Do you remember a time when watching a comedy helped you forget pain you were feeling? That line in a movie that made you laugh so hard you forgot why you were upset or sad for even a short time?
This is the precise reason Reema Jallaq, otherwise known as the Caucasian_Arab, became a comedian. Reema fell in love with comedy during middle school. She wanted to use laughter to heal the world. Her motto is, “Laugh a little and heal the world.” In fact, Reema has been healing people with her comedic nature and style on Instagram and on her TikTok, but that’s not the only thing she does.
Muslim Girl: We’ve been a fan of your work as we watched you this last year gain followers on TikTok as the Caucasian_Arab. But we also heard that you are involved in works of advocacy as well. Tell us about it.
Reema Jallaq: I try to spread my time doing humanitarian work as an advocate for Palestine as well as women’s rights. Activism takes a lot of passion and organizing. I’ve lived many lives and experienced lots of things that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I am a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor, and a divorced woman who is just trying to make a difference in the world.
At the age of 16 I was placed in an arranged marriage. I had no choice in the matter, as it was for many young women during that time. My father’s family was very old school in culture. At the time my dad was afraid I’d run off and get a boyfriend. Lots of parents were afraid of that, as they were new to the country and didn’t want to lose their identity and where they came from. The marriage lasted 9 years. I remarried again a few years later and divorced. While it was difficult to go through, I take pride in the fact that I am a fighter and I’m independent. I have a voice and I use it to speak out against violence, not only toward women but the Palestinian people as well.
We know you are a Muslim woman making a name for yourself in the world of comedy, but Palestine is a big part of your life as well. Tell us about it.
RJ: Palestine is my home. It’s the country of my father. I use every opportunity to talk about what is going on there, to the point that I have been shadow banned on all platforms of social media. Trying to make it in the world of comedy is hard enough being a woman, but it becomes especially hard when you are a Palestinian woman who speaks out against occupation and oppression. But worrying about being banned shouldn’t be an issue to consider for speaking out against apartheid and occupation. So, being banned now and then might happen because that is a topic I’m not willing to keep quiet about. I will never compromise on Palestine.
You are public about the trauma you endured in life. Many would shy away from that, but you haven’t.
RJ: I have suffered trauma like many others, but I found a way to heal through laughter and making others laugh as well. When I was a young girl I was raped by a family member. When you ask people in the Arab community if rape or sexual assault happens in our community they will tell you, “that doesn’t happen here.” But it does. I use social media to talk about all the things I’ve gone through hoping that others who have experienced similar things can find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone. I don’t shy away from my history. I talk about it to help others who want to come forward and heal.
We have to face our trauma to heal from it. Unfortunately, as a divorced woman, I haven’t found a lot of support in my community. I’m not trying to be a troublemaker, but no matter what my intentions are, there are those who will turn their backs on me for speaking up.
We think you are a hero to many survivors and a beacon of hope for those who experienced trauma by showing you can overcome and find a way to heal.
RJ: I’ve always had the ability to make others around me laugh. If my comedy can help people heal in a natural way, I’m here for it. I remember even back when I was in middle school being able to make people laugh when they were down and it brought me so much purpose.
Getting up on stage and performing as an Arab, Muslim woman is a huge deal for me. Especially doing that in front of the Arab community. My hope is to shatter stereotypes and pave the way for women to follow to join me on this journey.
Talking about my life as part of my comedy show has helped me heal. Keeping things bottled up like we have been taught makes the pain worsen, so why not let it out in a positive way. We should not be ashamed to speak about our story.
How did you get started as the Caucasian_Arab in comedy?
RJ: I’ve never fit the standard of being Arab, being Muslim, or being who society wanted me to be. My mom is a White woman. I’m half Palestinian. I’m light-skinned and a bit thick. But I’m proud of who I am and what I look like. And most importantly, I love myself. Everyone should love themselves.
My big break came during the Covid quarantine when a video I made went viral. I did not expect what would come next. Sometimes social media and timing just create that perfect storm you’ve been waiting for.
Before that, I moved to Chicago as part of her 5-year plan to work on stand-up comedy and my social media. What I got was not what I expected at first. I loved social media but not stand-up comedy. I wasn’t feeling it, until I was invited by a friend to join him and other comedians for a comedy tour in Palestine. It is known as the “1001 Palestine Comedy Festival.” Originally I declined the invitation 8 different times, but my friend Amer Zahr refused to give up on me. He told me he didn’t know what it was, but there was something about me that made him believe in me. He also said he believed I was naturally a comedian. That’s exactly the push I needed to take that big leap into stand-up.
MG: Tell us about your experience in Palestine.
RJ: I joined the crew in Palestine and got to perform on stage where my father, for the first time, got to see his daughter make people laugh. This was such an amazing moment for me. It was also very important because I was a woman doing stand-up comedy live on stage in an Arab country.
During the tour, one of the comedians went to visit their family in Nablus. While there he witnessed a funeral and told the others about it after he returned. The other comedians, including me, were very saddened and did not have much to say on the bus ride to their next show. I remember this moment because it was the most silent part of our trip during the tour. We were set to perform in Nablus that same night, but we were hesitant. The comedian who had witnessed the funeral reminded us why it was so important for us to perform. He said, “These people need to heal and we can help with that. They need us more than ever right now.” We all agreed and it was one of the most memorable shows we had ever done. Despite the sadness and loss, we had gone through with the show and people in the town showed up to the event in numbers.
Reema fell in love with stand-up comedy while on tour in Palestine. It helped shed light on her ability to heal others while on stage. The doubts she had about stand-up completely disappeared and her journey to becoming one of the greatest female comedians of our time has begun.
Reema says, “Everything happened to me for a reason… even the bad. It all lead me on the path I am on now.” We need more people like Reema in the world to heal all the open wounds. Thank you for making us laugh and smile, for giving us hope, and reminding us to love who we are and never be afraid in the face of adversity. As a fan, I hope we get to see a Mo Amer and Reema Jallaq collab for either a skit on his Netflix show or a stand-up tour. Imagine the power of these two working together!