From Broken to Fabulous: Meet the Arab American Instagrammer Taking the Internet by Storm
All images are published with permission courtesy of Faiza Rammuny
By: Tanya Nawas/Staff writer
Relationship guru, comedian, blogger and Instagrammer Faiza Rammuny is an expert in bringing together her love of giving advice on relationships and Arab upbringing. Faiza’s career as an influencer started the way so many do: with a passion. According to her blog, Expired Fabulous, Faiza found her passion at the age of twenty-four when she began writing her first post titled, ’51 Fridays.’ It documented her Palestinian “father’s journey to marry her off in a year before she officially expired at twenty-five”—the so-called deadline a woman is considered attractive for marriage.
However, by way of distraction and after experiencing a difficult breakup in September 2015, Faiza increasingly spent her time focusing on creating new content for her blog. Faiza posted videos, pictures, podcasts, and more, documenting the process of going from “broken to FABULOUS”. She found that the more she openly discussed topics like how to heal a broken heart and dating—subjects often considered taboo in the Arab American community—the more her audience grew.
At first her posts were meant to be cathartic, but Faiza soon realized that “by sharing my culture, life experiences, and my pursuit to find love” she could “help thousands of others do the very same thing.” In less than two years, Faiza has built a loyal following of almost 100K through her blog and Instagram account, and that following continues to grow.
In terms of subject matter, her videos are all over the place (click here for examples ). But the ones that feature commentary on Arab culture, friendship, and dealing with parents show true comedic insight and timing.
Now at thirty, Faiza describes herself as “single, and officially expired—but showing the world that you can be FABULOUS at any age—even if you are an unmarried woman in a culture with an obsession for ‘I Do.”
Read our exclusive interview with Faiza Rammuny to learn more about her career, her ambitions, and advice for aspiring creators.
Q: I love the video with your impressions of different dancers at Arab weddings (see above)–‘chronic bitch face’ is my favorite –how did you come up with the concept of the video?
(Laughs) Let’s just say I’ve attended way too many weddings in my life and have seen it all.
Q: Are the depictions of your ‘mother’ inspired by reality? And as a follow up question, how does your family feel about your videos and online presence?
In a lot of ways yes, but it really is inspired from both my father (Allah yer7amo) and my mother. My dad was the one literally obsessed with seeing me married and when he passed away, my mom kind of took on the role. I wanted to do the comedy from the perspective of a mother, because I think that everyone has this unique relationship with his or her mother no matter what culture or faith you come from and it was a way to unify us all.
And although my immediate family may not always agree with the things I say and do, or how I say and do them, but they support me, as any good family should.
Q: According to your website, you offer advice for women who have recently ended romantic relationships. How does your Arab background influence the type of advice you give? Do you think that being Arab helps or hurts your ability to offer advice, and in what ways?
It absolutely helps in every way, shape, and form. There isn’t an Arab Muslim woman out there discussing dating, pre-marital sex, and relationships in general as I do, considering that it’s such a taboo subject. I think there’s this constant belief that dating means sex and it’s just silly, because that’s not always the case and even if it is, who are any of us to sit around and judge a woman for that. The men surely aren’t judged!
I was the girl who was very ashamed of telling others that I was in a relationship because I know how judgmental the culture and many in the faith can be about it. I treated my relationship like a navy seal mission all for the sake of trying to protect my family’s reputation and me. It was exhausting and didn’t allow me to live organically as myself, nor discover my true purpose. So when a Muslim or Arab girl turns to me, they know I’ll understand and will give them raw and honest advice that can better navigate them in a way that was never provided to me and countless other women all because of shame. The amazing thing though is how this advice crosses cultural and religious barriers because one minute I can be answering an email from an Arab girl living in Ohio who needs help figuring out if her secret bf is a f***boy or not. Followed by an Orthodox Jewish girl who’s seeking advice on how to approach her family that won’t approve of her wanting to wear jeans and date someone out of the faith. To a girl who’s trying to come out of the closet to her conservative Roman Catholic parents. I see and hear it ALL and from all walks of life. They turn to me because they know I understand the struggle of living up to expectations set by others, falling for someone you know isn’t good for you, battling reputation scares and threats, the fear of disappointing family, and trying to discover yourself amongst the rubble of it all.
I feel that the reason I have grown as quickly as I have, is a very clear sign why the world, especially the Arab Muslim one, desperately needs a woman like me.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
I feel that life offers the best inspiration and so I get all my ideas from my own personal experience(s) or the experience(s) of those around me.
Q: Which came first the comedy or the message?
They came one in the same. My message inspired my comedy and my comedy is inspired by my message. I believe that comedy crosses all boundaries and allows us to really evaluate relationships, our culture and faith, and ourselves through a unified lens. That’s what my videos do. They start a very necessary dialogue in a manner that’s light hearted, inviting, fun, and a little sexy—which I like.
Q: How does your use of humor function to articulate both a critique of Arab/Muslim community practices and of Islamaphobia?
Well, a lot of the Arab cultural practices have found a way to seep into Islam which often times makes even Muslim’s themselves unaware of the differences between the faith and the culture. In the culture men have a lot more freedom and can get away with a heck of a lot more than a woman. In Islam, freedom is abundant, both sexes are held equally accountable, and in many ways there is a lot more respect given to women, then men. So, I definitely try to use those types of videos as a way of starting a much-needed dialogue in identifying the cultural practices vs. what the faith actually says. Not only to educate each other, but educate the outside world.
Also, I feel that these videos humanize us as Arabs and show the true face of what it means to be Muslim. We’re giving, loving, kind, understanding, non-judgmental, accepting, and we don’t take lives -as that is the greatest sin in our faith- we’re trying to live our own.
Q: How do you feel your work challenges (Western) perceptions of what it means to be a female comic and artist who is also Arab and Muslim in America?
Well, it definitely breaks a lot of myths and misconceptions about Arab/Muslim women being mimes that are oppressed and married to toothless old men who expect them to pop out sons like a canon. That’s simply not true. Sure many Arab Muslim women struggle to have a voice as I once did, but everyone living on this planet does. I think every human being, at some point and time, is oppressed by either culture, religious interpretations fed to family expectations, society, or us. So it definitely eliminates that label that it’s strictly an Arab or Muslim thing.
I think having a woman raise her voice as I do every single day and through my comedy or writing, absolutely brings a unique flare to not only what it means to be a MusRab (Muslim/Arab) but a woman living in America.
Q: What is your advice for Arab American women who are interested in entering the arts, especially comedy?
I think it’s very important for Arab American women to understand that contrary to what many in the culture will make you believe, pursuing a career in the Arts doesn’t make you a slut or a whore. Art gives a voice to the voiceless, can remedy a broken heart, and spirit, never mind bring people together in the most magical way. If you have a God given talent for comedy, acting, writing, directing, painting, etc. go for it. Don’t look for approval, because if you do, that’s the surest way to lose your talent and ability to change lives.