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S45: Janani Krishnan-Jha (J. Maya)

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From Entertainment Weekly



Name: Janani Krishnan-Jha (J. Maya)
Age: 24 
Hometown: San Francisco, CA 
Current Residence: Los Angeles, CA 
Occupation: Singer 

3 Words to Describe You: Ambitious, optimistic, creative. 

Why do you want to be part of Survivor? Growing up as a kid who always had her head in an adventure novel, I've always dreamed of getting to embark on an epic quest of my own someday. The first time I watched Survivor, I knew that this was the quest I had been waiting for. I've always looked up to the people who played this game — they're risk takers, strong leaders who think on their feel and adapt quickly to obstacles; they embody the qualities I strive to have in my life. Having the opportunity to play this game is not one I take lightly, they say this game changes and challenges you, and I am ready to be challenged. 

What's one life experience you feel has prepared you for the game? A couple of years ago, I took the biggest risk of my life — I turned down early admission to Harvard Law school in order to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. My entire life I'd been preparing for a legal career because up to that point I felt that's what was expected of me. I faced pressure from my family and community to follow a certain path, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago I realized I was running out of time to live life on my own terms. Moving to LA and trying to start a music career felt a lot like starting over — I was coming into this cutthroat industry with no experience, and I had to learn the ropes extremely quickly. That experience reminds me a lot of what my fellow castaways and I will do.

Which previous player do you identify with the most? Who do you think you will play most like? Queen Parvati has always been such a role model of mine, and I think I can relate with her in a few ways. Not only are we both named after powerful Hindu goddesses, but I can resonate with how people have underestimated her strength and strategic skill because of her bubbly personality. In a similar vein, I adore Maryanne's game, how she lay low and let people discount her as a threat until the end, when she revealed herself to be a strategic mastermind with an almost mathematically methodical understanding of the game's dynamics. I'll be aiming for a similar position early on the game — not running away from my loud personality and shrouding my observations of other players until the right moment.  

What will you value in an alliance partner? I would love to work with the people I most naturally get along with, people who I can strongly relate to. I feel like the easier it is for me to get to know someone, the easier it will be to read them for signs of agreement or deceit. It's also important to me that my allies are comfortable following the natural ebb and flow of the game; not playing too hard when you don't have to but still being capable of bold moves when the time calls for it. 

Favorite Hobbies: Reading (favorite genres: fantasy, science fiction and romance), running, playing pick-up soccer, crossword puzzling, and punning. 

Pet Peeves: Slow walkers (only if they take up the entire sidewalk) 

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Being able to build a career for myself in the mainstream music industry as an Indian-American woman and as an independent artist. I came into music starting truly from scratch, knowing nobody and having no understanding of how anything worked and through a lot of hard work, I can now say that millions of people around the world listen to my music, and that my music has been praised by organizations like the Recording Academy! Above all, representation means everything to me — nothing makes my day more than receiving comments and messages from other South Asians saying they've been encouraged by my decision to pursue a career in the arts to do the same — it's what makes me the proudest. I know how truly fortunate I am to be able to do what I love and I am so grateful I made the decision to follow my dreams.  

What is something we would never know from looking at you? You probably wouldn't be able to tell I'm the youngest international pun championships award winner in history!

Who in your life is your biggest inspiration and why? My grandmother, my Paatti. When she was 16, she climbed Mt. Kanchenjunga with Tenzing Norgay (one of the first people to summit Mr. Everest), becoming the first South Indian woman in history to do so. For her bravery, she was awarded the ice axe medal by the Indian government. While the achievement itself is extraordinary, her unwillingness to accept constraints others placed on her is what truly inspires me.

Why will you be the Sole Survivor? I'm adaptable. I've operated in many different spheres in my life — competitive punning, debate, the music industry — the same way: first observing quietly and then fitting myself into the gaps to carve out my own space. I feel like I've been preparing for Survivor my whole life, and I think I have a little more strength in me than I like to let on.

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