Maysoon Zayid is a Palestinian stand-up comedian with cerebral palsy that refuses to allow her disability to determine how she lives her life. She proudly represents herself as a Palestinian, disabled Muslim woman living in New Jersey.
“A lot of people with CP don’t walk, but my parents didn’t believe in ‘can’t.’ My father’s mantra was: ‘you can do it, yes you can can.’”
If her sisters or other people can do it, she can and would too. With that in mind, she started to use her humor to get through to people. She found her courage in the fact that the disabled are the largest minority in the world and they are the most underrepresented in entertainment.
She wanted to break the stereotype of Hollywood’s sordid history of casting able-bodied actors to play disabled on screen. She realized that casting directors didn’t hire disabled actors but there were exceptions, and so she became a comic. She’s performed in clubs all over America and she has also performed in Arabic in the Middle East; uncensored and uncovered. Thirteen years ago she started the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival with Dean Obeidallah, her half-brother. Her goal was to change the negative image of Arab-Americans in media.
“If I grew up with social media, I don’t think I would be sitting right here.” She thinks that we should create more positive images of disability in the media and in everyday life.
Now she has the honor to write an anthology series based on her own life with every episode starting with ‘If I Can Can: ….’ and at the end, she can do something despite her disability. She got to walk the red carpet. She got to act in a movie with Adam Sandler. She is the founder of Maysoon’s kids, a charity that hopes to give Palestinian refugee children a sliver of the change her parents gave her. She is Maysoon Zayid, the woman who shows us that It’s not the disability that defines you. It’s how you deal with the challenges the disability presents you.
This article is written by Mariem Chaoui.