Taken from an exclusive interview with Metal Underground, Otep said her name derived from her mother's interest in Egyptian history. Otep grew up in Los Angeles. Metal Underground interviewer, Becca asked Otep: "Growing up in LA, what was that like for you?" To which Otep replied: "I was subjected to a lot of violence and poverty that I don't really care to focus on too much because I'm trying to get past that through art and music. Just becoming what it is that environment tends to create. It breeds violence and monsters and I would prefer not to fall into that trap and hopefully continue to grow as an artist and set a new standard for people who refuse to accept circumstances they are forced into. None of us can control who our parents are, what our genetics are, what part of the country we are raised in or what our DNA is. How tall we are, color, sex, gender, orientation; it's something we are born into but we can create our own lives and our own identities according to our own standards and that's what I hope to do promote through my own self evolution and proceeds of self." 
Otep is featured in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies as a voice over actor for creatures. Shamaya has been featured on HBO's television series Def Poetry. In April 2015, Otep released her first edition of short stories titled "Movies in My Head". The first printed collection of poetry and illustrations by Otep Shamaya was made available to the public in November 2006 exclusively on Lulu.com. In August 2007, the e-bookLittle Sins, her first electronic collection of printed poems and illustrations was placed in book form. In 2010, Otep was a GLAAD Nominee for Outstanding Music Artist, alongside Lady Gaga (who won) and Adam Lambert.