Jay Leno gives a touching speech while presenting women's rights award named for wife Mavis

Malia Mendez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Women

Jay Leno has a star on Hollywood Boulevard and a spot in the Television Academy Hall of Fame, but according to him, neither is his greatest achievement.

That would be marrying Mavis Leno.

“I am part of her legacy and that’s what I’m proudest of,” he said this week at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s 16th Annual Global Women’s Rights Awards Gala.

Peg Yorkin is one of the co–founders of the Los Angeles chapter of the Feminist Majority

The couple together presented the inaugural Mavis Leno Award for Global Women’s Rights — dedicated to the philanthropist for her Nobel Prize-nominated work as chair of the nonprofit’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.

“I just couldn’t be prouder of her,” Leno, 74, told the gala’s attendees Tuesday.

Leno in January filed a since-granted petition to become conservator of his wife’s person — including her medical decisions — after her diagnoses with advanced dementia and a mood disorder. It is unclear when Mavis, 77, was diagnosed, but Jay Leno’s petition said she had been “progressively losing capacity and orientation to space and time for several years.”

The couple has nonetheless recently made several public appearances, including at the April 30 premiere of the Netflix film “Unfrosted.” At the event, Mavis told “ET,” “I feel great.”


During his speech Tuesday, Jay held back tears as he recalled meeting Mavis for the first time. Marrying her was “the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

Now, they’re coming up on 45 years together.

“We have a lot of fun,” Leno said. “People say marriage is difficult. I don’t get it. I enjoy her company. I enjoy taking care of her.”

Especially with his faith and the support of his family, Leno told Fox News on the red carpet that night, “It gets easier. It doesn’t get harder.”

Sahra Mani, the inaugural winner of the Mavis Leno Award for Global Women’s Rights, is the director of “Bread and Roses,” a documentary detailing the resistance of Afghan women against the Taliban, Ms. reported. The film is produced by Jennifer Lawrence’s production company, Excellent Cadaver, and starts streaming June 21 on Apple TV+.


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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