Middle Eastern Women Can Be Funny, Too, Says Comedian Maysoon Zayid

We typically think of Middle Eastern culture as being fairly conservative. So the last place you’d expect to find it is in the not-so conservative American entertainment industry.

But some of the biggest names out there have Middle Eastern roots and culture. Here are five examples:

  1. Paula Abdul – She’s a singer, actress, songwriter, choreographer, and former judge on American Idol. Abdul is half Syrian.
  2. Shakira – The popular superstar’s full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll. She’s Colombian of Lebanese descent.
  3. Salma Hayek – This captivating Mexican actress also has Lebanese ancestry.
  4. DJ Khaled – Record producer and radio host DJ Khaled is known in the hip hop world. He comes from Palestine.
  5. Jerry Seinfeld – A comedian, actor, and writer, he had his own show on NBC which became an iconic sitcom. Seinfeld has Syrian-Jewish roots.

So if our entertainment industry has such huge stars of Middle Eastern origin, why do Americans have such a skewed perception of that region?

Palestinian-American comedian and actress Maysoon Zayid told DNA she believes the depiction of Middle Eastern people shifted toward terrorist roles after 9/11. Since then, many people are surprised to see her perform comedy, and not just because she’s from the Middle East.

Zayid is also Muslim, a woman, and has cerebral palsy.

“When I’m doing stand-up, sometimes it’s the first time that people have seen a Muslim woman on stage. To Americans, it’s a woman who doesn’t cover her hair,” she said. “In the Middle East, it’s the first time they see a fully functional disabled person.”

But prejudice does not stop Zayid from pursuing her passion and breaking stereotypes.

Watch DNA’s interview to get more of her story and thoughts on skewed perceptions of Middle Eastern women.