We are pleased to announce Yasmin Elhady as our Sixteenth Muslim Woman of the Month!
Yasmin Elhady is a half Libyan, half Egyptian refugee who sought asylum in the United States when she was five years old. The injustices she witnessed in Egypt during her graduate fellowship in Cairo at the American University led her to become a lawyer with an aspiration to protect and defend people’s rights. She currently works as the Chief of Staff to the Director for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
When she’s not working in the public service realm, she’s making people laugh. Yasmin is also a stand-up comedian, and she has had done several performances throughout D.C., including at the Kennedy Center, the DC Women’s Conference, and nationwide for Penny Appeal USA’s, “Punchlines Comedy Benefit Tour,” among other events. She has also toured nationally and internationally in the UK. She will be headlining at the Little Market Cafe, and performing at the Girls Supporting Girls’ Build Bash in Chicago, as well as for Tedx at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts.
Yasmin officially made her TV debut this past January in Peacock’s new series, True Story with Ed and Randall, which premiered on January 20. In this series, six Americans share their stories and experiences with Ed Helms and Randall Park, which are reenacted by top comedians and actors.
Yasmin’s story was featured in Episode 2, where she shares her experience running for class president of her Alabama high school after 9/11 against the most popular kid in school. Despite all the odds against her, she persevered in a campaign promoting who she is as a hijabi Muslim girl. Her empowering role was played by Alexa Mansour, while Maz Jobrani played her charismatic father.
In our exclusive interview, Yasmin shares her experience as a refugee, how she got into both law and comedy, and all about having her story featured in her first-ever TV debut.
Read on to learn more about Yasmin’s story, her inspirational work, and her motivational advice.
Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a refugee. I’m an asylum seeker in this country. I do believe that is probably the most important part of my identity because it always made me feel like I was the other. From the beginning, I’m the other. I’m a Muslim experiencing that, and so is 75% of the global burden of refugees in the world–we’re Muslims. Three quarters of the ones that have no homes and no place, they’re Muslim. All of the top 10 organizations that are helping them, they’re all Christian.
I tell this story in comedy, but it’s actually a very poignant story. I’m getting to the United States and the first organization that is helping us is Catholic Charities, an organization that helps through the Catholic Church. They help asylum seekers. A woman was washing my feet and putting socks on my feet.
I remember thinking, “What is this woman doing? What is the beauty of this woman?” I felt loved. I felt warmth. I felt seen by her. I felt totally safe with her. I felt like, “Oh, this is my home. This is how you feel when you’re at home. You feel totally at ease. You can relax. You can exhale. There’s oxygen in the room.” I just remember thinking, “This woman has no ego, there’s nothing between me and her. We are the same. She’s a woman. I want to be like this woman. This is how I want to look. This is how I want to be.”
I grew up in the South. Kentucky is where we first arrived, and then Huntsville, Alabama. That’s a very big identity definition for me because I learned very quickly that I was not of them. Again, I felt like the other. I felt like this was not home. I felt very much loved and seen, but not felt and understood.
“I felt like the other. I felt like this was not home. I felt very much loved and seen, but not felt and understood.”
Then I went off for law school, and I felt much more at home in that setting because I believe in justice. I believe in giving people a fair opportunity, a fair shake at this life. Trying to restore people’s wholeness was very important to me. So I’m also a lawyer– that’s a big part of my identity.
And then, I became a mom. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I started doing standup comedy when I had my first baby back in 2017. Before that, I had done some storytelling. At Princeton, I did a talent show doing storytelling, and I was like, “Oh, I think I have something here.”
The election of Trump shifted a lot of things for me and made me feel like, for the first time ever, as a 9/11 kid like, “Oh, we have to be out here doing this again. I have to talk to people. I have to be in the church or the synagogue, I have to be on stage somehow.” We didn’t need be doing interfaith dialogue, it would be interfacing with people.
I decided to do an open mic, and that went well. I got asked to do more stuff. I’m still a lawyer full-time, and then have this new career as a comedian that’s been blossoming since 2017, culminating in a very big event, which is the Kennedy Center performance that I did.
I got random DMs from this guy like, “I’m gonna make you a star.” I’m like, “Okay, weirdo, I’m not going to fall for that.” Then he’s like, “No really,” and sends me a link. He starts commenting on my social media posts, so then I DM’d him like, “Hey, what’s the deal, bro?” He was like, “I really am a casting director, here’s the casting agency.” I gave him a Google number to call me because I didn’t trust him.
He calls me and the conversation went really well. I was like, “I guess this guy’s real,” so I Googled him and I was like, “Okay, this is real. City Media Entertainment.” I look them up and see that they cast for different network TV and stuff. Now my story is on the internet through this really cool production that took a lot of care and time. I’m a Muslim-asylum-seeking-attorney-comedian-mom, who happens to have a TV episode commemorating her life. I am trying my best to be a balanced Muslim, a balanced human being.
What got you interested in practicing law and public policy?
I did immigration civil rights. I’m in the public sector, I work with federal government. I was definitely pushed to do that because I am very much a product of 9/11 and saw that there were a lot of issues that came after 9/11. Everything that’s related to the War on Terror–whether it be physical wars or wars of information, wars on immigration, on people that have lived here for many years and have tried to be removed from the country, and trying to basically use that as a proxy for fighting the War on Terror– that made me feel a certain way because of my own personal background and history.
I was doing a graduate fellowship in Arabic in Cairo, and I was looking around and there was always police. If there was a political dissent, and the students wanted to organize something, you had riot police arresting kids. I was looking at this, and I was like, “Why?” I could feel the economic pressure cooker at the time in the country. That was in 2007.
I could feel that people were really hurting, but they were all just trying to live their lives. The whole experience of studying there helped me understand how out of control we truly are. I realized that we had this functioning (although it’s dysfunctional a lot of times), justice system that still bends towards justice.
I didn’t really realize how American I truly was until I went over there. I was like, “I’m an American.” These people should have the right to assemble, disassemble, to get the political prisoners out of jail, to due process. These people should have a fair hearing, a fair trial, and I was thinking, “Oh, my God, I’m going to law school. That’s what I’m going to do.”
I feel like that’s important in order to have solidarity with people who are fighting for the best version of their lives, and for the best version of that for their families for generations. I decided to go to law school thinking, “We have a system that tries to make people whole, and I want to be part of that system.”
“I decided to go to law school thinking, ‘We have a system that tries to make people whole, and I want to be part of that system.'”
We hear a lot, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re on the menu.” I think I am very much a product of that thinking. I definitely wanted a seat at that table, so that’s why I went to law school. I thought that would be the best way to protect people’s rights.
I did a lot of work with teachers who had written about civil liberties and civil rights, and I tried to do clinics in the area of immigration to help people have a chance at a better future in the United States. That led me to where I am today in federal service.
It’s been a good ride. I don’t see myself as an attorney for the rest of my life, though. That was a pact that I made myself a long time ago when I went to law school. I said, “At the age of 40, I’m leaving this profession.” I really want to be some type of teacher. I don’t know exactly what that would look like, but I’m working towards that goal.
Do you think that part of you wanting to work in immigration was also because of your experience as a refugee?
Oh, man, I wanted to run from that as far as possible. I worked at the Commission on Civil Rights, too, so I’ve done civil rights work as well. I wanted to run away from myself for so long. But God has a way of showing you that the things you fear manifest.
I think I feared being pigeonholed into that area of the law, and being a one-trick pony. I’ve always wanted to do different things and be dynamic. That keeps us intellectually engaged. It keeps us healthy and young. So I think I was running from it, but it found me.
From the first semester I was working, I got an email from the Muslim Lawson Association, saying “We really need somebody who speaks Arabic to translate documents for this individual who’s seeking asylum.” I was like, “I don’t have to answer it, nobody knows. No one’s gonna know.” I could just hear the tones getting louder and louder in my brain saying, “YOU HAVE TO DO IT.” I sent an email back, “I happen to know Arabic. I might have written many papers in Arabic.” They were like, “Oh my God, where have you been?”
So I fell into it from the very beginning, but I think it has helped me understand what’s at stake and have the fullest depth of empathy that I can share with those who are experiencing various trials in the immigration sector.
Similarly, what made you interested in getting involved in the comedy world?
Trump had his crazy interview with Anderson Cooper. He was asked, “What do you think about Islam?” and he goes, “I think Islam hates us.” That really bothered me at a very deep level. It made me feel like “Man, we’re going backwards. How are we here?”
There are people who are in the White House, in the highest level of authority, dictating this to the people in this country. Dictating to them what American ideals are, what it means to be an American and have a civic obligation or duty to your country, and how it’s even an attack on Obama about him being Muslim.
Why is that a bad thing? Because being Muslim is a bad thing in the public eye. That’s the worst possible thing, right? Because you can’t be trusted to even be equal members of society, let alone dictate other big decisions to be made in society. So, this bothered me at a very deep level.
“My hope is that comedy will make you stop and think about it after it’s done. I think the biggest skill that you can have is really making people think about what you said long after you said it. That is a superpower.”
And my friend at work was like, “Man, you’re funny. You could do stand up. My husband’s best friend runs an open mic.” So I was like, “Maybe I should try it?” I actually went to find her after that interview, and I was like, “Hey, can I talk to you about your husband’s friend again? Could I get on that, please?” And she made it happen. She called him and said “I have a friend, I think she’s really funny. She’s never done standup before, but would you give her a chance?” And he said, “Yeah, I’ll take a chance on her.” That’s how it happened.
I felt like me getting up there in a comedy stage would help people question themselves a little like, “What am I wrong about? What could I be wrong about here in the way that I view Muslims? Or what could the president be wrong about when he says, “Islam hates us?” They can make an informed decision about something instead of making it from a soundbite, or instead of what is easy and intellectually lazy to believe about Muslims from our many negative depictions in the media.
My hope is that comedy will make you stop and think about it after it’s done. I think the biggest skill that you can have is really making people think about what you said long after you said it. That is a superpower.
Comedy and Law are very contrasting topics – is it difficult to balance both?
Yeah, it’s not so much because I feel like I’m afraid that I’m going to say or do the wrong thing. I don’t really talk about politics very much. I think that it’s kind of a waste of time to talk about politics. It’s more interesting to talk about human experiences.
The only reason it’s difficult to balance is because I’m also a mom, wife, and a daughter. So my time is limited. It’s hard to balance the time obligations, and make sure that the mom guilt doesn’t get too bad because I live on a continent of mother guilt.
I’m just always feeling like, “Oh, my God, I’m not doing enough for my kids. They’re not getting as much as they could from me, they’re getting the worst version of me, or they’re getting the leftover bits of me.”
I’ve been trying to implement more guidelines for myself, like I can’t perform more than once a week. Now I’m doing once a month, to be honest with you, for 2022. That’s way more doable. It might not be the best for my quote unquote career as a comedian, but I also don’t need a career of anything. I’m cool just going with the flow. As long as I end my life doing something in an instructive realm, I think I’ll be happy.
Women in general already have a hard time “making it” in both the law and comedy worlds, how have you persevered through the doubts and challenges, and navigated both of these areas, especially the untraditional path of standup comedy as a hijabi Muslim woman?
It’s a lot. It’s a lot to be a woman in comedy, especially because a lot of opportunities are given to certain people. People think that men are funnier than women. Generally, people think a Muslim woman is definitely not going to be funny. So, it will turn off their brain sometimes from the get-go.
A part of growing up is realizing, “Okay, you’re not trying to reach those people, you’re just trying to reach the people who are in the middle, or haven’t made up their minds yet. Or maybe they did make up their minds, but they’re open enough to experience something different.”
So being a woman in a highly male-dominated field is difficult. I don’t even know a field that isn’t highly male-dominated, maybe teaching. They just dominate, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t do fire work. I don’t even put that message to myself out there.
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I’m way more focused on being a mom and doing that job. So I’m not really focused on the racism. I’m not really focused on the lack of opportunity. I’m really focused on trying to do the mom thing correctly.
That’s the challenge that I’m thinking about always. I think wherever you put your energy and your effort, should be towards the thing that’s most important to you, that you’re deriving the most meaning from, and that makes you feel like you did the best job you can on this Earth.
So yes, being in comedy and being a woman is not easy. But what’s new? That’s not interesting to me. What are the types of things you want to do instead of thinking about things that you’re prevented from doing?
“‘Am I doing the right thing and am I hurting the image of Islam in some way?’ I was definitely thinking about that and also, ‘Do I have a fair shot at this? Is this even the right thing to go into being this person because people are going to look at me and maybe be instantly turned off?'”
It’s a more permissive way of looking at life instead of a restrictive or prohibitive way of looking at life. Instead of me thinking about all the things that can’t be done, what do I actually want to do with my life? Who do I want to be? Maybe that sounds corny, but that’s how I think.[As a hijabi], it makes you stop and think, “Am I in the right setting? Am I doing the right thing and am I hurting the image of Islam in some way?” I was definitely thinking about that and also, “Do I have a fair shot at this? Is this even the right thing to go into being this person because people are going to look at me and maybe be instantly turned off?” The thing that releases you from that is the real belief that God never chooses something bad for you.
If you have an inclination in your heart to try something, I always say, “God makes no mistakes.” It’s your job to explore that as long as it doesn’t come in conflict with God, or go against your morals and value, again, “tilak hadud Allah.”
What are the boundaries that God has set for humanity? There are so many things that are permissive, and there are very few things that are prohibited. So, I try to stay away from those things that are prohibited, and if there’s any inclination towards what’s permissive, which is the majority of things, then why not try them out? Why not be open to failure, learning, and growing like that? I think that’s healthy. That’s trying to find a balanced way of life.
So I did pause and hesitate a little bit thinking, “Am I going to do right by it? Am I going to show the right depiction?” There’s a bit of that social responsibility. That comes from my mom and dad. That comes from being a product of 9/11. I also took pause in thinking, “Am I really going to be taken seriously or be given this opportunity in a real way?”
What I fell back on was, God’s going to open the right door for you in the perfect time. God knows how much you need Him. He knows how clear you are, how truly poor you are, and how you are searching for his wealth.
God is the thing that we all depend on. It’s so important that you don’t think it’s me, it’s my effort, it’s how hard I’m working. I think that releases you from so much. It gives you freedom from all that anxiety of, “Am I doing the right thing.” Pray about it, and if God opened that door, then do it. There may be barakah in it, and there may not be barakah in it.
“It’s like being Muslim is 1,000% a liability. It’s as though it’s a burden that you carry, and “In spite of your Islam, you can still–.” The entire way that we’ve been made to feel is a travesty.”
So I definitely asked myself, “Is this the right move? Well, let’s see what God brings!” That’s very me. I’m very open minded and I will try everything once that doesn’t brush up against what is haram. So my comedy has boundaries. I don’t talk about sex. I don’t talk about people’s private parts. I don’t cuss. I don’t need to. I try to have some haya and protect my haya as much as possible. I think that’s what is important. That’s what God is rewarding us for.
But do I have shame or guilt or blame? The only guilt I felt was mom guilt. Thankfully, my parents never make me feel like, “You should be guilty for doing this, or you’re wrong for doing that.” My parents were just like, “You can do whatever you want, and you can be whatever you want. Just please, don’t go to jail. Don’t get pregnant out of wedlock. Try to be married, if you want to.” It was just really simple. My dad really believed in me and he saw that I may be onto something.
It really is an empowering way to think about it in the sense that, as long as what you’re doing is right by God, there is nothing else that can or should hold you back.
Yes, exactly. Think about the way that we even frame the conversation. It’s like being Muslim is 1,000% a liability. It’s as though it’s a burden that you carry, and “In spite of your Islam, you can still–.” The entire way that we’ve been made to feel is a travesty.
“As a Muslim woman, you should never have to feel that your religion or your identity has to be checked at the door and you can’t bring your full self to work, to expression, to society.”
We deserve to have representation in every field because that’s the authentic expression of our community. There should be a required space that we take up because that’s the reality of what’s happening on the ground, and that’s the very depiction we need.
As a Muslim woman, you should never have to feel that your religion or your identity has to be checked at the door and you can’t bring your full self to work, to expression, to society.
Yes, I love that. That’s very well said. It is unfortunate that we have that thinking like, “I’m Muslim, but I can still do this,” because it is a very limiting mentality. I don’t know if this has something to do with our parents trying to protect us, and saying things were haram when they weren’t, and were moreso frowned upon culturally. So growing up, it just made me feel like, “I’m a Muslim girl, and therefore, I can’t do all of these things because they are “haram,” when in fact that wasn’t really the case.
Yeah, like it’s a limitation. It’s a limitation because we are not in a permissive state, we are in a prohibitive state. If you actually look at the history of the religion throughout the centuries, it’s actually a very permissive faith.
It’s permissive to so many things that were restrictive at its time, whether it be permissive in seeing a woman as a fully spiritual equal being that has equal access to God. That’s a revolutionary idea. That’s an expansive idea. That’s one of permissiveness.
Or the belief that all things are permissible unless they’re explicitly prohibited. It’s all halal until it’s made haram. That’s a very different way of viewing the world, and thinking about what is haram and what is halal.
“Once you do that, then those kids can really flourish because they see that what they have is not a liability, it’s more of an asset.”
I’m saying all this just to say that I think the increased prohibition also comes from a lack of confidence. We have a lack of confidence in our children being able to have a clear answer to what’s going on. We have a lack of confidence in our tradition having proper answers to what’s happening and not losing their faith.
We have a lack of confidence in our language. We have a lack of confidence in the understanding of our tradition and in the dialogue surrounding our religion, and that comes from colonialism–that we are less in some way. We are backward in some way; we are not as much as them in some way; we are missing something, and so we don’t have a proper answer. So let us just say everything is prohibited, so that we can stay away from it all, because it’s going to create cracks in the foundation, and we won’t have any more foundation left.
But in that process, you don’t show confidence in being strong about teaching your child what is permissible (which is most things), what is desirable, what should be done, and how to navigate those spaces. Once you do that, then those kids can really flourish because they see that what they have is not a liability, it’s more of an asset.
Exactly. And that’s why I love the fact that we have women like you in spaces breaking barriers and showing rather than telling what you are able to accomplish as a Muslim woman.
I’m loving that you said that because that makes me feel like I’m doing my job. That’s my entire goal. The biggest message I want to send is, “Show people who you are.” I don’t want you to tell people who you are, I want you to show them.
And I want you to show them because that’s actually in line with what God wants for you on this Earth. That’s in line with being grateful because you’re showing your productive value. You’re showing that whether you produce anything or not, you’re still of value.
And that, in my opinion, is prophetic as well because that’s walking the walk. People can talk the talk, and they have talked the talk for many, many centuries as well. But the people who really walk the talk are the people that actually leave a legacy behind, and not just by inspiring people to be better, but inspiring people to know that they can reach their full potential. If we’re actualized, happy, joyful, and we put that foot forward, I think it gives permission for other people to enter into their full greatness.
“I’m going to try to inspire people to be fully themselves and fully accepting of who they are…And to feel like they matter too, that they’re beautiful, and that they’re completely worthy because God makes no mistakes.”
That’s what I’m trying to push. Be the example. Be the role model you never saw. It’s not about being the first. If you have any humility and understanding in the world, you’re not the first, and hopefully you’re not the last.
There’s lots of people who’ve had creativity, drive, and dreams, and so many have done things that no one knows about because there’s no spotlight on it. It just so happens that we now live in an era where there’s lots of spotlighting.
So instead of saying, “I’m going to be the first,” say, “I’m going to be the absolute best version of myself. I’m going to embody my ideals. I’m going to try to inspire people to be fully themselves and fully accepting of who they are, no matter what anyone tells them or makes them feel about themselves- whether it be in their identities, their bodies, or whatever it might be. And to feel like they matter too, that they’re beautiful, and that they’re completely worthy because God makes no mistakes.”
Yes having more confidence in and love for yourself is so important to combat all of the doubt and fear that is in and around you. How do you have so much confidence?
Fear- it paralyzes us. Why is there a stigma? Ask yourself, “Can you say something by being a happy woman, doing something freaking amazing, and living your best life?” What if you spent all of your energy creating as a Muslim hijabi woman and you don’t spend any energy on the stigma? Then what could be?
Why are you not capable of greatness, because you wear a hijab and you’re a woman? Why can’t I be the best version of myself, take the good in this, glorify God through this action, be in dignity, and stand up a little bit straighter?
I’m not saying be like other people, I’m talking about, “Be the best version of yourself, and take the best examples as your example, that are in line with your morals, values, and dignity as a human being.”
So now you are the most dignified version of yourself, and you are in the closest possible state to the prophetic example. When He (SAW) goes into a room, He’s (SAW) making everybody feel better when they leave. That’s what we want. You can’t do that without following hadud Allah, without following the boundaries of what is morally and ethically reprehensible, and morally and ethically beneficial to the human being.
“If you’re disconnected from your roots, who you are, and what you stand for, then of course you’re going to fall for anything, and you have no idea what you’re standing up for.”
If you truly believe that Allah knows you better than yourself, if you truly have that trust that God makes no mistakes, then you’re constantly thinking about, “How do I come into alignment with what God wants for me, so that I can be the best version of myself within this vast array of what is acceptable, beautiful, and truthful?”
That takes a lot of confidence. How did you push through any doubts you were ever feeling about anything? How do you persevere through that to become as confident and unapologetic in these fields as you are?
You have to know your tradition first. The power has to come from knowledge. The power has to come from reading about the people that you stand on the shoulders of. If you’re disconnected from your roots, who you are, and what you stand for, then of course you’re going to fall for anything, and you have no idea what you’re standing up for.
To be arrogant enough to think, “It’s all you, you stand on your own, it’s you against the world,”– it’s silly. “You’re the first!” No, you aren’t. You’re a human being. You are a copy of many beautiful things, and you get to choose to be better every day.
So, I think that the best, most important part of confidence-building is, number one: knowing your tradition, knowing who you are, knowing that God loves you, that He created you whole, and knowing the purpose of being here.
Number two is doing what you set out to do. So when your words and your actions come into alignment, you get real confident like “I’m going to do this,” then you freaking do it. “Okay, God makes no mistakes.” I’m going to do this, and it doesn’t work out. “Okay, I tried. God makes no mistakes.”
In the success and the failure, you realize it’s actually all up to God. I think that gives you the biggest confidence boost ever, whether it be in the workplace, your career, your family, or your relationship with God.
Number three is having mentorship and teachers. Once you understand the tradition, and started doing what you say and saying what you do, you need to have a guide so that you don’t get arrogant from the successes.
You need to have a mentor, teacher, and someone who is spiritually sound as a sounding board to you. You need to be investing in those kinds of relationships and mentorships– in love, in your parents, your siblings, and your children because that’s what the real legacy is. I think that helps you be confident.
Your alter-ego, “Yasguru,” has become a major aspect of your career. Who is she and how was she curated?
I was a matchmaker for a long period of time, almost two years. I got 55 couples married, Alhamdulillah, through the process. People would come to me with relationship issues, and they would say, “Go to the Guru.” I was like, “Oh, God, don’t call me that.”
So they would come sit with me, either to help them get married, or I’d help them understand that this is not the right match, or this is a really good match. I realized that I didn’t want to match anymore because our community is a lot, and matching takes a lot of time, energetic effort, and spiritual effort.
I make a lot of dua for people. I pray about it–we’re just facilitators of God’s lessons. It’s not coming from us, but through us. We’re one of the asbab, one of the many causes of this Earth, and the temporality of this realm.
So, I realized I didn’t want to do that anymore because I had children, and they needed me more than anything energetically. So, instead, I turned to doing advice when I could.
“Keep going even when it’s difficult to go, and give people hope that they’re not alone.”
Marry Mondays was born with this idea of, “I can give people advice on how to match themselves, about what’s important and what’s not, navigating difficult relationships, seeing things that are red flags, understanding how to speak to one another from a place of compassion, having rules when engaging with each other, and when arguing, for example, thinking about core values and being more introspective about who they are. Keep going even when it’s difficult to go, and give people hope that they’re not alone.” That’s what Yasguru became.
I retired the name Yasguru because I realized it could be really offensive to people in Hindu and Sikh traditions who are actual gurus, from yoga specification to spiritual, religious authorities.
So I thought maybe I’ll just become Yasmin Elhahahady and go into the comedy realm. Of course, my father, mom, husband, and the people around me were like, “Well, don’t you think it would be better to help people in different ways than just being a silly comedian?”, and I was like, “Maybe, we’ll see.”
I don’t think I’m going to be a comedian for the rest of my life, but it’s been a good ride to bring me joy and allow me to create things that I’m proud of.
How did you get into matchmaking initially?
What got me into that was I realized that I knew different people and thought, “Why shouldn’t people just meet and get to know each other in no-pressure situations. I got good at reading people. I got to understand their temperament.
But I want to say that my marriage right now is not perfect. People think when you give advice, it’s because your life is really good, perfect, and joyful. The different way to look at it is, I’m giving advice because I don’t want someone to make the same mistakes I did. Our relationship isn’t perfect because no relationship is perfect. Some things we can control, some things we can’t control.
I was in a very abusive first marriage basically on every level. And it’s hard to not have resentment. It’s hard to not carry pain and feel that you’re owed something for that. There’s entitlement that comes with pain, too.
“I just want to be a better person every day and help other people be better people, too.”
I was scared. It created fear and sadness in me. It was debilitating. I definitely grew from that, but I also felt really entitled after that, which is the wrong way to think. That takes time to let go of– the “I’m entitled to a perfect life because I went through that.” No, you’re not, and it’s still going to be painful.
Don’t think, “I did everything right, and all of these things happened, so now I’m owed this.” I’m privileged to have a father who is a good father, but that doesn’t mean you’re owed a good relationship, making good decisions with your life, or not being lied to or hurt.
I feel like the beginning of love is very transactional, and the end of love is someone that’s in full appreciation of the waves– being loving and giving unconditionally, without expecting something.
Congratulations on making your TV debut on episode 2 of “True Story w/ Ed and Randall” on Peacock. What was the experience of being able to share your story with the world like for you, and why do we need more stories like this?
I’m still humbled by that experience, still incredibly grateful, and in awe of how much care they put into it. I feel that I’m lucky to have had that experience and I believe that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, God makes no mistakes, so it was supposed to happen exactly the way that it did.
I feel extremely blessed by the experience and I would love to do more TV. I’d love to tell our stories in a way that is dignified, raises our heads, shows our fragility and vulnerability, and inspires others.
It has been a beautiful ride and one that I will never forget. It’s a truly special experience for me and my family. I love that it’s for all of us. I love that we’re all in it.
I think it was a really authentic representation of my experience, and that’s not easy to ask Hollywood, L.A., movie, and TV-level people to talk about our stories in an authentic way.
That’s what we’re struggling with, and I feel like they did everything in their power to do that. So that made me feel like people who have been following me now fully understand my story, and how it drives a lot of the work that I do. That makes me feel like we did something good here, and may God only bring good from it, Inshallah.
Between your work in law, comedy, and advocacy, how would you best define your purpose and what are some of your future goals?
My future goals for myself include trying my best to be loving, dignifying, and merciful to everybody around me, but specifically to my children, husband, and family. That’s the number one goal.
The number two goal is to create things that make people feel seen and heard as themselves. The third goal is to make sure that I’m working towards a field of instruction, something that is in the teaching realm and in service, that is energizing. I just want to be a better person every day and help other people be better people, too.
The work you do, and who you are today is very much emblematic of that high school girl who defied all judgments, all the negativity to persevere towards her goals being who she is unapologetically. You are still breaking a lot of barriers, stereotypes and norms by occupying these spaces as a hijabi Muslim woman–what advice would you have for other hijabi women and girls who are struggling with their identity and are afraid to chase after their dreams?
The first one is that, you’re not alone. It’s okay to feel those feelings, and it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. Try to channel those feelings into some constructive action that’s not destroying you, your family, or how precious you are.
Remember that you are so very precious, special, and unique. God created you in your full wholeness and your full love. You’re God’s walking legacy of his love on this Earth. You are unique and you are special because you’re part of something so much bigger than yourself. A part of our uniqueness and our specialness as human beings is that we’re a part of the collective humanity.
“Do the coolest stuff that you’re most proud of. Do it in a way that’s authentic to your morals and your core values, and watch the magic that comes from that.”
So don’t feel like you’re isolated in your feelings or that you’re weird for feeling those feelings. Truly accepting yourself and loving yourself is accepting and loving your place in a larger community, and accepting and loving the need to have community–to never feel like you have to be by yourself.
And please, believe that people are mostly good rather than bad. Try your best to not only have a positive outlook of your Lord, that’s the key, but that permeates everything. Having a positive outlook on people– instead of accepting the worst things about them, be hopeful that there are much better things that they can show you, if you give them permission, if you show them safety, and if you believe in them, too.
When you have a more positive outlook on people instead of being this defeatist person, who is defeated by all the terrible things on this Earth that are happening, you actually see it as potential. There’s potential for the best of things to happen if you appeal to people’s humanity.
So have a positive outlook on people and what is possible because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala can do everything. No matter what a human being wants or does not want, God can make anything possible, and everything happen.
My biggest advice to all of the Muslim women out there is, “Do the coolest stuff that you’re most proud of. Do it in a way that’s authentic to your morals and your core values, and watch the magic that comes from that.”
To learn more about Yasmin Elhady and to stay informed on all of her upcoming events, visit her website. Be sure to also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for more laughs and content you’ll truly enjoy and relate to!