As host of The Tonight Show for nearly 20 years, Jay Leno was a beloved television personality throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s. But despite the fact that he was a major fixture on TV, he did a very good job of keeping his private life out of the spotlight. A lot of people have wondered if he’s gay. This is why it might surprise you to learn that the 71-year-old comedian has been married to the same woman for more than four decades. Here’s the 411 on Jay Leno’s wife, Mavis Leno, and the incredible bond they share.
Who Is Jay Leno’s Wife, Mavis?
Mavis Leno was born in San Francisco, California, on September 5th, 1946. In addition to being Jay Leno’s other half, she’s a highly respected philanthropist and feminist activist. Since 1997, she’s been on the board of the Feminist Majority Foundation and chair of their Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. The campaign, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, is dedicated to ensuring the rights of Afghan women and girls and raising awareness regarding the injustices Afghan women suffer under the Taliban.
“It was clear to me that if women in the West didn’t do something pretty spectacular, these women were lost,” Leno said about the importance of spreading awareness for the cause in a 1999 interview with the Washington Post. “It would be like the German and Polish Jews, like the peasants under Stalin. They’d be swallowed by history. And I didn’t want that to happen while I was alive.”
Jay And Mavis Leno Have Been Married Since 1980
During the ’70s, Jay Leno was an up-and-coming comedian trying to carve out a career for himself on the stand-up comedy circuit. He frequently performed in comedy clubs alongside other young, aspiring comedians, including David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Garry Shandling.
According to a 2014 profile of the couple in the Los Angeles Times, Jay and Mavis met in 1976 at The Comedy Store, a popular club where Leno was performing. The comedian noticed Mavis while he was onstage performing and approached her after the show. They started dating, which Mavis said felt natural given the fact that she frequently visited comedy clubs. “My friends spent most of their time at the Improv, so that’s where I started going,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “It just gradually evolved, you know? I had made up my mind when I was little that I would never get married or have children, so I had no agenda.”
Despite her initial aversion to marriage, the couple ended up tying the knot in 1980 —but the decision was purely practical. “I had this insurance policy, and I thought if something happened to me, my girlfriend wouldn’t be covered,” he explained in the Los Angeles Times article. “But if we’re married, we’re covered, so…we might as well get married. Not the most romantic.”
Mavis told the paper that she didn’t even get a proper engagement ring from Jay until 10 years into their marriage. “He was going to get me one, but we had just bought a house, so why would I do that?” she said. “I’m not that kind of person.”
Despite being married for more than 40 years, Jay and Mavis have no children — which was an intentional decision made by the couple. “I remember telling my mother when I was seven or eight that I was never going to get married or have children,” Mavis explained in a 2014 interview with The Washington Post. “To me, this is the way women get caught.”
While Mavis clearly changed her mind about marriage, she and Jay agreed that becoming parents just wasn’t for them.
The Key To Their Long-Lasting Marriage
So what’s the secret to Jay and Mavis’s decades-long union? To begin with, The Tonight Show’s star says it’s important to always keep a level head and resist getting into arguments as much as possible. “The secret to a long marriage is realizing there’s nothing really worth fighting about,” he explained in a 2014 interview with the Wall Street Journal.
The comedian also says it’s essential to find someone who shares your values and beliefs and can help keep you accountable in tough situations. “You should always marry your conscience,” he explained in the Los Angeles Times article. “By that I mean, in show business, it happens in sports and politics, too, you go through the usual avarice, and you need someone who will go, ‘What are you doing? You don’t act like this.’ If you wind up with someone who enjoys those things, you go to hell pretty much together. I spent half of my life trying not to disappoint my mother and the other half trying not to disappoint my wife. I mean, you have to respect the standard. You need to be able to look in the mirror.”
Clearly, there’s no denying the fact that this old-school couple is pure relationship goals.