Maysoon Zayid: “I Got 99 Problems, Cerebral Palsy Is Just One!”

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After you watch this Ted Talk by comedian and actress Maysoon Zayid, you will not forget her. Ever. She is hilarious, smart, talented, brave, and successful. The other tiny detail? She has cerebral palsy. But don’t start thinking her disability holds her back at all. If anything, it has given her a unique place in the entertainment world where she is able to not only bring her creative talent, but awareness about disabilities.

Her Ted Women talk was given in December 2013, and since the video was posted early January 2014, it has been shared in many places.

According to Maysoon, people with disabilities are the largest minority in the world and they are the most under represented in entertainment. Her speech not only gives a lighthearted approach to people with cerebral palsy, but enables us all to see that what we see reflected in entertainment does not accurately represent real life.

She tells a story about auditioning for a play whose lead character had cerebral palsy. Surprisingly, she lost out on the part to an able-bodied girl. When she confronted the director as to why she didn’t get the role, they explained she wouldn’t be able to do the stunts required in play. Her response? “If I can’t do the stunts, then neither can the character!”

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Aside from her comedic talents, Maysoon is an activist for people with disabilities, using her voice to bring awareness. She is the co-founder of the the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, now in its 10th year. She spends several months of the year in the Palestinian Territories running workshops for disabled and orphaned kids in refugee camps, using art to help them deal with trauma.

Maysoon is one of 17 million people worldwide living with cerebral palsy, a condition that has no known cure. Maysoon describes herself as “Shakira meets Muhammad Ali – I shake all the time. I got 99 problems and cerebral palsy is just one. I’m Palestinian, I’m Muslim, I’m female and I live in New Jersey.”

The 39 year old mother and wife is also a columnist for The Daily Beast.

This is the kind of woman who we want to see inspiring a generation of young ladies to be their best, and not be held back by anything that society sees as “imperfect”. Instead of the same old one-dimensional images we see plastered across our TV screens and magazines, it is refreshing to see a woman who embraces everything about herself and creates opportunities that she never would’ve been able to have if she listened to all the naysayers and traditionalists out there.

If you too have got “99 problems”, then you need to watch Maysoon rap about why your issues in life shouldn’t hold you back unless you let them.

9 Comments

  1. What an inspiration she is! And she is funny as all get out. You have to be willing to laugh at yourself and be confident enough to do what she does. Her parents had the right idea and God (or Allah) bless them for giving her the support to do what she does.

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