Mysterious 'Nodding Lady' at President Trump's Miami town hall identified

The spectator is Mayra Joli, an immigration attorney and pro-Trump activist who once ran for Congress, according to Miami Herald.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

The "Nodding Lady" wearing a red face mask over the president's shoulder drew plenty of attention.

Video screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden held competing town hall events Thursday night, but the star of the show may have been ... neither candidate. Spectators on social media mostly focused on a woman in the Trump audience who frequently and emphatically nodded her head as the president spoke.  

Neither Trump nor Savannah Guthrie, who moderated the Trump town hall, addressed the mysterious woman's presence during the event itself. But the online commentary and questions flew, and the Miami Herald later identified her as Mayra Joli, an immigration attorney and pro-Trump activist who ran for Congress in 2018. 

Joli, who wore a red face mask during the broadcast, earned the nickname "Nodding Lady" from many viewers -- and even has her own Twitter parody account now. Joli shared a video of herself speaking to the president on her Facebook page after the town hall. "We have your back! You see, you see, you are the best," she's heard saying.

Before being identified, Joli earned comparison with other viral scene-stealers, including the fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence's head during his debate with Sen. Kamala Harris and "Left Shark" from the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. "Nodding Lady is the Left Shark of 2020," one Twitter user wrote. 

Journalist Katie Couric and comedian Sarah Cooper were among those who commented on Joli's frequent nods, which some appreciated and others found annoying. "I'm channel surfing," Couric tweeted. "The woman to @realDonaldTrump's right keeps nodding her head, which I find very distracting."

The Herald wrote a lively feature story about Joli in 2017, describing her as "a Brickell-based immigration attorney and five-time beauty queen who dabbles as a pundit on Spanish-language television." She was a lifelong Democrat who ran with no party affiliation, the story reported.

In that article, Joli called herself the "master of selfies," adding "I take pictures with everyone." The newspaper called her an "ardent" Trump supporter, and she compared herself to the president, saying that like Trump, she was not running for money or for fame, and that like him, she did not drink alcohol. She lost her election to Democrat Donna Shalala, earning just 2.5% of the vote in Florida's 27th Congressional District. 

Before Joli was identified, many viewers wanted to know her story, while others thought she should be left alone.

The fly that sat on the vice president's head ended up starring in a Saturday Night Live skit a few days later. Will Joli make it into an SNL sketch? "Nodding Lady will be on SNL this week ... and probably a Halloween costume next week," wrote one Twitter user.

Although the dueling town halls replaced a second presidential debate, stay tuned. Trump and Biden are expected to debate one more time, on Oct. 22.