Hot Picks is a column in which fashion insiders reveal their latest obsessions–sharing their recent purchases and must-have pieces.
Maiya The Don, a Brooklyn-bred rapper has an innate fashion sense that is heavily influenced by the primes of two artists she admires, Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim. By utilizing these influential women as guiding lights when she is composing her looks for touring and one-off shows, it’s clear that packaging is highly important to the beauty influencer turned artist. Maiya is well aware that she is a part of the New York female rap lineage. She has been releasing catchy hits following her moment after she unleashed her single “Telfy” last year. Her music drops are exciting and buzzy largely because she has an innate internet presence that feels trustworthy. Similarly, her personal style is also authentic, when describing it, she shares, “I feel like my style has changed with age and being more comfortable with fashion and being daring.”
Some of the brands she gravitates towards include Telfar, Von Dutch, and Marc Jacobs. The variety of brands speaks to how she fuses streetwear pieces like Timberlands or, as she calls them, “buttas,” with girly ‘00s pieces: fur hats, mini skirts, and form-fitting bustiers. “I feel like people think or feel like I should be afraid of showing skin or wearing things that are risqué–I love to have fun with what I wear,” she notes. The rapper never is fearful of experimenting. As a plus-size woman, she chooses to subvert the idea that she should be constantly covered.
Before gaining fame, Maiya was known as Maiya Early in her Brownsville neighborhood. Growing up as a young Puerto Rican girl meant she constantly cared about her appearance and how she was doing in school. Aside from these notions, she expresses that she’d describe herself as a creative child. She’d often spend ample time painting, drawing, and writing songs. “I was always performing for my relatives,” she shared. “Once I learned about DIY it was a wrap, [and] all my clothes were cut up.” She has taken this playful approach to clothing into adulthood–she’s often seen wearing pieces that evoke joy: crop tops, oversized multi-colored fur coats, and leather separates. Due to her love for beauty, her face is always supremely beat. Her hair is always intricately straightened or curled–adding to the embodiment of East Coast flyness–something she feels stems from her New York upbringing.
Rewinding to high school where she studied cosmetology, Maiya was always a stellar student. Upon graduation, she went to SUNY New Paltz in upstate New York, and in 2020 she created a TikTok account to showcase her beauty tips and looks. She stayed dedicated to the page and eventually, she was raking in endorsement deals.
While it might appear that Maiya’s come-up journey happened overnight, it didn’t. TikTok videos might have been her launchpad, but by 2022, she was showing up to a studio in Poughkeepsie. Combining grit with encouragement from her current manager led her to where she is now. “Telfy,” Maiya’s largest single to date produced by Shaan Mehta, features a unique spin on Sisqo’s “Thong Song,” but it features the rapper at her most authoritative. There’s a lyrical feel to it too, which could only have been conjured by a New Yorker. Aside from that, Maiya’s lyrical prowess is impressive on this track that has become ubiquitous with her rise. “Luv U Better,” another sample-centric track that interpolates Mary J. Blige’s “I Can Love You,” is also gaining attention for Maiya. On it, she flexes her bristling voice and her knack for creating magic in the studio. On Friday, she released her debut RCA mixtape Hot Commodity. Her hits are on it, and fans will find fleshed out and bar-heavy tracks too. The tape will usher her into higher ground in the rap landscape.
The ballsy approach the rapper takes in regards to creating honest music aligns with her fashion choices. Additional sources of inspiration for Maiya include Misa Hylton, Lil’ Kim’s lauded stylist, and June Ambrose, two pioneering stylists and costume designers. “I dress the way that I do now because of them,” she adds. “I also feel like I’m my own mood board.”