top of page
  • Writer's picturePeta

The Art Of Confidence With Maya Dove

This week Peta speaks to Maya Dove, where they discuss her life as a model, youth caseworker, and actor including her groundbreaking role in Taytay and Land of Yass.

Maya's resilience, confidence, and insights on navigating disability in the arts world, along with her perspectives on respectful disabled relationships make for a great episode. 

Connect with Maya Dove:

Connect with Peta:

Instagram: @petahooke


Episode Transcript:


Peta [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to the I Can't Stand Podcast, the podcast answering your questions about what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host. This week I have the amazing Maya Dove. Maya has achieved so much already. She is a model. She is an actress and she's a youth support worker. I thoroughly enjoyed this chat. Her confidence is infectious and I hope you do too. So without any further ado, let's get into it.


Maya [00:00:50] Hi, my name's Maya Dove. I'm 25 years old. I'm based in Melbourne and I'm an actress, model and youth caseworker.


Peta [00:00:58] So let's start with the modelling. Maya. When did you first decide or realise that you've wanted to become a model? And why was that the right choice for you?


Maya [00:01:08] I was 19 and I was I remember it vividly because I had just, my long term boyfriend and I at the time had just broken up, and I was feeling a bit sad and sorry for myself and wasn't really sure what the next kind of chapter of my life looked like. And I remember I've always loved performing in the arts and everything like that. So I was just bored at uni one day and I just googled talent agencies in Melbourne, and I went to an interview, and I got signed by a commercial agency at the time, and I just kind of went forward from there.


Peta [00:01:40] So when you, first like, I love the confidence, but do you ever did you ever think and like, this might just be my, you know, ableism in my brain that I'm still working on myself, but did you ever think, God, this might be an issue to get an agent and get jobs? Like, how did you sort of work that out in your own head?


Maya [00:02:00] I don't think I really, like, had a view of ableism in that kind of way. I never really thought that, like, my disability would be a barrier because I think because I did it so young, I just was 19 and didn't really care. I was like, you know what? I'm going to do this. I want to do it. I didn't really think about at that time the kind of the barriers to that. But I think definitely when I started to go on different seeing kind of the different jobs. So like I've been on so many amazing jobs that I've left feeling incredible. But then I've also had jobs where I've walked away feeling like a token and really thinking, I don't want to do this anymore is maybe this isn't for me. Maybe I'm just not cut out for it. Because I've had my disability since birth and I've kind of gotten a really good bullshit radar. So when I'm on sets, I can determine very quickly whether I'm just a token or not.


Peta [00:03:00] You've modelled for so many big brands, including Bonds and JAM The Label which is an adaptive, inclusive, brand that we have here in Australia, which is a really good brand. I've worked with myself. You've also appeared in Vogue. Oh my goodness, how exciting. And you are signed to a leading, talent agency. Probably where I've seen your face most recently is the tourism brand for Melbourne.


Maya [00:03:28] Yeah.


Peta [00:03:29] So clearly, you're experiencing such a great level of success. What does success mean to you now? And what are you striving for now that you'll clearly just have this fantastic momentum?


Maya [00:03:44] Momentum is a funny word because I am a very highly perfectionistic person. I have way too high standards for myself, which is good, but also really bad because the success of me can really change. Vouge was incredible and that was a goal of mine. But as time has gone on, my goals have changed. So I think success at this moment for me would feel secure in my place in the arts world. At the moment, I don't feel like, I feel like the door's slightly opening, but it's not open yet. So once that door open for me, I probably would feel successful. But then also I've my my dogs had some medical issues and that kind of really. And that happened at the same time as I got Vogue. So, so I kind of really made me realise that all it's not. It is very amazing and incredible and I love it on a personal level. But I also know that like my family and things that I love, it just is equally important.


Peta [00:04:49] Also, from a personal perspective, I have a great passion for the tourism industry. I've always wanted to excel in the tourism industry and I just haven't got there yet. So it was fantastic to see someone like yourself representing a market, the disabled market that has been ignored. I've been saying for years and years, like, you know, we have money to spend. Disabled people want to travel. Talk to me about the process of getting on to the Victoria campaign and what that was like for you.


Maya [00:05:23] The actual process wasn't any different to any other kind of ad or marketing work that I get put forward for. I submitted a self-tape and. Filmed it for a day and it was so cool, I think. And I think the the role that I played in that kind of short ad was really cool because it was just a art student. I think that was the really beauty of it, that it just wasn't anything else, which I think is what disabled talent should be. It shouldn't be any other thing than just a person that's doing anything what everyone else is doing. When I was a kid, I never really kind of saw that in anything. And I think, like, people just think it's really cool to just love to see it. And it's really cool that people send it to me when they're out and about. And, well, like the other day I was watching Married At First Sight and that ad came out and I was like, oh my God, that is so cool, because I was just watching MAFS and there was me, which is so cool. But yeah, everyone's being really supportive and really lovely.


Peta [00:06:22] Prime time. I love it. Good for you. If that success wasn't enough, you also one of the first people ever to be in a wheelchair and appear on stage as an actress in a live performance. I don't know quite how to pronounce it, so I'm gonna ask you.


Maya [00:06:41] Taytay and Land of Yass. Like Yass, Queen.


Peta [00:06:44] Taytay in land of. Yes. What was that experience like?


Maya [00:06:50] It was incredible. Taytay was an absolute dream of mine. Talking about goals, I think that's just up there with the biggest kind of wish list dream I have for myself that I've manifested. But I never really thought it was possible. I grew up loving musical theatre, so to be in a show that's a tragicomedy about a young girl's spinal cord injury that has drag numbers, and I was supported by the magnificent Maxi Shield from Revival's Drag Race, was just. I have no words to describe that experience. I'm still pinching myself. Talking about kind of setting the standards for how disabled people should be treated in the arts. They really they really did it. They they could have easily made me feel like the kind of modifications that needed to be had in the current discussions. I had to be able to keep back and how to make the stage accessible. Or they could have made that my responsiblity. Not that they not that they ever would and that would never happen, but they could have like some companies could easily happen. But I never heard about it. I never I was just there to work and they just treated me like any other actors. That was their work and they really supported me. They let me bring my dog up. They let me bring my dog to rehearsals. I went up there for two months and left my family and everything, and they really were my own theatre family. They really looked out for me, and I think, I think it's just a testament to them. And I think everything that theatre stands for is what they they did. I think they really broke down the barriers and they really made a space for storytelling.


Peta [00:08:28] As far as like an example of what had to be done to make your experience accessible. Can you can you give us like some concrete examples? Because I presume that they couldn't just build a ramp because these a lot of these theatres of pretty old. Right.


Maya [00:08:46] There was a there's a step to get up to the stage and they kind of made like a platform. So it was all one level so I could get around the same scene changes and things like that. They walked through the space with me before we started, rehearsals in theatre. In that theatre. They should be like the way I would go to the stage, because it was different to, the other cast members because I had to be in a different dressing room. The accessible one, which is so fine. It was a very nice dressing room. Having a spinal cord injury don't have a great sense of control over things that happen with your body. So if at any point something happened and I needed to have a quick break because it was a hour 40 with no interval, so any time that I felt like there was an emergency that I needed to dash off for a second, they yet they had plans in place and Maxie was going to come out and do a drag number but fortunately that never happened.


Peta [00:09:42] And before we jumped and started recording this Maya we were talking about, you know, the beauty of summer and how easy it is to get changed. In the theatre. Obviously, fast changes are really important. So how did you navigate that?


Maya [00:09:58] It was a fine art. We really had it down to the wire. We like when you do scene changes and dress changes. You rehearse it like you're rehearsing on stage. You get it down, you practice it. Luckily Tay's costume, I just had one costume for the whole show, and we just edited. It took things off, but there was a very, very, very quick scene changes, and everybody knew that when I had to zip around from one side of the stage, the other people were to move out the way. Otherwise they will get run over. We just rehearsed it and practised it and. Everyone was just really supportive and accommodating and respectful.


Peta [00:10:39] The other thing, and I can only bring reference to this conversation through my own lived experience. But I'm sitting here going, oh my goodness, that sounds so amazing and such a success. But also, oh my goodness, that sounds so tiring and stressful. And as somebody who really needs to manage, like I really need to manage my fatigue. Was that something that you had to keep in mind, or is fatigue not really a factor for you?


Maya [00:11:06] Fatigue is a factor, but the adrenaline of  live theatre is something special. Because I was in Brisbane and I didn't get to go to physio for two months. I went to the gym and things like that, but also we were doing eight shows week and Tay Tay was a very physical show. So when shows were on, I didn't really go to the gym because Tay Tay was a workout enough. But then literally five minutes to the end, the very final show, I was like, my back's sore. And I had never felt that for the whole entire time. I was up in Brisbane, and I think that was just because my body knew we're done now, like show's done, and I was, I was tired, but I was just so excited and I was just so happy to be there that the fatigue kind of didn't really faze me much. But when I got home, that was when I really crashed and burned. I didn't leave the house for about a week. When I got back to Melbourne.


Peta [00:12:02] I am so struck. And maybe because we're a different generation. Maya. But I'm so struck by your confidence. How have you felt about your disability identity when you were a kid? Were you always that confident person? Did you never really think about it? Was it ever a factor?


Maya [00:12:21] I've worked really hard to get to the level of confidence that I have right now. I've seen a therapist since I was 16 because when I was in high school, I kind of was showing that I was struggling a little bit with, having disability. And I was the only person with a physical disability in, in, in wheelchair at my, at my school. And so I think I really struggled with that. And my identity in relationship towards having disability really changed. I remember when I was younger, I used to always be a bit upset because, I mean, when people have crutches, you're so popular. And I was just annoyed because I've got a spinal cord injury, so it's like it's no different to having a broken leg, but I'm treated so different. So that's why I'm like, therapy was really helpful for me and I've really worked with my therapist. I've had the therapist I've got now since I was 19, so she really knows. She really calls me out on some stuff. She really knows how to get into that internalised idealism and just call me out. And she's been really helpful with kind of like, working through a lot of that stuff that I had and a lot of the anxieties around being disabled. So now that I'm really confident, and I don't think I would have been able to do Tay Tay to the level that I did it if I hadn't have gone through that journey.


Peta [00:13:36] This might be in the same vein, but talk to me about your beautiful daisy tattoo. You have it on your back.


Maya [00:13:43] Yeah. So that's, a tattoo that I got because I had three spinal fusions when I was younger. And I've got a massive scar that goes all the way to the top of my neck, to the bottom of my spine. And I remember when I was in school, and like a kid, people would always pointed out and be like, oh, what's that? Oh. Oh that's ugly. So when I was 18, the very first thing I did was I got a daisy chain and it goes all the way down it. So now I'm not insecure about it. And you don't have to get a tattoo because it covers things up. But for me, now, it's just pretty. And, I mean, the scar is always there. So it's a kind of symbolism of my spinal fusion and my spinal cord injury. But also just so now I can feel proud of showing my back off because my back doesn't look like everyone else's.


Peta [00:14:28] As you mentioned before, you did go to university because you just, you know, you strive in every area of your life. It seems you went to RMIT and you lived in student housing. What did you learn through that process of moving out of home and studying?


Maya [00:14:44] I'm not very good at living on my own. I got a bit lonely living on my own. But it really helped me to become independent. I ended up travelling solely a year later, and I don't think I would have done that if I hadn't have lived on my own for a little bit, or moved out of home. And I lived right in the city, so I had to get myself in and out of uni and cook and clean and everything like that on myself. So I think it really helped with my independence. I was thankful because I was on a scholarship to, for that place. So it was really I was really thankful that I got that opportunity.


Peta [00:15:20] And what did you study?


Maya [00:15:21] I studied a bachelor of social science and psychology.


Peta [00:15:25] Wow. And I understand you work in that area now, so you seem to have, like, a double life in some ways, Maya. Talk to me about that.


Maya [00:15:33] My friends and I joke that I'm Hannah Montana because through events like, Melbourne fashion festival in the night, I am dressed up, sitting front row to fashion show, and then the next day, I'm probably in some suburb of Victoria talking to a homeless youth. So it's really a double. It's a double life that I live. But I wouldn't wish it any other way. I think working because I work as a youth caseworker and specialising in youth homelessness. And I think those kids have really taught me a lot about life. I think I learn a lot from them as I try to support them, but I think that has also helped me in the arts, because I've kind of know I know different areas that there are to life. And I think unless you work in the community, you're not going to really understand that. And I think in whatever way, my kind of career changes, I think I'm always going to take that with me.


Peta [00:16:30] You did mention before, you went on a solo trip through Europe in your early 20s. My goodness, you're such an impressive person. Talk to me about how you planned that trip, and were there difficulties that you didn't expect. And were there things that you thought, oh my God, this is going to be so hard? And it was actually easy.


Maya [00:16:51] Yeah, it was never really a discussion of whether I would do it or not. I kind of just told my parents, this is what I'm doing, and if you don't listen, then you're not going to hear from me for seven weeks. That's kind of the attitude that I've had with my family. They've had with me. They've never said no to anything that I wanted to do. My parents just kind of had a view of like, okay, well, how are you going to do it? So we kind of worked in finding ways to know how to carry a suitcase around. And I went over there for the first little bit, in doing athletics. So at the start, I wasn't alone. I was with other disabled people, and that really helped me ease into it rather than just, you know, going over there being like, oh my God, I'm by myself. So I think that was really helpful.


Peta [00:17:34] Obviously you're in your early 20s, so I'm guessing you're staying in hostels. Like how how is the accessibility with all that? Because I'm sure a lot of people don't really think about people needing accessible rooms in that sort of environment.


Maya [00:17:49] Yeah, yeah, hostels were interesting because I was so small. I only stay in hotel hostels a couple of times. I just tried to find cheap hotels because I didn't really like hostels. But, I also use a breathing machine at night, so I like to use that. When I was in a hostel, I didn't, I didn't use it, and I just because I was pushing all day, I didn't. I don't have a smart driver or anything, so I'm just using my shoulders all day. So when I was kind of like back from going out all day, I didn't want to be around other people. I just wanted to be on my own and sit on my phone for an hour and a half or something. So I did fall out of the shower, an Airbnb, and this person had to help me up. But I was never, I've never seen that person again. And she was a woman too, so it was like she didn't really she was there was no judgement. But yeah, it's another thing that would be really embarrassing. And I was really impressed at the time, but I wasn't going to see them again, so I didn't really think of it that much.


Peta [00:18:46] Another amazing thing you did in 2022. You appeared in the documentary called We Are All Sexual Beings. Why did you want to be involved in the project and what was the response like from the public?


Maya [00:19:01] I think I really first got into the projects because I was in a long term relationship when I was in high school, and I think there were attitudes around that relationship. People were surprised that I had a long time boyfriend when I was in high school, and I just thought that was so interesting. Like, why? Why is it a surprise that I've had a boyfriend? And I think there were certain discrepancies that I found towards having a disability as a kid to someone that as an adult. You know so much education that I lucked out on, just because of the fact that people didn't think that we would didn't bother to kind of provide for the information, like having a spinal injury. I never got taught about what pleasure would look like for me. Like, I didn't get that at 16, 17, 18, and I just had to figure it out myself. So I think that was also something that I really wanted to go in for is how to navigate respectful relationships. And I had, I've had had conversations with the Children's Hospital since and about how that is lacking in the kind of department in the adolescent department.


Peta [00:20:13] Well. And I know I'm older than you but I didn't get any specialised sex education either. It was just assumed that we would all be asexual.


Maya [00:20:24] Yeah. And that that was just something that I just really felt frustrated by. Like, even like caregiving in relationships. I didn't learn like, elements of respect that needs and the level of respect that I have to have for myself in that kind of element. To be a teenager and in a relationship where there was elements of caregiving when we went out and things like that, and had to navigate that. As a young person, I didn't really know what was respectful, what was not. If you're a teenager with your first boyfriend, the last thing you want is for someone to tell you, oh, God, you're so lucky. Like, they're so good because they with you like that. It's not a nice thing to do to anybody. So I think for teenagers to hear that, I think that was something that I just wanted to highlight that that's not like that's not a reason to be with somebody. And that's not a fair thing for you to hear that at that age. They're lucky. Yes, you're lucky because you're in a relationship like you shouldn't. That one should be. I mean, they can it's a beautiful. But they you're not lucky. Like you shouldn't be lucky just because you're in one.


Peta [00:21:32] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, can I encourage you to leave a rating and review? If you listen on Apple or Spotify, it'll help small people find the pod, or share the pod with a friend that you think might enjoy it. I would really appreciate it. As always, you can follow me over on Instagram. My handle is at Peter Hook spelt p t I h o k a. Thank you again for listening and until next week have a good one guys. Bye. I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation, of which I record the podcast today. And I pay my respects to both elders, past and present, along with and especially to those in the First Nations communities who are disabled themselves.



bottom of page