She’s asked people on the streets of London what they think of the hijab, she’s offered Arab snacks to South Koreans, and of course made headlines over the world for getting married to life, all to break cultural stereotypes and champion women. And now Haifa Beseisso, the YouTube and Instagram sensation behind Fly with Haifa, is knocking down streotypes through rap. The Palestinian-American, known for her vibrant and cheerful travel videos, has released “Stereotype World.” The rap video, which is part of YouTube's ‘Creators for Change’ initiative, intends to address misconceptions about the Middle East.
Upset about how the Arab region is portrayed on mainstream international media, with one of the biggest stereotypes being women don’t have a voice, Beseisso wanted to paint a different picture about how many Arab women are actually living. "Spread rumours about us and we gonna clap back," she raps in the video that took about four months to make. "Doctors, lawyers, coffee shop owners. CEOs, ministers, Ph.D. holders." Another strong line from the song she co-wrote is: “Pass the microphone, let me speak up and vent. The Middle East girls came down to represent ... So, yalla, yalla, yalla, yalla, let’s put an end to all the stereotypes, inshallah!”
“It was always my childhood dream to show the world the real Middle East. What I see in the movies has always upset me and I don’t believe is true to who we are,” Beseisso, who also produced the clip, told “Grazia” Middle East.
She wears an armor every single morning and serves the world with it No one knows the full story But they see the glam And assume she must never feel down End of rap caption Goodnight y’all Peace to all of those fighting their own battle I see you I love you H U M A N B E I N G @just_daniela . . . Golden neck accessory by my sister @dulcebysafiya
So the star who has been associated with brands like Canon, Dove, Lipton and Pandora, asked influencers from different parts of the Arab world to help spread the word. The girl rap, which faced several filming challenges, features stars from Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Beseisso, who does voice-over dubbing and MCes events sometimes, also made sure people of different ages from other countries like Palestine, Iraq, Somalia and Algeria were included in the authentic cast that radiates positive energy. They are all dressed in different colourful and embellished national costumes, including kaftans, abayas and djelabas.
This year, Beseisso was picked as one of the 50 ambassadors for YouTube’s worldwide ‘Creators For Change’ campaign, which “spotlights inspirational creators who use YouTube to foster productive conversations around tough issues.” And the vlogger, who was born and grew up in Dubai, used the funds the platform awarded her to make the seven-minute, 40-second clip. The stunning video was filmed in Dubai, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan for practical reasons and the countries’ historic and dramatic attributes. Numerous backdrops representing different aspects of the Arab world, like the Egyptian pyramids, Morocco’s Blue City, the serenity of the Dubai desert and skyscrapers, pop up.
Beseisso describes herself as “a girl from the Middle East who loves to travel, talk to people, and discover the world in her own way” on her Fly with Haifa YouTube channel. She started the popular channel when she quit her job after being told she would have to remove her hijab and speak the dialect used in the Gulf if she wanted her dream of being on camera to come true. While she was enjoying the travel-related job she had after graduating from the American University of Dubai's digital production and storytelling programme, she wasn’t willing to change herself to follow her dreams. So Fly with Haifa took off with the aim of celebrating cultural exchanges and letting others know they don’t have to transform themselves to pursue their goals. It also allowed her to do what she loves the most, travel. This has undoubtedly made Beseisso a role model for many hijabi women.
The channel features fun travel vlog-style or quick guide videos, as well as socially related and poignant ones, like when she first visited Palestine or surprised her mum with a visit to the Maldives. And in order to be a bridge between cultures, she speaks in English and Arabic, using subtitles so audiences across the globe can follow.
Beseisso became the first Arab YouTube presenter and host during the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, interviewing celebrities like Icona Pop and Sting for the event. And the 27-year-old activist earned international headlines last February by donning a white dress and walking the streets to celebrate her marriage to life to show Arab women shouldn’t have to succumb to societal pressures.
Watch the rap video here: