Who hasn’t heard of the famous Maysoon Zayid? Known for her light hearted comedy that not only entertains but educates as well, she is an actress and advocate; considered as one of America’s first Muslim women comedians from Palestinian origins. Living with Cerebral Palsy disability only made her work harder to get to where she is today. Arab Woman Mag is honored to put her among our inspirational women segment.
As an Arab Woman living in the US how do you see the image of Arab women being perceived by Americans? In your opinion is it a true reflection? How does Maysoon Zayid see the state of Arab women in Arab societies? What could be done to raise awareness and help improve Arab women’s circumstances to help empower them?
Most Americans do not know the difference between Arab and Muslim, so they assume Arab women are all Muslim. They also think that we are all oppressed, which is completely inaccurate. However, let’s be honest, the state of Arab women world-wide is a mess. War and conflict put women at further risk. They are also currently being trafficked in certain conflict zones. The Arab world should be ashamed. Violence is a world-wide epidemic and women in the Arab world are not immune to it.
I am definitely not lucky. I am as unlucky as they get. My goal is to be an entertainer and in America, the fact that I am a woman of color with a disability works against me. I also have big bones and Hollywood likes little women. The success I have achieved is the result of hard work, not luck.
If it wasn’t for your parents immigration to the USA, and your parents reinforcing the notion that you could do anything, do you think you would have gotten to where you are today in your own home land?
I do think I would be as successful as I am if I was raised in Palestine, unless of course I was killed by the Israeli invasion. They have dashed out so many other Palestinian potentials, and I often wonder if I had lived there full-time as a child if I would have survived or if I would just be another statistic.
Based on your own experience do you believe it to be more challenging to be a stand-up comedian as an Arab Muslim woman besides the challenges of CP?
I think it is difficult being a female comic in a male-dominated industry. My ethnicity and disability have never negatively affected my comedy.
Do you have what if’s moments or did you make peace with the hand you were dealt?
This question is extremely offensive. I was not dealt a “bad hand”. Disability is part of who I am. Although I would not wish having CP on my worst enemy, I still believe I live an extremely blessed life and if there was a cure tomorrow for my CP, I would not take it.
Through your comedy there are many messages you send out, but what is the most vital one that you hope would have the greatest impact?
I just hope they laugh. I use platforms such as social media to educate and push my ultimate goal which is equality for all, regardless of faith, race, gender, orientation, economic status, or ability. I do not use my comedy to educate, I use it to entertain.
What is a typical day in the life of Maysoon Zayid?
There are no typical days. I tour doing stand-up comedy, so depending on the day, I could be flying, performing in Greece, or lying on the couch watching TV. Every day is a different adventure. I write, I act, I produce, I do guest spots on TV, and I do philanthropy. So you never know what the day will hold.
For translated interview in Arabic click here:
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