Three things with Tkay Maidza: ‘My goal was to be the next Serena Williams’

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The Guardian

Before she began her career in music, Tkay Maidza had her sights set on dominating a very different field: sport. The rapper and musician played tennis competitively throughout school and, while she now only picks up the racket for fun, those years on the court proved formative.

Here the Zimbabwean-born, Australian-raised and now Los Angeles-based talent tells us about the life lessons she learned from tennis, as well as sharing the stories of two other important belongings.

What I’d save from my house in a fire

My tennis trophies – I’ve got about 20.

I started playing tennis when I was eight. I was kind of overweight and was having growing pains. I’d previously been playing soccer but a doctor told me, “Your body is growing way too fast for your legs, so you shouldn’t exercise.” Somehow, after that conversation, I got into tennis because it wasn’t as painful to play. So for around 10 years before I got into music my goal was to be the next Serena Williams. I was a huge tennis kid.

Tkay Maidza’s tennis trophies
Maidza’s tennis trophies ‘remind me that I can do things all by myself’

My parents worked in mining, so I grew up in Kalgoorlie and we later moved to Whyalla, which is like the South Australian version of Kalgoorlie. But I was winning all the regional tennis tournaments so eventually we relocated to Adelaide because my parents wanted me to be able to compete more.

Towards the end of high school I stopped playing – it gave me too much anxiety feeling like winning a match was the be-all and end-all of my life. But tennis is probably the thing that I’ve stuck with for the longest in my life. And I really appreciate the sport because it taught me about productivity, work ethic and that what you put into things is what you get out of it – I wasn’t good when I first started but I put a lot of hours into it. Those trophies signify all of that for me, and they remind me that I can do things all by myself.

My most useful object

Epsom salts – I love having Epsom salt baths. I live quite a high-stress lifestyle that doesn’t have a consistent schedule, so I find Epsom salt baths balance me out. It’s a good way to recover in terms of muscle regeneration but also in terms of re-energising and refocusing. It’s a way for me to hit the personal reset button.

The item I most regret losing

After I moved to LA and got my own apartment here, I asked my parents to send me all the stuff from my bedroom at home. They packed a box full of archive clothes that were custom-made for me to wear on stage at festivals like Splendour in the Grass, trophies from music awards, magazine covers and paintings I’d done when I was younger – all the sentimental things. It got lost in the post along the way and never showed up.

It’s sad because the box was full of things I can’t ever get again. And a lot of it marked career firsts for me; things that meant a lot to me and when I look back now help me to understand where I’ve been. But at the same time there’s a part of me that thinks I was just hoarding – like, OK, let it go!

  • Tkay Maidza performs at Volume festival, which runs 5 to 21 July at the Art Gallery of New South Wales