On Nia’s Instagram, she’s captioned a photo with the following: “I always say that Maya is living proof that God is real… on this day he gave me a sister. Maya has been my best friend since I was one, and still is, twenty years later.”
Nia and Maya, best friends since before they can remember, have seen it all together: growing up, attending the same college, living as roommates in the dorm, and eventually getting an apartment with each other. Their mothers, also best friends, brought their families together. They’ve worked with each other at the same retail jobs and speak the same language when it comes to getting dressed, often shopping for each other while shopping for themselves. Last week, we focused on stories about “Love Right Now” and it got me thinking about relationships more generally. I’ve known Nia and Maya for a few years and I’ve always wanted to know how they make their level of closeness work—so I asked them to help explain by doing what they do best: talking to each other about it. (I supplied some questions to help guide the conversation.)
What are your first memories of each other?
Maya: I feel like my earliest memory is probably us at preschool getting snacks from the principal.
Nia: We used to always go into the principal’s office. She used to always fix our skirts because they were never right.
Maya: They were twisted around. She’d be like, “Okay, here’s a chocolate-covered pretzel.”
Nia: We used to just go in there and get snacks all the time.
Maya: And our brothers never got snacks.
Are your families close?
Nia: Our brothers are best friends, our mothers are best friends and that’s as far as the best friend situation goes, but we’re a very close family. We vacation together.
Maya: Our moms actually went to college together, but they weren’t friends in college because they were a year apart.
How did you decide to move and go to college together?
Nia: I guess I can answer that. So, Maya was going to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and I definitely was judging her for it.
Nia: I was like, “Why are you going to FIT? That’s so wack. I’m going to USC, blah, blah, blah.” And then when the time came for me to apply to USC, I was not trying to do those applications. I was like, “Hmm, my best friend Maya goes to FIT. Interesting.” And then I applied for photography, and I got in, and I was like, “Wow, me and Maya can now conquer the city together.”
Maya: We didn’t even live together right away. There was a semester when Nia was commuting from Jersey, and I was coming from Brooklyn. And then we got a dorm room in Nagler without A/C.
Maya: [We worked] our first job together and it’s probably the reason we’re both in New York City and in fashion right now. I had just turned 17, and Nia was 15, going on 16.
Nia: And we’re still close with the woman who we worked with, Sharifa Murdock.
Maya: Yep. From Liberty Fairs. We were her little personal interns. We used to sit on her couch and giggle and do little random things.
Nia: And make little jokes and go shopping for her and make her trend forecasts.
Maya: That was my first time ever seeing a trend. She was like, “Guys, make me a trend forecast.” We did not know what that was, but we did it. I think I did a good job, too.
Nia: It was my introduction into fashion. The first and only reason I definitely was like, “This is what I want to do.”
Maya: Yeah. She’s the reason I wanted to work on the business side of fashion. Originally I was like, “Oh yeah, design, styling,” and then it was like, “Nope, look how this lady has her money set up.”
Does your style bounce off one another?
Maya: Definitely. But we both have our own flairs.
Nia: How would you differentiate our styles?
Maya: That’s a tough question. I don’t know. I feel it’s the kind of silhouettes we choose to wear. We love a wide pant, big T-shirts.
Nia: Our styles do bounce off one another. Because Maya will be like, “Oh, look at this cool such-and-such, or I’ll be like, “Oh, Maya, I saw this and I thought of you.” It’s like when we shop, we shop for each other at the same time, rather than just shopping for ourselves. So we always have a touch in each other’s wardrobe at the same time.
Maya: My favorite thing about Nia is her drive and her optimism. I think New York may have jaded her a bit. But Nia used to be the person that was like, “Oh, I’m going to start a brand right now, I’ll be ready in like two weeks and we’ll sell clothes and it’s going to be done. And she’d be designing every night and doing all this random stuff—literally new to Photoshop, new to CAD. Learning how to do CAD in the middle of the night. I don’t know a lot of people that have that kind of drive. Who can just see something, want to do it, and just do it right away.”
Nia: My favorite thing about Maya is her dedication and her intelligence. Maya’s super, super smart. She’s also very caring. I think Maya’s the only friend that I’ve had in my entire life who has been a straight, loyal friend who I’ve never had to second guess.
What are the biggest differences between the two of you? What’s the most similar?
Nia: I’m definitely a little more rough around the edges. And I feel like Maya is more—
Maya: I don’t think people would ever see you like that. I don’t think people see you and they’re like, “Oh she’s rough around the edges.”
Nia: I feel like I’m crazier.
Maya: Yeah, I guess like personality wise, you probably are a little—
Nia: I’m more wild….
Maya: People do see me as tamed.
Nia: Maya’s more tamed, relaxed. I’m also still a classy woman, but I’m definitely more on the wild side. That’s a difference between us.
Nia: There’s so many similarities.
Maya: We see crazy things happen right away. Nia and I are so in sync—we’ll be on the train, and we’ll see some action happening on the other side. We don’t even have to say anything. We look at each other, and it’s like, “Okay, let’s go.” No words.
Nia: No words, no nothing.
Maya: We get up, get off the train, and onto the next part. It’s like that. We’re very in sync—we pay attention.
Has the pandemic brought you closer?
Nia: I don’t think we can get any closer—like we’d have to be lovers to be closer.
Maya: We’ve dormed together. We’ve vacationed together.
Nia: Mia and I used to be stuck in the same bed, which would be a twin-size bed.
Maya: Oh my God, on vacation. Because our moms are like, “They’re tiny, they can fit there.”
Nia: I don’t know, we live together so this is as close as we get.
Nia: We always find fun, me and Maya. That’s another thing: we really like to catch a vibe. Our vibes are immaculate. I’m not trying to brag but—
Maya: It could be 95 degrees, we’ll hop on a Citibike and go get drinks somewhere. Everybody’s like, “Y’all are always doing something.”
Nia: We love an adventure. That’s my favorite thing about Maya. I’m going to go back to that: She likes to go on adventures with me.
Maya: Yeah, it could be the end of my day. And I’m like, “I could go home,” and Nia will be like, “Yo, you want to get a frozen margarita in the L.E.S. real quick and then see what happens.”
Nia: You know I’m always down for a frozen marg.
Maya: And then the night is different. You thought you were going home, but now you’re coming home at 1:30 a.m. and you have a headache and you’re ready to go to bed.
Nia: Is this the most time we’ve spent together? Definitely not.
Nia: Maya and I have spent, I guess, all four of the years that I’ve lived here together, literally with the exception of the first semester of school. We’ve lived together since then and we’re attached at the hip.
Maya: The only thing was, we can’t go have fun like we usually do.
Nia: But then it’s also, you have a built-in best friend. There’s no one else I’d rather live with than my best friend. How do you make sure you get space when you need it? If I feel like I’m tired of Maya, which is very rare, I just go to my room. We give each other our space.
Maya: It’s kind of obvious when the other needs space, like okay. Do your thing. You’re upset, okay. See you in a little bit.
Maya: Text me when you wanna do something.
Nia: Text me when you’re feeling normal.
Did you have any tough conversations during the past few months?
Nia: I don’t think we have tough conversations when it comes to us. We fight, but we fight over the smallest shit.
Maya: Yeah, and we have conversations about the way we treat each other. But I feel like they’re pretty productive. They may start as a little bit of a beef, but at the end of it, it’s okay.
Nia: If one person is feeling a certain type of way about something, we speak about it immediately. And we don’t hold onto things. As soon as I feel a certain type of way, I tell her, and as soon as she feels a type of way, she tells me. So our conversations aren’t as tough. I mean, toughest conversations we’ve been having are probably about—
Maya: Separate shit.
Nia: Separate situations that don’t have to do with each other.
What’s the most fun you’ve had?
Nia: There’s so many times I can’t even think.
Maya: When, recently? I feel we just did something that was super fun.
Maya: Well, we love hosting. That’s not the most fun, but that’s the easiest way to get a pocket of fun.
Nia: We’re very big on having people over, entertaining, grilling.
Maya: Keep it out on the roof. We stay six feet apart, with masks and hand sanitizer.
Maya: We have a really good time when we both have money. And that sounds crazy, but we personally, we’re shoppers, but it’s rare that we get checks at the same time, but when we both have money and we have a day in the city, that is a good day.
Nia: The interview transcription can’t see us high-five.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Feature Image via Beth Sacca.