Like millions of American teenagers, Maya Henry will be starting college in the fall. She’s planning on becoming a human rights or personal injury lawyer one day just like her father, but first, to study online so she can keep up her busy travel schedule as an international model. Relatable? Not quite. Admirable? Very.
See, the Texas-raised 19-year-old is about to have a summer that’s far from ordinary. When we speak in May she’s prepping to attend the Cannes Film Festival, has recently starred in short psychodrama film Carte Blanche alongside Dylan Sprouse (“He was so nice! I actually just met his brother at the Met after-party…”), and is staying in London to shoot a major campaign for a British fashion brand – a project Henry has to stay reluctantly coy about, but excitedly labels her “highlight shoot” to date and “probably one of the biggest things [she’s] done so far.” Which is, for anyone who needs catching up, quite a big deal, Henry having already covered countless magazines and walked Italian runways.
It all started back with a Quinceañera — the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a woman “coming of age” on her 15th birthday — in 2016. Rumoured to have cost six million dollars with special performances from none other than “Mr. Worldwide” Pitbull and our very own cover star Nick Jonas, the teenager’s lavish birthday celebrations catapulted her family into the perplexed, but instantly fascinated public eye.
Bodysuit NORMA KAMALI, shoes ROKSANDA.
Bodysuit NORMA KAMALI, shoes ROKSANDA.
The following year, reality mini-series Hangin’ With Los Henrys dropped on YouTube, which followed their San Antonio lives in Kardashian-esque fashion; only with no TV network restrictions and nothing to lose, the Henrys presented a truly unfiltered insight into their lives. “It was just us,” she says proudly, emphasising the fun they had on set thanks to her family’s “crazy” dynamic. “We didn’t have to fake anything! It was all real.”
Indeed, the extravagance was staggering, but remarkably real. Featuring her high-powered parents Azteca and Thomas J. Henry, grandmother Teresa and older brother, also called Thomas, season one saw them try to top Maya’s Quinceañera with an even bigger party for his 18th birthday. “I want to have girls hanging from the ceiling,” Azteca proclaims in the trailer, with Maya adding “girls in cages, painted in gold…” The footage cuts to her Dad knocking his desk decisively: “Thomas is going to have Migos at his party”, and then again to the event, where, sure enough, the rappers are in attendance, blasting cash from a money gun.
And though she’s been pursuing her own path in the modelling industry since then, the Henry family are still as close as the show portrayed – Henry currently lives with her brother in LA, and her parents travel with her whenever they can. “Growing up, they always taught me to stay humble and treat everyone the same,” she shares on their enduring, grounding influence in her increasingly glitzy life. “That’s really stuck with me.”
(LEFT) Bra MARNI, skirt MSGM.
(RIGHT) Blouse and skirt VICTORIA BECKHAM, shoes STUART WEIZMAN.
Bra MARNI, skirt MSGM.
Blouse and skirt VICTORIA BECKHAM, shoes STUART WEIZMAN.
Of course, it’s easy to preach about staying humble, but any cynicism about her privilege dissolves instantly hearing Henry’s take on the humanitarian work she’s dedicated her time to for over a decade. Inspired by her father’s high-profile philanthropic projects, she started her own charity, “Maya’s Corner”, back in 2008 (yes, that means she was eight-years-old…), while most of us were dividing our time between watching Hannah Montana re-runs and relentlessly crimping our hair.
“Yes, ma’am!” she enthuses when I ask if she’s still heavily involved in the organisation, which currently focuses on school supplies giveaways for young people in Texas. “It’s still going on; I’m just trying to expand it more. I actually have a giveaway coming up in August, and I’m hoping to expand that to other countries.”
Ultimately — and unsurprisingly — Henry wants to be a role model for younger generations, citing “hard work, caring about others, being kind” and, again, “treating everyone the same” as the main qualities she wants to emulate.
“I feel like people need that right now in this world,” she laughs lightly, and I can’t help but think she’s right – Henry chasing her dreams, rallying her peers to do the same, and supporting those who haven’t had the same opportunities reflects the uncompromising mentality her generation is becoming recognised for in 2019, and is exactly, undoubtedly what the world needs right now.