Mayra Joli is the immigration lawyer and former congressional candidate who was the nodding lady at Donald Trump’s October 15 NBC town hall.
Joli, 55, was first identified as the woman who sat over Trump’s left shoulder by Miami Herald reporter Alex Daugherty. On her Facebook page, Joli posted a live video prior to the start of the town hall. The angle of the video shows Joli located behind Trump’s seat.
According to her Facebook page, Joli is a native of Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The page says Joli now lives in Coral Gables, Florida, five miles west of Miami, where the NBC town hall took place.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Joli Describes Herself as a ‘Former Democrat’ Who Is ‘Always Conservative’
On Joli’s official congressional campaign Facebook page, her about section includes the quote, “Be the light from which the world is lit.” At the time of writing, Joli’s congressional campaign website has been disabled.
Joli describes her political beliefs on her Twitter page as being Republican-affiliated and “always conservative.” Joli says that she is a “former Democrat.”
In 2018, Joli ran for the congressional seat of retiring Miami Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s. Joli ran as an independent and won 2.5% of the vote. The election was eventually won by Democrat Donna Shalala.
2. Joli Specializes in the ‘Detention & Removal Proceedings’ Involved in Immigration Law
The website for Joli Law Firm says Joli “practices exclusively” in immigration law. Joli’s specialty is “in detention and removal proceedings.” The profile goes on to say that Joli is one of the most active immigration lawyers in South Florida and that she has litigated cases across the United States.
Joli attended law school at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, graduating in 1989. She was conferred by the Supreme Court of Louisiana in 2001 and is a member of the American and Federal Bar Associations.
3. Joli Compares Herself to Donald Trump Right Down to the Fact That Neither of Them Drinks Alcohol
In a November 2017 interview with the Miami Herald, Joli compared her 2018 congressional bid to Donald Trump’s political rise. Joli said, “I am not looking to run because I need a paycheck, like Donald Trump. I’m not looking to run because I need fame, like Donald Trump. I’m running because I need this country to succeed. Like Donald Trump, I don’t drink.”
During the same interview, Joli referred to herself as the “master of selfies.” She also said her husband believes Joli was born with a “built-in selfie stick.” She went on to say that she was in favor of expanding legal immigration. Joli said she felt as though the president did not have the right people around him advising him about immigration.
Joli told Welum.com in a 2018 interview that the woman she admired most was first lady Melania Trump. Joli said that the first lady was “simple, happy, familial, unapologetic, no braggadocios, classy, and very American.” In the same interview, Joli said her plans for 2019 involved campaigning for Trump’s reelection bid.
4. Joli Has Been Together With Her Retired Marine Husband Since 1995
Joli told Welum.com that she had been together with her husband Steven Befera since 1995. Joli told the website that Befera taught her the “value of responsibility and discipline, the American way.”
Like his wife, Befera is also a practicing lawyer in the Miami area. According to his LinkedIn page, Befera is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law.
The couple has one son together. In April 2011, Joli told CBS Miami that she believed the family’s bulldog, Chester, was killed in a retaliatory killing. Joli said neighbors had accused Chester of mauling one of their cats to death. Joli told the station, “I want to see justice for Chester. This is not a matter of vengeance. This is not a matter of getting back at anybody. Our dog was innocent.”
5. Joli Said She Was Inspired to Become a Lawyer Thanks to a Paul Newman Movie
Joli told Chic Miami magazine in a June 2019 interview that she was inspired to become a lawyer after watching the Paul Newman movie The Verdict. Joli said:
The plot in the movie and the impact of it was so clear that at that point I decided, that is it! I will be an attorney! Yup, it was a movie! I am an attorney today, thanks to Paul Newman.
Joli said her original plan was to become an architect. She said her mother believed she would live her life as a “starving artist.” In a separate interview with VoyageMIA, Joli said that in her youth she was a “simple family girl from the block.”