A memoir by a former NFL cheerleader who traded her pom-poms for a life of adventure as globe-trotting primatologist.
Mayor was the American-born daughter of a single Cuban mother who “didn’t take the typical scientist route.” Her love of the natural world began in early childhood, but as she grew older, the pressure to assume a more normative femininity increased. By the time she reached high school, she “had become a full-fledged girlie-girl and performer.” Once in college, however, her passion for wildlife was rekindled, and she soon found herself living a double life as an anthropology student and NFL cheerleader. At 22, the fashion-obsessed girl who idolized Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall earned the first of many grants that would take her to study primates in South America and Africa. For all her research work in the field—and as a roving TV correspondent for National Geographic—Mayor never gave up her trademark stylishness, even when the going got tough. While the author’s colorful background is unquestionably unique for a scientist, she occasionally overplays both her distinguished credentials and the “girliness” that has differentiated her from her colleagues. But this is perhaps understandable given the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of professional discrimination she faced for being an intelligent, attractive woman who also liked “wearing pink boots and tanks tops.” Ultimately, Mayor’s defensiveness and tendency to self-promote is redeemed by the gutsy grittiness and wicked sense of humor that allowed her to survive danger, disease and sexism.
Entertaining reading for the intrepid at heart.