Max Balegde is a British icon, internet personality, presenter, fake Uber conversationalist, and contrary to popular belief, not friends with Paul Breach. As a prominent mental health advocate, he has linked up with Extra Gum to use his platform to support his audience with “Pieces of Mind,” a series of guided meditations which advises his audience on navigating small triggers affecting Gen Z.
While 60% of our generation wishes to meditate more, barriers include time constraints, not knowing where to start, and finding meditation inaccessible. Extra Gum encourages people to grab a piece of gum and join Max on his meditation journey – so naturally, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
After ten very *non* zen minutes of technical difficulties on our end, Max finally popped up on our call to answer the all important questions around the new initiatives.
How are you feeling Max?
I’m good, I’m having a great time! This is giving me a lot of entertainment.
Talk to us about your link up with Extra. What’s it all about?
I think they kind of brought it to me as “You know we’ve got this campaign we want to do, it’s going to revolve around micro-stresses.” I was like “what is a micro-stress?” I’ve never heard that word before.
They said that they wanted to do a guided meditation with me. Instantly, I was like “that is hilarious… what is going on here?” It sounded like an opportunity to give something to my followers that is useful, but is also light-hearted and quite funny. I grasped what the entire campaign was about. I was like “yes, I will be involved in this.” It sounds brilliantly hilarious and worthwhile.
What’s your greatest micro (or macro) stress?
I’ve just moved into a house for the first time. Before this I’ve only lived in rented flats – I thought I was absolutely bossing life, I was just like “oh my gosh I’m so proud of myself.”
My family are constantly ringing me telling me how proud of me they are because, before I was doing social media as a job, I would’ve never in a million years been in a position to buy a house at the age that I am. I was literally on top of the world. And then when you have a house, you start to look around and you go “why’s that wall got a big crack in it?” or “why is damp appearing? What the hell is damp all about? That needs to grow up doesn’t it?” So things like that are slowly getting to me.
But other than that, it’s [the] little things. Obviously I’m Gen Z, so I can’t walk anywhere without listening to a podcast or music ‘cause that’s weird. And [my AirPods are] not charged. I’m like “Well what’s going on there?” Or even just realising that I have procrastinated for two weeks and I’ve not done a single wash and then need a bunch of my clothes and I’m like “Wow, that’s great.” So yeah, very little things like that.
How do you unwind?
I do this thing where I’m very hard on myself, I’ve always been like that. I used to be an intern at L’Oréal before I was doing social media. Even then I was always very self-critical. I picked that up in therapy when I was maybe 20 [or] 21 years old and I was like “why am I like this?” I achieve something and then instantly I’m like “right I need to go onto the next thing.” I get really down on myself because I’m not constantly chasing the next thing.
So, what I now do to unwind is literally just take a second, look around, and be grateful for everything – I know that sounds quite weird. I literally just take a second away from everything and take a breath. [I just] tell myself to calm down really, I find that really really helpful.
How was your first foray into voicing? Is it something you’d want to continue in the future?
I LOVED it! Being in the recording studio, I literally felt like [I was] on Disney Channel where they would make all of the cast members from different shows come together and sing the Lion King or something. I genuinely felt like that in the moment. It was me and Selena Gomez for the win.
I just found it really fun. I’ve always said a lot of the reason why I even have followers is just because I have a funny voice. Some people come up to me and they’re like “I don’t know why when you say it, it’s just so much better!” And I’m like “is that an insult?” I’m not sure, but I’m gonna run with it. I really enjoy making people laugh and the fact that my voice is something that can do that, I’m more than up for doing more of it.
How would you rate your meditation on a scale of one-to-ten?
I’ve tried meditation before and it’s safe to say that I can’t do it if it’s completely silent. My brain just isn’t one that can just switch off and go “do you know what? Yeah, let’s just think about nothing for a while.” I would very much need sounds or a guided meditation to help me. So I would rate my personal meditation skills at a strong two.
What’s been your favourite moment of the last year, personal or professional?
My favourite moment from last year would one hundred per cent have to be expanding my hosting and presenting skills. I hosted a live event in front of three thousand people that was streamed out to millions of people with Spotify where I got to interview Louis Theroux. I literally was feeling every single presenter fantasy that I’ve ever felt in that moment. It was such a high pressure environment but I was literally thriving off it. If you would’ve told me three years ago when I started this that I would be there, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you would’ve told me even a year ago, when I was striving for this that I would’ve been there, I would’ve still been just as shocked.
Is presenting a priority for you now?
Oh, one thousand percent. I definitely love comedy and I love making people laugh, that is always at the forefront of everything that I do. However, since starting doing this as a career I’ve noticed that I had a lot of skills that I didn’t necessarily know that I had. The reason for me constantly being shouted at in the classroom because I wouldn’t shut up can actually turn into a podcast. Being able to talk at the front of assembly and not really care as much as the other kids did mean that later down the line, I found that I’m really good at hosting and presenting in front of large crowds.
And now that I feel as though I’m very much in this entertainment industry from the social media side of things, I just want to continue. I’ve done radio a few times. I just absolutely loved it! Hosting, presenting, comedy, all of these things. I’m just having the best time ever.
What’s your dream hosting job?
My absolute dream if we’re talking “you’ve got one wish and this is the wish” would be a talk show. One thousand percent. Graham Norton and Alan Carr are literally my favourite people in the entertainment industry. I actually got to have Alan Carr on my podcast this year and I worked with him a few times as well which was crazy. I would say that their careers are something that I absolutely strive for. I just think that they are the epitome of entertainment. They’re so incredibly talented and if I can do a slither of what they get to do now would just be the absolute dream.
After doing this project, what have you learnt regarding managing stress?
That it’s manageable. Everything that seems very overwhelming can also very quickly be put into perspective if you just have the tools to do so. That’s really important especially considering how common micro stresses are, especially for Gen Z. I think that’s an important little nugget of wisdom.
What three situations would you most need gum in?
For me personally, I have chewing gum on me if I’m about to interview someone. My worst fear is being incredibly close to somebody, interviewing them, it’s a really glamorous time. I’m looking great, they’re looking great but my breath smells. That is hell. I’ve been interviewed by people where their breath smells and it’s not great. I mean for me, I’m one of those freaks that brings a toothbrush with them to places and sometimes I’ll brush my teeth in a restaurant – I don’t know how normal that is. But if I didn’t, definitely after having food – when the food is digested, you don’t have it in your teeth anymore and it’s not a weird situation. Then you pop in an Extra chewing gum.
Please, if you’ve just had a coffee, please just have chewing gum on you. This is so important, especially in office environments. There is nothing worse. You know, you all have to get up early, you all have to come down to the office and then you have your coffee, you have morning chats and all I would think was “put in a chewing gum.” It’s now 11 o’clock that coffee is stale in your mouth. Please, we’re all suffering. Sort it out. Genuinely, I think that’s probably top priority. Coffee breath in the office.
Spearmint or Peppermint?
Spearmint. I love them both, but I’ve always been a spearmint because I’m incredibly Caucasian. For me, peppermint’s literally spicy, which I understand is very weak, but I am also very weak.
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