As the talk of mental health spreads in the black community, the name of one actress kept coming back into my mind. I wondered about Maia Campbell. I wondered if she is getting the care she appears to be needing from the videos we saw of her a couple of years back.
Also, I wondered if we, the community, were we too harsh on her when the news first broke that she was struggling with drugs. Did we fully comprehend that substance abuse was just part of the story?
Did we fully appreciate that her mental health was a huge part of that story?
Maia Campbell: A Rising Star in the ’90s
In the 1990s, Maia Campbell was a rising TV star. She was only 16 when she landed her first film role in Poetic Justice. Maia played Lucky’s (Tupac Shakur) cousin. That was a huge moment for the teen that was born in Takoma Park, Maryland and raised in Los Angeles.
Maia grew up spending summers studying voice and theater. Her father, Tiko Campbell, an architect and author from Washington, D.C, and mother Bebe Moore Campbell, an author, moved the family to Ladera Heights when Maia was only seven.
Maia went on to appear in other ’90s hits like Sister, Sister, Beverly Hills, 90210, and South Central, but her breakout role came when she landed the role of Tiffany Warren in In The House. In the show, Tiffany Warren was a high school student whose family rents a room out of LL Cool J’s mansion.
In The House, also starring LL Cool J and Debbie Allen, run from 1995 to 1998. Maia was nominated for Young Artist Award for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Series in 1996 for her role as Tiffany Warren.
Maia Campbell’s Struggles Begin
The actress had been struggling with bipolar disorder her whole career, but the damages of the mental illness did not start to go public until the early 2000s.
In 1998, Maia married Elias Gutierrez. They welcomed their daughter Elizabeth Elisha Gutierrez in 2000. The following year, Maia stopped taking medication for her bipolar disorder. The led her to loosing custody of her daughter.
Maia Campbell appeared on an episode of Iyanla: Fix My Life. In the clip below from the episode, Iyanla says: “Maia hopes to one day regain custody of her daughter. But first she had to focus on mending their broken relationship.” Maia’s daughter, Elisha, was 12 at this point.
Maia’s career, however, did not end. She appeared in films like Seventeen Again, With or Without You, Sweet Potato Pie, and Friends & Lovers in the early 2000s.
Maia Campbell Videos Start Emerging
In 2009, a video showing Maia shouting profanities and appearing to be in an incoherent state was posted on WorldStarHipHop. The clip went viral.
Within hours of the video being posted, #MaiaCambell and #pray4maiacampbell started trending on Twitter. Some made fun of the actress while others argued that this was no laughing matter. They knew mental illness could be a factor in her behavior.
Few weeks later, Maia’s stepfather, Ellis Gordon, released a statement announcing that she was at a facility receiving treatment. He wrote: “As a family, we have been struggling with Maia in her illness for quite some time. We continue to hold fast to our faith and hope that some day she will realize that healing will begin when she decides to reach out and accept the help and treatment that have been offered to her. We all have challenges in life that we must face, but when compound problems such as mental illness and substance abuse are prevalent, it can appear that there is no way out.”
In 2010, Maia was arrested for theft and sent to a mandatory mental healthy facility in California. She lived in at a residential treatment center and transition to living on her own.
Maia Campbell on Iyanla: Fix My Life
In 2012, Maia fully went public with her struggles with mental illness and substance abuse when she appeared on an episode of Iyanla: Fix My Life.
The episode was a powerful one. Maia shared how the death of her mother in 2006 affected her. She told Iyanla that her family would not let her see her mother in her dying days. “[My family] thought I would cause problems. They wouldn’t let me talk to her on the phone.”
Maia appeared to be getting her life back together in the episode. However, Maia returned to substance abuse in the following years.
Another Arrest, Another Video
In February of 2015, Maia Campbell was arrested at Waffle House in Riverdale, Georgia for disorderly conduct. A month before, she was arrested at a Burger King in Atlanta. Maia allegedly “cursed out a family, accused a child of stealing her wallet and called the officer tasked with arresting her a “f—king fa—ot.”
Another video of Maia was posted online in 2017 in Atlanta. In the video, a man in seen filming Maia as she pumps gas for him. She can be heard saying she wants crack. It is clear that she has not been taking care of herself or her metal illness.
Again, some people took to social media to poke fun of the obviously unwell actress. The video started popping up everywhere, with various insulting titles.
LL Cool J, Maia’s co-star in In The House, reached out to his followers on social media to help him locate her.
He also tweeted: “Instead of pulling out your phone and filming someone who’s obviously having trouble. Maybe lend a helping hand? A kind word?”
Within days, yet another video was posted online. In the video seen below, Maia refuses LL Cool J’s help.
You can't help someone who doesn't want your help.
— LLCOOLJ. (@llcoolj) July 11, 2017
It was reported that a life coach had located and that Maia was being held by Dekalb County for psych evaluation.
Where is Maia Campbell Now?
There has been no reports of the actress in the years since the 2017 incident. Both her Instagram and Twitter pages have had no new posts in the past couple of years.
I hope this silence means Maia Campbell is getting the help she needs. I hope she returns stronger than ever with an important addition to the conversation about mental health.