I got 99 problems... palsy is just one | Maysoon Zayid | Summary and Q&A

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January 3, 2014
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TED
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I got 99 problems... palsy is just one | Maysoon Zayid

TL;DR

Maysoon Zayid, a comedian with cerebral palsy, shares her journey of overcoming challenges and fighting for representation.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid acquire cerebral palsy?

Maysoon Zayid acquired cerebral palsy due to an accident that occurred during her birth. The doctor who delivered her made several incisions on her mother in different directions, which resulted in Maysoon being suffocated and subsequently developing cerebral palsy.

Q: Is cerebral palsy a genetic condition?

No, cerebral palsy is not a genetic condition. Maysoon Zayid emphasizes that it is not a birth defect nor something that can be caught or inherited. It is caused by accidents, such as what happened to her during her birth.

Q: Why does Maysoon Zayid say she is not inspirational?

Maysoon Zayid states that she is not inspirational because she believes that at some point in their lives, everyone has dreamt of being disabled. She humorously describes scenarios where people might wish to have a disability, such as wanting access to disabled parking spaces. She wants the audience to see her as a person with her own unique experiences and not a source of inspiration for overcoming her disability.

Q: What is Maysoon Zayid's perspective on prejudices against Arab-Americans and disabled individuals?

Maysoon Zayid highlights that she faced prejudices as both an Arab-American and a person with a disability. She talks about the challenges of being an underrepresented minority and the need to combat negative stereotypes in the media. She also mentions the hateful comments she received online regarding her disability, emphasizing the importance of creating positive images and fostering acceptance in society.

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid pursue her dream of becoming a performer?

Maysoon Zayid pursued her dream of becoming a performer by becoming a comedian. She started her career as an extra on a soap opera and later became a stand-up comic. She found inspiration in comedians like Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne Barr, and Ellen, who challenged stereotypes and broke barriers. Maysoon also co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival to change negative perceptions and increase representation of Arab-Americans in media.

Q: How did social media affect Maysoon Zayid's perception of her disability?

Maysoon Zayid highlights the negative impact of social media on her perception of her disability. She noticed hurtful comments about her disability online, such as mocking her physical appearance, and how she was labeled as a "terrorist" by some commenters. These experiences made her realize the importance of creating positive representations of disability in the media and combating online hate.

Q: What is Maysoon Zayid's mission regarding disability representation in the media?

Maysoon Zayid's mission is to create more positive representations of disability in the media. She believes that if there were more positive images, it could lead to less hatred and discrimination online. She advocates for increased inclusion and opportunities for disabled individuals in the entertainment industry, aiming to challenge stereotypes and promote acceptance and understanding of people with disabilities.

Summary

Maysoon Zayid, a comedian with cerebral palsy, shares her journey of embracing her disability and pursuing her dreams. She challenges stereotypes and advocates for more positive representation of people with disabilities in the media.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid acquire cerebral palsy?

Maysoon Zayid acquired cerebral palsy due to a traumatic birth experience where the doctor made multiple incisions in her mother's uterus, resulting in her brain being deprived of oxygen.

Q: Is cerebral palsy genetic or a birth defect?

Cerebral palsy is neither genetic nor a birth defect. It is caused by accidents or trauma during childbirth that lead to brain damage.

Q: Why does Maysoon Zayid claim that she is not inspirational?

Maysoon Zayid believes that she is not inspirational because she doesn't want people to feel sorry for her. She wants to challenge the perception that disabled individuals are solely a source of inspiration for others.

Q: What is the Oppression Olympics that Maysoon Zayid mentions?

The Oppression Olympics is a metaphorical concept representing the competition between oppressed groups to determine who experiences the most discrimination. Maysoon jokingly claims that if there was such an Olympics, she would win the gold medal due to being Palestinian, Muslim, female, disabled, and living in New Jersey.

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid's parents encourage her to overcome her disability?

Maysoon Zayid's parents had a mindset of "you can do it," and they did not believe in limitations. They encouraged her to participate in various activities, like mopping with her sisters and attending public school, and motivated her to walk by placing her heels on their feet.

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid cope with the lack of Arab representation in her hometown?

In her predominantly Italian hometown, Maysoon Zayid and her family were the only Arabs. However, she mentions that nobody seemed to notice their difference. This changed after 9/11 when anti-Muslim sentiments became more prevalent.

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid become involved in comedy?

Maysoon Zayid became involved in comedy as a way to challenge negative stereotypes. She noticed that many influential women in comedy, like Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres, had successfully used their platforms to change perceptions.

Q: What challenges did Maysoon Zayid face in pursuing an acting career?

Maysoon Zayid faced challenges in her acting career, as Hollywood historically cast able-bodied actors to portray disabled characters. She shares her experience auditioning for a role where she was denied the opportunity to portray the character, despite having the same disability.

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid receive her big break in the media?

Maysoon Zayid's breakthrough in the media came when she was invited to be a guest on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." Despite the challenges of being on live television and using a rolling chair, she impressed the host and became a full-time contributor on the show.

Q: How did Maysoon Zayid deal with online criticism and hate related to her disability?

Maysoon Zayid discovered the cruel nature of online commenters, who targeted her disability. She realized that disability, like race, is a visual aspect of a person's identity that often becomes a subject of ridicule online.

Q: What does Maysoon Zayid hope for regarding disability representation?

Maysoon Zayid hopes for more positive representation of people with disabilities in the media, which she believes can help combat hate and negative stereotypes. She also emphasizes the need to recognize the disabled community as the largest minority group in the world.

Takeaways

Maysoon Zayid's powerful and humorous talk sheds light on the experiences of individuals with disabilities and the need for inclusivity in the media. She challenges societal stereotypes and inspires others to pursue their dreams, regardless of any limitations they may face. Maysoon's journey reminds us of the importance of positive representation and acceptance for all members of society.

Summary & Key Takeaways

-Maysoon Zayid introduces herself as someone with cerebral palsy and shares how she got her condition due to a doctor's mistake during her birth.

-She challenges the idea of disability as something to be pitied or inspirational, and instead uses humor to highlight the daily struggles and misconceptions faced by disabled individuals.

-Zayid shares her journey of becoming a stand-up comedian and theater performer, and emphasizes the need for more positive representation of disabilities in the media.

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