The Resilience of Maysoon Zayid (And Her 99 Problems)

“I have cerebral palsy, which means I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of her exhilarating, hilarious, inspiring TED talk.

Cerebral palsy is a permanent neurological condition caused by brain damage.

It is the most common motor and movement disability of childhood and affects more than half a million people in the United States.

Many who have cerebral palsy experience repetitive shakes and tremors and often lose the ability to walk completely.

“My name is Maysoon Zayid and if I can can, you can can.” — The inspiring voice of Maysoon Zayid

With grace and wit, this Arab-American comedian will take you on a quick tour of her adventures as an actress, a stand-up comic, a philanthropist, and an advocate for the disabled.

As you roller-coaster your way along with her, you can’t help noticing (while tears well up in your eyes) that she is spreading happiness — and doing it exceptionally well.

I got 99 problems... palsy is just one | Maysoon Zayid

Happiness Lessons From Maysoon

Born in 1974 in New Jersey, Maysoon Zayid described herself in a BBC interview as “a Palestinian Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy, from New Jersey, who is an actress, comedian, and activist.”

She is the first person ever to perform a stand-up comic act in Palestine and Jordan.

Maysoon has appeared as a stand-up at several of New York’s top clubs, including Caroline’s, Gotham, and Stand Up NY, where she took on serious topics such as terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

She co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival in 2003 with comedian Dean Obeidallah. This first-of-its-kind festival has received national and international media coverage and high acclaim.

It is held annually in New York City and showcases Arab-American comics, actors, playwrights, and filmmakers.

“Palestinians are still being oppressed, Arab-Americans are still being discriminated against and Muslims are being vilified. So that part has not changed and that is something I still have to address in my comedy,” she said.

“I think comedy is all related to the audience and the audience in America is more interested in who I am, my love life, my relationship with the United States, rather than the Arab Spring or Palestine,” Maysoon said in an interview with Womens ENews.

Maysoon Zayid Dua CanCan
Maysoon Zayid Dua “Can Can”

Maysoon proves that no dream is impossible. She proves that we can always be the cause of someone’s smile and laughter, whatever the circumstance. She proves you can spread happiness no matter what.

You’ll long remember these words of her: “The doctors said that I wouldn’t walk, but I am here in front of you. I hope that together, we can create more positive images of disability in the media and in everyday life. Perhaps if there were more positive images, it would foster less hate on the internet.”

She adds,

If there was an Oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I’m Palestinian, Muslim, I’m female, I’m disabled, and I live in New Jersey.

Irrespective of what life has in store for her, Zayid manages to bring her incomparable sense of humor to almost any conversation. Why? Because, if she can-can.

Watch her TED video, in which she says,

People with disabilities are the largest minority in the world, and we are the most underrepresented in entertainment.

Final Words

Find Another Dream, written and performed by Maysoon Zayid, is the true story of how a Muslim Jersey girl with cerebral palsy creates her own path to stardom.

As a child, she dreamed of dancing on Broadway. As a teen, a bubble-bursting choreographer told her to “find another dream.”

So, she set her sights on becoming a soap star, undeterred by the fact that the odds were against her. While chasing fame, she found her voice in stand-up comedy, performing in multiple languages in sold-out shows all over the world.

Look. It’s exhausting. I’m like Shakira, Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.

— Maysoon Zayid

Maysoon Zayid is a passionate advocate for access to education for disabled students worldwide and battles bullying online.

Listen to a sample from Find Another Dream here.

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher.


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