When the music starts in Memphis' FedEx arena, home of the Grizzlies, everyone looks to the screen, eager for "Bongo Lady" to take the stage once again. Now this unlikely star is popping up all over the Internet, thanks to a recent profile in The New York Times.
If you're partial to hitting an NBA game now and again, you might be familiar with the "Bongo Cam"—a silly way to entertain fans during timeouts that typically involves the song “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine, cartoon bongo drums superimposed on the Jumbotron, and fans clamoring to flex their air-bongo skills.
In Memphis, Tennessee, the gimmick has taken on a life of its own. When the music starts in the FedExForum arena, home of the Grizzlies, the crowd looks to the screen, eager for "Bongo Lady" to take the stage once again.
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Her real name: Malenda Meacham. A Memphis Grizzlies superfan, she's also a 45-year-old mom of two, lawyer, and part-time judge in nearby Hernando, Mississippi. Check out this video from a recent home game; you really have to see her in action to understand her genius:
The bongo face-off is obviously no contest, particularly when Meacham gets up mid-performance to show off her personalized jersey and flash a jaunty “read my name” sign to the Memphis crowd.
Meacham relishes her role as the team’s unofficial cheerleader, particularly as the Grizzlies begin their march through the NBA playoffs. She has her own Twitter and YouTube accounts as the Grizzlies' Bongo Lady, and the Times reports that she was even presented with an autographed (real) bongo drum by one of the team's players, Tony Allen, at a recent event for season ticket holders.
“It’s insanity,” she told The New York Times. “I’m sure it annoys some people, but most seem to enjoy it.”
The person she annoys most is her constant companion, 18-year-old son Hayden, who plays a brilliant straight man to his mom’s antic routine. In the best Bongo Lady clip in existence, Hayden cavalierly slips a brown paper bag over his head amid the mayhem:
In addition to pumping up the home crowd, Meacham claims a cardio benefit from the air bongos: “It feels like a workout,” she told the Times. “It’s seriously like I’ve just run a marathon.”
After seeing her play, you'll believe it. But if there’s anything “Bongo Lady” can teach you, it’s to “dance like there’s nobody watching.”
Even if it’s front of 18,000 people. And especially if it's in front of your teenager.
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