My Crooked Journey: Comedian Maysoon Zayid on Disability and Media Diversity

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Maysoon Zayid. Photo courtesy of artist

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Born and raised by Palestinian parents in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, Maysoon Zayid grew up spending summers at the West Bank. With one foot in Palestine and the other in the United States, Zayid’s bicultural upbringing exposed her at a young age to just how diverse the world can be. It wasn’t until she got to college, however, that Zayid fully grasped how her physical differences changed the way society viewed her. Zayid has cerebral palsy and, as she points out, people living with a disability comprise the biggest minority in the world and the only one you can join at any time.

As Zayid pursued a career in comedy, she began broadening her routines to address the rampant discrimination not only against Muslims in America but against the disabled on film and TV.    

In addition to doing stand-up and advocacy work, Zayid now teaches comedy at her alma mater, Arizona State University, where she recently added her voice to the 3 Million Stories conference.

Note: Throughout this piece, you’ll hear excerpts from Zayid’s hugely famous TED talk. It’s been translated into 37 languages and viewed approximately 1 billion times. Excerpts from Maysoon's TED talk used courtesy of Creative Commons