DeBarra Mayo

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DeBarra Mayo (born 1953, Omaha, Nebraska) is an American health and fitness advocate, writer and media personality. She has epilepsy, which has led her to a career involved with maintaining and enhancing health. She has written regularly on the subject of health and wellness in books, magazines and newspapers, as well as on radio and television broadcasts. Mayo has been an award-winning women's bodybuilder and trainer for the West Virginia University football team.

Life and work[edit]

Since childhood, DeBarra Mayo has suffered from neurological symptoms, including loss of muscle control and drop attacks. These episodes progressed into her adult life and became more frequent. She began weightlifting, yoga, and focusing on good nutrition in an effort to cope with her symptoms. This led her to becoming a health and fitness trainer and writer.[1]

In 1982, she won the overall title "Ms. Gold Ring Classic", as well as the "Most Muscular" trophy and a first place for her height and weight class.[2] At 5'3" Mayo competed at a body weight of 107-112 lbs. In 1984, she retired from competitive bodybuilding.

Mayo's writings have been published both nationally and internationally. She became a nationally recognized celebrity as a champion bodybuilder, fitness expert, and freelance writer.[3] She wrote a weekly column for the Mid-Week News Magazine, which featured a wide variety of fitness tips and information.[4] For many of her articles she demonstrated exercise routines.[5]

In 1983, she began writing features and modeling exercise routines for FIT, a new women's magazine with a global circulation. The magazine featured celebrities, including Jane Fonda, Raquel Welch, Jaclyn Smith, Lisa Hartman, Donna Mills, and Rachel McLish.[6]

Its founder Bob Anderson (also founder of Runner's World magazine) was recognized by US President Ronald Reagan for his contributions, through his publications, to health and fitness in the USA.[7]

Mayo has made numerous public guest appearances, and has been featured on many television and radio talk shows.[4] In 1983, Mayo was a television guest on Pittsburgh Today with two Pittsburgh Steelers football team players, Franco Harris and Rick Woods. It became national news when she gave them an arm workout on air, and Harris nicknamed her "Killer". As a result, WVU football coach Don Nehlen recruited her to train his squad, and the Wheeling News-Register published an article, "The Girl Who Could Take on Franco Harris".[8] Don Nehlen credited DeBarra Mayo with providing his team with an "edge" during the 1983 season.[9]

In 1986, Mayo became aerobics editor and monthly columnist for FIT magazine. She worked with Denise Austin, who also wrote a monthly column.[10]

Anderson World published two books by Mayo, The Runner's World Yoga Book II, and Women's Bodybuilding for Beginners.[11]

In 1986, she began writing a column, entitled "DeBarra Mayo on Fitness", for the Erie Daily Times, Erie, Pennsylvania.[5] This was syndicated to The Gettysburg Times.[12] In the same year she became a member of The Authors Guild, a society of published authors.

During the 1980s, Mayo was the star of a radio exercise show.[13]

Mayo married in 1998.

In November 1999, she publicly announced that she had epilepsy with a four-part series, Living with Epilepsy, on, for Epilepsy Awareness Month, and in a newspaper feature in the Fayetteville Observer. In the interview with the Observer, she revealed that she had attempted to hide her condition, since she was a teenager, and had tried to make her body as healthy as possible to compensate for the condition. In the interview, she said that she became an overachiever in an effort to tell herself that she was okay.[1]

Due to complications relating to epilepsy, she withdrew from public life for several years. She founded an effort called The Epilepsy Awareness Mission to act as a support and advocacy group, and she was elected to the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Epilepsy Foundation (associated with the Epilepsy Information Service, Wake Forest University) [1]

In 2005, she became part of the Karate Team at the United States Karate Academy, Bellevue, Nebraska, and in 2006 she received a trophy for her karate board-breaking skill.

She is currently working on two books, which are scheduled for release in 2007. She recently began writing a weekly column entitled "Bikini Body Fitness by DeBarra Mayo".[14] She continues to appear as a guest speaker at events.

Guest appearances[edit]

Mayo has appeared as a celebrity athlete at events including the SuperShow in Atlanta, GA, where she represented Nike as part of their Body Elite program, designed to highlight aeobics apparel for women (Mayo's aerobics wear was provided by Nike during the late 1980s).[15] In 1983, she was a Guest Judge at the Golden Body Contest, hosted by Gold's Gym, Hagerstown, MD. In 1985, she appeared as a sportsworld celebrity champion at the Meadville Area Sportsmen's Banquet, honoring 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Baumgartner.[16] Mayo has also appeared as a guest instructor at health clubs, seminars, athletic events and shopping malls, and has hosted aerobic fundraising events.


  • Mayo, DeBarra, Runner's World Yoga Book II, Anderson World Books, Inc. 1983, ISBN 978-0-89037-274-6
  • Mayo, DeBarra, with Joseph Mayo, Women's Bodybuilding for Beginners, Anderson World Books, Inc. 1983, ISBN 978-0-89037-290-6

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Washington, Jim (1999-11-29). "Out of the Shadows". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 2006-09-13.  Listed under DeBarra Shaw; Article ID: 316233 free viewing first part of article; pay for view full article
  2. ^ Metheney, Sandi, "Give me strength! Local woman seeks Miss Olympia tite" (full page, including photos) The Dominion Post, Morgantown, West Virginia, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 1, 2006. Retrieved September 2, 2006. y Ave., Morgantown, West Virginia 26506 (304) 293-4040 ext. 4210; fee for copy. Metheney covered Mayo's career in 1982 and 1983.) Archived September 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Viti, Lucia, "Fitness is only way of life for local bodybuilder," Daily Athenaeum, Morgantown, West Virginia, February 9, 1983 (Archives at Daily Athenaeum, 284 Prospect Street, P.O. Box 6427, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, (304) 293-4141)
  4. ^ a b Mayo, DeBarra, Runner's World Yoga Book II, Anderson World Books, Inc. Mountain View, California, 1983, author biography, p. 176.
  5. ^ a b Wasielewski, Ron, "Mayo spreads word on fitness," Sportsweek Erie Times-News, Erie, Pennsylvania, March 3, 1986 (Archives at Erie County Public Library, Erie, Pennsylvania Erie County Public Library stored in vertical files, not yet available online; 41 articles under title: DeBarra Mayo (photos included), fee for copies)
  6. ^ FIT Magazine ISSN 0278-9760, Runner's World Magazine Company, Inc. 1400 Steirlin Road, Mountain View, California, 94043; name changed in 1985 to Get Fit ISSN 8750-8079. Library of Congress, National Serials Data Program, (202) 707-6452 or
  7. ^ Photos of Bob Anderson at the White House appeared in Runner's World during the 1980s.
  8. ^ "Can't Hold the Mayo," FIT magazine (Upfront section), March 1983, p. 12; Comins, Linda, "The girl who could take on Franco Harris: Fitness Expert Teaches WVU Football Team" (includes photo) Wheeling News-Register, Wheeling, West Virginia, Sunday, September 16, 1984 (archives on microfilm at Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St., Wheeling, West Virginia 26003 - (304) 232-0244; fee for copies)
  9. ^ Mayo, DeBarra, "Real men get benefits from aerobic exercise," Gettysburg Times, April 11–12, 1987 (article at, thumbnail free; pay for full view)
  10. ^ FIT, Laura Dayton, July 1986.
  11. ^ Anderson World Books, Inc. 1400 Stierlin Road, Mountain View, California.
  12. ^ Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, March 27–28, 1987. Archives at, thumbnail free, fee for full viewing, 22 articles listed under title: DeBarra Mayo[dead link]
  13. ^ Conrad, Eric, "Elysburg native devoted to goal", The News-Item, Shamokin, Pennsylvania, March 23, 1984; Women's Bodybuilding for Beginners, by DeBarra Mayo with Joseph Mayo, Anderson World Books, Inc., 1983, author's biography, p. 223.
  14. ^ Ujena Company News, Fashion Events and Spring Break Parties
  15. ^ FIT Magazine, "Focus on Aerobics", by DeBarra Mayo, July 1986, Volume 5-Number 3, (credit) "outfit provided by Nike", p. 100. (Body Elite coordinator at Nike was Lori Smith, Nike World Headquarters, Beaverton, Oregon)
  16. ^ The Meadville (Pa.) Tribune, Wednesday, February 6, 1985, Meadville, Pennsylvania (Large photo of DeBarra Mayo and Paul Freund (National Arm Wrestling Champion) appeared under heading: "Local Champions", Tribune Photo, Archives available upon request from Crawford County Historical Society, 411 Chestnut Street, Meadville, PA 16335

Additional references

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