Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Maysoon Zayid

Maysoon Zayid is a comedian and actress. She lives with cerebral palsy and is one of the first Muslim women to be a comedian in America.

Early Life:

Maysoon Zayid was born on September 7, 1974, in New Jersey. She is an American actress and comedian who is of Palestinian descent. Zayid is one of four sisters. She is the youngest. Zayid was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth due to complications with a C-section. This caused brain damage. Zayid faces physical challenges, such as frequent shaking, but has figured out that yoga helps. She cannot stand for long periods of time, but makes a joke out of this by calling herself a “sit-down stand-up comedian.” For college, she attended Arizona State University where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting. She has been a guest resident there as well.

Career Success:

Zayid started her acting career on a popular soap opera named As the World Turns. She performed on this soap opera for two years. At the beginning of her acting career, she realized that her disability and ethnicity were occasionally stopping her from advancing. Because of this, she decided to change her path and move into comedy. This is where she found her stride and met success! She performed in the top comedy clubs in New York, such as  Caroline’s, Gotham, and Stand Up NY. In 2003, alongside comedian Dean Obeidallah, she co-founded the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.

In 2008, Zayid played a role in the film You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. She fulfilled a dream of hers by acting in General Hospital in June of 2019. She plays the role of Zahra Amir. Zayid has gone on tour several times, both by herself and with other comedians. She has also delivered TED Talks, her most well-known one was titled I got 99 problems… palsy is just one (watch it here).  Overall, Zayid has had a very successful career in both acting and comedy.  

“Now, after I am playing a role in helping others as a disabled female comedian, I would say the best English term to describe us is not “special needs” or “differently-abled” − it is “disabled. We should say that loudly and proudly because there is no shame in it. My needs are nothing special. Everyone has different needs. The idea is that the more we proudly use the word disabled, the less shame and fear there is attached to it.”

Maysoon Zayid

Current Day:

For Zayid, it is important to give back to her culture and to children with disabilities. Zayid currently spends at least three months out of every year in Palestinian territories where she holds an arts program for disabled and orphaned children in refugee camps. This camp is financed largely by Zayid’s comedy work. From 2003 to 2013, she led a charity called Maysoon’s Kids. This organization held welfare programs and training sessions for parents and teachers of disabled children. Recently, she signed a contract with Universal Studio to develop her own sitcom. She is also an activist and advocate for disability rights. 

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Abbey Curran and a similar success story featuring RJ Mitte!






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