Newmark Theatre

National Geographic Live - Pink Boots and a Machete

A former NFL cheerleader and daughter of Cuban immigrants who grew up in Miami, Mireya Mayor followed her unlikely dreams. In short order, she became a respected primatologist, audacious explorer, and Emmy Award-nominated wildlife correspondent for the National Geographic Channel. Mayor’s adventures have taken her⎯armed with little more than a backpack, notebooks, and hiking boots⎯to some of the wildest and most remote places on earth. She’s survived poisonous insect bites, been charged by gorillas and chased by elephants⎯and keeps going back for more.

On a National Geographic-supported expedition in Madagascar in 2000, Mayor discovered a rare new species of mouse lemur, then believed to be the world’s smallest primate. Her discovery inspired the prime minister of Madagascar to establish a national park to help protect the new species, conserving the 10 percent that remains of the African island nation’s once vast forest.

Currently hosting the Nat Geo WILD series Wild Nights With Mireya Mayor, Mayor has been hailed as a “female Indiana Jones,” and an inspiration to young women interested in science and exploration. She’ll share stories, images, and film clips of her adventures, offering a behind- the-scenes look at the hardships and danger of life in the field, along with the moments of discovery that make it all worthwhile.

Defining Moment

After paddling the canoes as far upriver as they could go, the team had struck out into a swamp filled with snakes and crocodiles. She was struggling through waist-high water when her bad ankle gave out, sending her face first into the mud. Cutting her bare feet on razor-sharp swamp grasses, she thought the expedition was going to come to a sudden halt just short of their destination.

But then, moments later, they found themselves on dry ground at the outskirts of a small Tanzanian village. Mireya Mayor’s expedition had finally reached the place where Stanley had discovered Livingstone.

About Mireya Mayor

A scientist, explorer, wildlife correspondent, anthropologist, author, and inspirational speaker, Dr. Mireya Mayor, a Ph.D. in anthropology, has reported on wildlife and habitat issues to worldwide audiences for more than a decade.

Mireya Mayor (photo) - Credit: Mark ThiessenA former NFL cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins, Mireya grew up in a big city and as the only daughter of Cuban immigrants, she couldn’t join the Girl Scouts as a little girl because her family thought it was too dangerous. In spite of this, she went on to become the first female wildlife correspondent for the “Ultimate Explorer” series on National Geographic Television, and has spent more than fifteen years exploring some of the wildest and most remote places on earth, often armed with little more than a backpack, notebooks and hiking boots. Since then, Mireya has slept in remote jungles teeming with poisonous snakes, gone diving with great white sharks, been charged by gorillas and chased by elephants—and that’s just in the last few months.

Mireya’s curiosity and love for animals started very early on as a child. Since she could crawl, Mireya had birds, fish, dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, turtles, and a little chicken named Maggie. But it was in 1996, while attending the University of Miami that she realized that her passion for animals could become a career. In order to fulfill a science credit, Mireya wanted to register for a woman’s biology course, but the class was full. After scrolling down the course list she chose an anthropology course, not entirely knowing what that meant. That choice would forever change her life. Anthropology fascinated her, particularly her professor’s stories of chasing monkeys in the wild. After learning of wild animals on the brink of extinction whose most basic behavior and habits were unknown, Mireya, then only 22, applied for her first grant. Though a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader and model, she received the grant and went on to spend that summer in the remote jungles of Guyana, one of the most unexplored regions of the world at that time. The following year she journeyed to the wilds of Madagascar into areas so remote, that she often found herself surrounded by local villagers who had never seen a foreigner before her arrival. Against all odds, and following in the footsteps of renowned scientists who had tried and failed, Mireya completed the first ever long-term and genetic studies of two of the most critically endangered primates in the world, Perrier’s sifaka and the Silky sifaka. Feeling as if she had found her calling, Mireya has spent anywhere from 3 to 10 months at a time in Madagascar since then.

In 1999, National Geographic was doing a story in Madagascar and asked Mireya to say a few words about the lemurs. Impressed by her passion for the subject, down to earth delivery of scientific knowledge and distinct background of NFL cheerleader-turned-scientist, National Geographic offered Mireya the opportunity of a lifetime and her dream job: a staff wildlife correspondent position, complete with her own office. She has since gone underwater with six- foot Humboldt squids, scoped out gorillas in Central Africa, swam with great white and six-gilled sharks, and worked with leopards in Namibia (just to name a few projects).

In 2005, Mireya received two Emmy Award nominations for her work on the television series Ultimate Explorer. Mireya was later named an ”Emerging Explorer” in 2007 by the National Geographic Society which selects rising talents, “the next generation of visionaries” who push the boundaries of adventure and global problem solving, inspiring people to care about the planet.

Mireya is now one of the hosts on Nat Geo WILD! You can currently catch her series Wild Nights with Mireya Mayor and her documentary special Mystery Gorillas.

For more than a decade, Mireya has dedicated her life to unlocking the mysteries of the natural world. She ventures into previously unexplored parts of the planet to study rare creatures, working closely with indigenous people in the process. In 2000, Mireya co-discovered a new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar and eventually convinced the African island nation’s leaders to declare the new species’ habitat a national park. Mireya says: “Television has the power to help people know and connect with these animals and habitats that are disappearing. We may be facing the largest mass extinction of our time, so awareness is crucial. If we don’t act now it will be too late.”

Mireya is a Fulbright scholar, National Science Foundation Fellow and published author with a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stony Brook University. She authored her memoir, Pink Boots and a Machete, and has written articles for National Geographic’s kids magazines Explorer and Extreme Explorer, and is working closely with National Geographic’s School Publishing on videos and textbooks for classrooms nationwide.

Mireya has made numerous appearances on The Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, and Despierta America, and has been profiled in People, Marie Claire, Latina, National Geographic Adventure, Vanidades and Elle magazines. Mireya divides her time between research in the rainforests of Madagascar, lecturing at schools and universities and traveling the world as a wildlife correspondent. Mireya’s talks are inspiring for all ages but she is an especially powerful presenter for student audiences.

When not deep in the jungle or on assignment, Mireya lives in Connecticut and is the mother of five young children. They share their home with an ever-growing menagerie of wonderful creatures.

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