SLAYtember FlyyGirl: Maura Chanz
At the age of 13, Maura Chanz moved across the country to pursue her dreams of entertainment. She went on to appear in Disney Channel's "A.N.T Farm," Phineas and Ferb game series, and numerous national commercials. Since then Maura has gone on to work with Konlive Distribution, BET networks, WEtv, & Mara Brock Akil to name a few. Not only is she a creator, she is a champion for several causes, most of them aimed toward equal rights and inspiring young women to live unapologetically and reach their full potential.
Q: Thank you Maura for agreeing to this interview! You are so accomplished and have done so much in the entertainment industry, can you give the FlyyFam a little bit of a background on you and what shaped you into the woman that you are today?
A: I'm originally from Chicago IL, and I have had a love for entertainment for as long as I can remember. I started theatre at the age of 5, when I was 11 I met Keke Palmer through my mentor right around the time that "Akeelah and the Bee" had come out. She was the first example that I saw of someone who was my peer that was entertaining.
Shortly after that, I told my parents I was interested in acting professionally. They got me a local agent, and I attended a summer camp in LA where I was able to sharpen my skills. At the end of the camp I had the opportunity to showcase my skills and I was presented with a lot of offers to sign to LA based agencies. At that time I was only 13 and my family was still based in Chicago, but a decision had to be made. The camp founder who quickly became my manager graciously opened her home to me and my parents agreed to allow me to move across the country to pursue my dreams!
Q: What a brave step- for you AND your parents! You lived in L.A. on your own until when?
A: Well my parents made a deal with me that I could stay in L.A. until my senior year of high school, but if by then I didn't have a recurring role, I would have to go to college. I was narrowed down to the final round for producer sessions for several pilots- and ultimately didn’t book so it was time for school.
I was accepted nearly everywhere I applied, both PWI's and HBCU's but as soon as I stepped foot on to Spelman's campus I told my parents, "Send the money, this is where I'm going"!
Q: How did you make your transition from being a student at Spelman to having all the connections that you have now?
A: Well I already had a lifestyle blog that I had started back in 2008 called "Lips Unsealed", and then in 2011 I joined with one of my dear friends, Kofi Siriboe to start a platform called the Blak Sheep. So I had experience at this point in writing, creative direction, producing, assistant directing, and I still wanted to stay connected to entertainment anyway I could.
So I did internships with AKON, I worked the Zora Neale Hurston festival, interned with the Black Women's Film Network,did some advertising and PR work for BET, I was a PA and stand-in for HBO’s Bessie. Those internships opened the door to even greater opportunities, like Bossip Weekly Recap which was eventually picked up by WeTV.
While at Essence Festival last year, I reconnected with Mara Brock Akil, who is responsible for shows like Girlfriends, the Game, Black Lightening and Love Is. She mentioned that she wanted to start an apprenticeship. The apprentice would serve as a personal, creative, and executive assistant. I applied for the job and got it and moved back to L.A. for the second time where I assisted in a lot of the pre production and early production for the show, Love Is.
Q: Sounds like you were working your ass off Chile! You mentioned a couple of internships that you had in school, a lot of my followers are in that same stage where they have landed their dream internship, but don't know how to make that lasting impression. If there was one piece of advice that you could give a student to help them succeed in their internship, what would it be?
A: Build relationships. You have to do exceptional work, but also while you are there make sure you take the time to meet people in different departments, ask people for lunch and really build strong relationships with them. I still network and have lunch with my old boss from BET, I have done graphic work and other gigs for them long after the internship was over because I took the time to build those relationships with them. I didn't just come in and do the work to put it on my resume. I think that is the key to everything I have done is that I have had amazing relationships.
Never try to impress, but forever make an impression on people. Be a good person. Can you stay late, can you come early. Bring donuts or coffee one day if you have extra few dollars. Establish relationships, that will be what you take with you.
Q: What would you say has been your most proud moment in your career thus far?
A: I'm gonna be honest, it changes every single year! I level up every year. If I would have to pick for this year, it would be hosting the BET Experience it was remarkable. I got to interview some really amazing people from Avery Wilson to Vic Mensa, to Terry Crews and Yvonne Orji. That was incredible.
I know that by the end of this year I will be able to say that I am most proud of writing my first feature. I hope that by next year I will be able to say that I sold my first show or my first film. The bar moves for me every year- but I will say for now that hosting for AT&T was my most proud career moment.
Q: Moving into the travel portion of this interview, I know you are just returning from a month long vacation. It looked like you were chillin' on the beach somewhere haha. Can you tell me some of the destinations that you have been to?
A: I have done a lot of domestic travel. Many people might be surprised by this but I actually have not done a lot of international travel! My family is very well traveled, but I have honestly been focused on my career... even passing up opportunities to travel so that I could focus on my career.
This year however, I plan to change that. I just came back from a vacation with my mom and my sister the the Grand Cayman Islands. I will be going to Cuba next month for my best friends 25th birthday. Although I have not done a lot of international travel, I have visited 49 states.
Q: It's never too late to start exploring the world, but I really think its really great that you have visited just about all the states in the U.S.. This might be a hard question for you, but what would you say was your favorite state?
A: My favorite place in the entire country is New Orleans. Both my parents families are from Louisiana so I would spend my summers between Louisiana and California. I really am passionate about the rich culture and the diaspora in that city. I leave inspired, I leave fueled and reminded of the contributions that we as black people have contributed.
Q: Yes I agree, New Orleans is on the top of my must return list! I went once for Essence Fest a few years back and my girls and I had a great time! What I remember the most was the FOOD!
A: Girl, I gained so much eating in New Orleans this summer! Crawfish, Po Boys, EVERYTHING FRIED and I had beignets so many times!
Q: Don't even get me started on the beignets!! Chileeeee! THEY ARE SO GOOD! Enough about NOLA, I'm about 5 secs from buying a ticket just to go eat, but I digress; what would be your ultimate travel destination?
A: I actually really wanna go to Greece! I love the water. There are a lot of places I want to go because I haven't gone very much. I'm excited for Cuba because of the rich vibrant colors, I also want to go to Bora Bora and the Maldives. When I am thinking of destinations I am thinking of places that I can capture beauty- I think its a Virgo thing.
To be honest if there is beautiful water and or people of the African diaspora, I wanna go!
Q: Sounds like my travel philosophy! Now when you are on vacation, are you more of a sightseeing person or are you the type to lay up on the beach with a martini kinda girl?
A: I don't want to sound like a boring person but I really work very very hard and when I go on vacation I'M EXHAUSTED! Just recently when I was in the Cayman Islands I was on the beach every day. I ate, I wrote, I rested.
Q: As hard as you work, you deserve it! What advice would you give to someone who aspires to follow in your steps in the entertainment industry but is scared to take that first step?
A: Kill your ego. Your ego is really what is stopping you. That's where the fear comes from. We get tricked into thinking that our ego is there to protect us. It will tell you, "Don't do this because you will fail, you might be embarrassed, you might get hurt". Your job is to silence it, DEAD THAT EGO! Yes, you might do all those things, but the only way you will get to where you want is by taking that first step.
You have to know that the moment you have a vision, God will equip you with EVERYTHING you need to accomplish it.
Q: How can the FlyyFam support you?
A: This is going to sound so crazy to say, but follow me on social media! That's where I share everything; my testimony, projects that I am working on, opportunities, ect it will be there. Because I do a lot of work with brands, numbers are everything. They want to know how many people I can reach and what my engagement actually is from platform to platform. I am able to do more and reach more people as my followers grow!