. You have a lot going on and have a bright future ahead of you. You have done a mix of different projects as an actress. That in mind, you have done a lot of Horror films. Do you like working in the Horror genre?
Stormi Maya – Yes, I love Horror. I actually started off as a Scream Queen. When I first started off in acting I was working with this director named Rene Perez. He does a lot of straight to DVD type of movies which are all pretty much in the Horror/Thriller genre. With them I did around four movies, and after then I started to get more Horror-themed gigs. I started seeing the decline in Horror movie roles and offers once I went natural with my hair. At the time I was doing all my Horror movies I wore my hair straight and bleached it. Around 2017, I cut all my hair off, went natural, and every since then I’ve been embracing my natural curls and afro.
It took me many years to start embracing my natural hair. I’m noticing you don’t really see a lot of that image within that genre of movies. That’s around the time I never got booked again within the Horror genre. I have even auditioned for other Horror/Thriller stuff and I haven’t gotten an interest since then. On the bright side, I am highly booked in other genres. I do mostly Dramas and Comedies now, but I am still very interested in doing Horror stuff, it’s my favorite genre of movies to watch. Unfortunately, I guess I just don’t catch the attention as much as I used to because of the look.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. So you noticed that when you went nature with your hair you stopped getting calls for Horror parts? If that is the case, it is kind of sad to hear.
Stormi Maya – Yeah, the last Horror movie I did I had already went natural. They asked me if I could wear a wig to replicate the original look I used to have when I had straight, blondish hair. I did it, but after that I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I am a big advocate for pushing natural hair and Black hairstyles within the mainstream media. It’s something that is very discriminated against, especially in America. It’s very difficult to get people to accept natural hair. I wore the wig for one more, but after that it just became offensive to me. I didn’t understand what my hair had to do with anything, but I feel like if you are hiring Black actors they shouldn’t have to change the texture of their hair to look more white. We don’t ask white actors to change the texture of their hair to Black textures.
I started gaining followers that were inspired by my natural hair movement and by the fact that I was embracing my afro, so I just felt like I would have been a sellout or traitor if I had straightened it because they didn’t like my texture. That is why I am really proud that on the cover of Penthouse, I’m wearing my natural hair. In movies like Hustlers (2019) I am sitting next to J Lo with my afro. I recently filmed for HBO, I also did a couple of Netflix movies, and all these way bigger productions where no one asked me to alter my hair. And if they had asked me to alter my hair, and I say no, they respect it, or at least I get my way. I feel like if I’ve done projects at a bigger level that accept my hair, then I don’t want to change it based on a personal taste.
Cryptic Rock – Good for you. You should be able to wear your hair the way you want it. So with Cinnamon Babe you offer a Heavy Metal styled sound. How did the project develop for you?
Stormi Maya – I first got into music because I was dating a music producer, and he was all into Hip Hop and Rap music. I always had an interest in doing music for years, but I was pretty intimidated by it. I didn’t really know anything about going into the studio, recording processes, etc. When I started dating a music producer he started to put me in the genre that he was in. I am a fan of a lot of Rap and Hip Hop artists, but to be honest, I mostly went into that genre because I’m from the Bronx, and that’s all you’re surrounded by. Then also it was because that is what my ex-boyfriend was into and he was producing and managing me at the time. I never really thought about any other genre.
However, I’ve been a metalhead and into Rock music since I was in middle school. It’s something I just felt like I didn’t belong in, so it never really crossed my mind. I was intimidated by all the steps and the process that goes behind Rock music. Rock music is so much more complex to make; all the instrumentation and musicians involved. Now there are some amazing Hip Hop producers that do put just as much effort into Hip Hop and Rap tracks, but the average Hip Hop/Rap artist, it’s just a two track, they get a beat, they rap on it, and it’s a finished product.
It just never crossed my mind I belong in the Metal space, even though I enjoy it. After I broke ways with my ex I became more into myself. I became very unhappy with trying to do Rap and Hip Hop stuff. It was just never me, I was never into the dis thing or competition thing. With the way the culture has become for Rap music, I never really fit into it and I always felt I was the oddball out. I also was starting to do something where I was just trying to follow trends in Hip Hop. I wasn’t even telling stories, I was never being personal, I was just trying to make stuff that would trend on Tik Tok. After awhile it just became tiring, because I didn’t just want to do tracks about ass and titties. Also, there is so much more to me than that. My ex-boyfriend was a big believer on capitalizing on the brand you already have. A lot of it was make Rap and Hip Hop tracks about that, because whatever, we were just trying to make some money. That is all Rap and Hip Hop music was to me: making money and getting followers.
When I got into the Metal genre it wasn’t about money, about clout, or any of it. It was about that after years and years in the industry I never had an outlet for the real me. When I’m modeling and showing off my body, that’s just my outer image. That’s not the real me; that’s my personality, that’s not my struggles. When it comes to acting, I am playing somebody else. So I thought where do I have an avenue of expressing myself and talking about myself as an actual human being and not a physical image? I started writing down my own stories and the struggles I’ve had growing up within life. I made an outlet for it, and I even gave it a different name. I felt comforted behind it having a separate name, separate from the Penthouse and Playboy image. Cinnamon Babe is it’s own entity. It’s the real me under all the sex appeal.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. It seems like it was a long time coming. It feels like it is something you find comfort in as an artist. No matter what, people will judge someone on what they see. Is it is a challenge to go against what people’s expectations of what you should be or become?
Stormi Maya – It feels like people have a problem, in general, with multi-faceted people. I feel like many people expect everyone should be in a box. I feel like when you are someone showing different sides of yourself, whether it is interests you have that just don’t merge together, then people have discomfort with it. Everyone has their image of what a Rap artist, basketball player, or Metal artist looks like. I think the main issue I have, especially in the Metal genre, is I don’t fit what people want for image. I get a lot of racists and “You shouldn’t be in here” comments. A lot of it is not based on my actual musical abilities and talents; a lot people haven’t even heard the music when they make these comments. I know that for a fact because a lot of times they will come back and say they just heard the song.
I’m the polar opposite of what the image of Metal has always been. I’m Black, a woman, and I also have a sexual image. If they don’t have an issue that it’s a Black chick, then they will pin on me that I’m an Instagram model. Rock-n-Roll has always been very sexual. It seems people only have a problem with the whole sex image when it’s a woman doing the sex image. I will agree that Metal, out of all genres of Rock, is not the most sexual, image-wise. Regardless of that fact, you don’t see many women doing the whole sexual image within it anymore. The queen of Rock-n-Roll is Tina Tuner. She’s always been a very sexy woman, and I’m just bringing it back to that. I think Metal has always been a little harder, darker, and a lot more hardcore than other genres. A lot of times they stray away from a lot of those other Rock images and a lot of time it’s about being scarier and darker. For me, that is why I stick to Nu Metal. I feel like the image of Metal has been challenged multiple times before.
Cryptic Rock – That is true. As a whole, the Metal community is pretty open and accepting.
Stormi Maya – The thing is, I don’t pin it on Metal fans. There is a specific group of Metal fans who are elitists and gatekeepers who are in their own realm. Overall the Metal community has been very accepting of me and loves the fact that I’m even into Metal. There are a group of elitists and gatekeepers that try to fuck with everyone. I guess the issue with my comments is it is not about racism, it’s a little bit different when it’s race based. You can hate on my music, my image, or a clothing style, but when it’s race, it’s different. Those people do not define the Metal community, though; they are just assholes who are there. Overall the Metal community is fucking dope. I have also found people of color in the alternative space. They may not even be metalheads, but they gravitate toward me. There are gatekeepers/elitists, though, and they are assholes. They sit there and judge everyone, I see them on blogs. They’re in their own category.
Cryptic Rock – You are right. Unfortunately, the internet makes things worse because you have people who hide behind keyboards and they love to put down others.
Stormi Maya – Yes, I put them in their own category. I have a lot of people in the Metal community who have supported me. They have come to my defense and fought against the elitists for me. I think a lot of it is nostalgia with the gatekeepers: they grew up with someone in the ’80s or ’90s, and anything that is more modern or changing, they get pissed off at. I don’t let them hold me back, though.
Cryptic Rock – Right. So let’s talk about the music more. You have the single “Pure O” which is very catchy, but also the more Industrial “Messiah.” Do you have an album in the works?
Stormi Maya – I already have an complete album made. It’s on hold because I believe my management is trying to get me signed before I release it. They have a whole plan that I’m respecting. When I made a full album, out of all the songs, “Pure O” was one we all agreed to put out to introduce the band. Also, analyzing it, a new band just dropping an album is kind of hard. We don’t have enough supporters yet and not enough people know about the band yet. We are going to start out with some singles. I actually want to go a little bit heavier with the music in the future, as far as vocals, instrumentation, and just topics.
Everything, so far, is about my own personal experiences. “Pure O” is about my battle with pure 0 which is a form of OCD; it causes intrusive and unwanted thoughts. The whole song is basically an argument against the intrusive thoughts, the feeling you get with them, and the obsession that goes behind the thoughts. It can be very annoying and depressing. It is actually the first Metal song I ever wrote.
I named the album You Will Not Destroy Me. It’s about all the things I’ve battled in life from child abuse to homelessness, to poverty, to mental illness. All the topics are pretty dark and personal. That is besides some tracks like “Dreamgirl” and “Messiah” which are more my Industrial inspired tracks. They are just something I tried to experiment with as an artist. I think “Pure O” is a good representation, but it’s also the first song I wrote within this genre. I feel like I am going to do better with future tracks.
Cryptic Rock – It will great to hear the album once it is released. You state the music is very personal. Do you find making music and being artistic helps relieve mental anguish?
Stormi Maya – Yes, that is exactly why I tell people I needed to make Metal. When I was making Pop Rap stuff, it had no substance; it was just me making stuff that was trendy. I needed something or somewhere to put down my thoughts. Whether I was going to write it in a diary or make it into a film, I got tired of just repeating my stories in therapy. I needed to say it uncensored into the world. I felt like Cinnamon Babe was the perfect outlet because I feel like people will interpret the songs in a way that might help them. It also felt like the rawest form of expression. I tell people that Cinnamon Babe is my therapy and outlet as a woman who was homeless three times before she was 18, who had to sleep with dudes for a place to lay her head at night, who went through foster care, who ran out of a burning building at 16, who was abused since they were a toddler.
By the time I was 18, I felt my parents didn’t love me or like me. I was kicked out of foster care, had to date people or whatever for a place to lay my head. I never had a fucking dime my whole life, and I felt like the world was against me. This was a way for me to put all that together. Since then I’ve developed a great life for myself at 26. I’ve already made myself financially stable and am building myself a nice career. However, I also have gone through a lot of pain and hurt and I wanted to express it. I needed somewhere to put all of that. All I do all day is put on a fake smile, look pretty for social media, or look sexy for the magazines. That’s cool, but behind the smile is a person who has gone through a lot of shit. People assume, based on how I look, I had things handed to me and people just do whatever for me. That’s not the case: since the day I was born, I was treated like the scum of the earth. It’s not until I started doing well for myself that I started getting any respect, but that person still exists. This is my outlet for it.
Cryptic Rock – Wow. It’s real and all that can be said is let’s hope Cinnamon Babe helps you find your real smile.
Stormi Maya – It honestly has. Cinnamon Babe is it’s own brand and entity. I just find so much joy that when I am on the Cinnamon Babe page I can post about bands I love and post about certain ideas I have that don’t fit in with the Stormi Maya brand. It’s my real name, but it has developed into a brand, one that is basically a sex icon. One thing that doesn’t fit in with the sex image is she’s suffering. It kills the mood and it doesn’t fit within it.
That’s why I like Cinnamon Babe because there I have expressed a lot of things I’ve gone through and people appreciate it and want to hear it. I am in no way ashamed that I’ve used my body, but that’s just one layer of me. Cinnamon Babe is another layer and the deepest part of me. I think that’s important to show that you can be this and also that. You can be a sex symbol and be intelligent. You can be a woman who’s known for her body and have fucking feelings.