Maysoon Zayid is a comedian, actress, disability advocate, writer, and tap dancer. She was a full-time on-air contributor to Countdown with Keith Olbermann and a columnist for The Daily Beast. She has also appeared on Oprah Winfrey Network's In Deep Shift, 60 Minutes, and ABC News. Maysoon had the most viewed TED Talk of 2014 and was named one of 100 Women of 2015 by BBC.
We are excited to announce that Maysoon Zayid is a keynote speaker at RootsTech 2022! Maysoon has an amazing story of connection with her family, her heritage, and all those around her. To hear her story of resilience and her tireless fight to fulfill her dreams, visit RootsTech.org.
Who Is Maysoon Zayid?
Maysoon Zayid is a Palestinian comedian and actress from New Jersey. She is the cofounder and co-executive producer of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival and the Muslim Funny Fest. Maysoon has sold out top New York comedy clubs and has toured extensively at home and abroad. She was a headliner on the Arabs Gone Wild comedy tour and The Muslims Are Coming tour. As an actress, Maysoon appeared alongside Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and is a recurring character on General Hospital. She has also appeared in New York Fashion Week, has written for Glamour magazine, and is the author of the audiobook Find another Dream.
She is also a firm believer in equality for all and being a strong ally to minority communities. As she says, "I am Palestinian, I am Muslim, I am a woman of color, I am divorced, I am disabled, and I am childless with a cat named Beyonce." But she doesn't want anyone to feel bad for her. She is a very successful woman who has faced her challenges and achieved her dreams, and she is now helping others do the same. She is a champion for mainstreaming disabled and wounded students into the worldwide education system. She has run training programs and spoken extensively on this issue.
Maysoon was born and raised in the state of New Jersey. She was born with cerebral palsy because the doctor who delivered her was inebriated, and during birth, her brain was damaged. But she has not let that stop her! She acknowledges she is where she is today because of the support she had from the beginning—especially from her family and the people around her. Her father dedicated himself to teaching her how to walk. He was also a hysterically funny man, so comedy and fun have been important parts of her life since she was little.
Every summer, she and her sisters would go to their grandparents' village in Palestine, with no TV, no cell phones, and no internet. Summer after summer, she grew connected to her roots and to the story of her family and her ancestors. There she started developing her storytelling talent and learned the value of equality and connection across cultures. "I think the most influential part of growing up with kind of one crooked leg in each world," she says, “was knowing that equality works. It's worth it, and it's worth fighting for.”
When she was a little girl, she started going to tap classes and piano lessons, leading to a love of the arts and performing. She followed this love of performing by attending Arizona State University to study acting and afterward ended up teaching at Princeton University where she is an arts fellow.
Maysoon Zayid at RootsTech 2022
“Knowing my ancestors' tales and their stories helps me better understand my own. Knowing what they went through and where I am now . . . doesn't just inform who I am, but it's a constant reminder of how incredible this world is and how much potential one person has to change the entire universe. If you don't know where you came from, you'll never know where you're going,” Maysoon noted. Visit RootsTech.org to learn from this incredible comedian and storyteller and learn her unique story of connection. RootsTech is the world's largest genealogy and family history conference, and this year it is held online for free!
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