Meet Mavis Nicholson Leno. She is the wife of popular comedian and Tonight Show host, Jay Leno. Read her biography, see photos and a video below.
In 1997, Mavis Nicholson Leno decided to take-up a cause for someone overseas needing help. She chose the women of Afghanistan, who are among the most oppressed women anywhere. She began with the press, trying to interest them in the plight of these Afghani women and girls, especially during a time of war. When that didn’t work, she took her stories of the lives of Afghani women to popular press publications, such as People Magazine. Mavis Nicholson Leno became the voice of the women of Afghanistan to the free World. She speaks of the rise in women’s rights there after September 11, 2001 and the subsequent presence of coalition troops. Then, according to Leno, when the American-Afghan focus shifted to Iraq, things once again changed for the worse. Her advocacy continues and she says “tenancity,” maybe for a lifetime is the only way to make a difference.
Mavis Elizabeth Nicholson grew up in Southern California. She has one brother. Her father is an actor. She and Jay Leno married on November 30, 1980. Mavis is thought to be 53 years old. Mrs. Leno uses her maiden name, “Nicholson”, along with her married name “Leno,” without a hyphen. The couple have no children.
Leno grew up in a moderately political family with plenty of political discussion around the dinner table. As a child she says she was “horse crazy.” She wanted to be a jockey when she grew-up. Her father told her that was impossible in California because being a female jockey was against the law at that time. Her fiercely independent mother’s influence in her life is part of who she is today. As she thought about her inability to be a female jockey simply because she was “flunked at birth,” not due to merit, but because of her gender, it infuriated her, and set her on a life-long quest to be an advocate for all women.
Mavis Nicholson Leno is a philanthropist and a sought-after public speaker. She takes her Afghan advocacy to the stage and speaks about Afghanistan and being a woman there. She is chairman of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Help Afghan Women and Girls and caught the attention of the U.S. Government, as well as the Taliban, who released a video threatening Mavis Leno and Laura Bush for their public positions, promising that they would be punished for speaking out.
As chairman of the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, she testified in the U.S. Senate before Senator Dianne Feinstein and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She was instrumental in convincing President Bill Clinton to drop his support for constructing a UNOCAL pipeline across Afghanistan, which according to Leno, would have funded the Taliban with over $100 million dollars, and increase their control in the region. The defeat of the UNOCAL contract was widely controversial.
With the ever-changing war environment in Afghanistan, Mavis continues to look ahead to days when the Taliban will no longer threaten the country. It is her mission to see to it that women’s rights will be “non-negotiable” when a “post-Taliban” environment becomes a reality. Perhaps her most famous quote is: “If one Taliban-person is still trying to control things, when he looks in his rearview mirror, he will see me there.”
She has two pieces of advice for women wherever they live:
1) If something bad is happening to women anywhere in the world, speak out, because if you do not speak out, no one is going to. If you want your daughters to succeed, you must speak out for women everywhere.
2) Call your Representative or Senator and let them know when you are mad. She says we underestimate our political power. Tell them you are mad and you are making it your business to tell others how mad you really are.
The Mavis-Leno-half of this power couple speaks ecstatically of her marriage. She loves being with Jay, loves laughing with him and says “he is the best company” in the world, as well as extremely romantic and sentimental. She says you cannot fight with the man because you cannot be indignant when you are laughing. In turn, Jay Leno has been quoted saying his wife is the smartest woman anywhere. Much of this article is taken from Mavis Leno’s own words. You can view the video here.
Mavis and Jay Leno (Photos)
Mavis Leno (Video)