When people think of Palestinians, the first thing that comes to mind might not be American pop culture stars. However, make no mistake, Palestinians will never fail to surprise, whether that be with a home-cooked meal from the homeland, or by rising to the top of American stardom. Top names that come to mind include DJ Khaled, FouseyTube, Bella and Gigi Hadid, and Anwar Jibawi, all ranging from hip-hop star to model, to youtube “millionaires.”
DJ Khaled with his son, Asahd
DJ Khaled is perhaps the most well known Palestinian pop star. Born to Palestinian immigrants who were traditional musicians themselves, Khaled was encouraged to explore popular music of many genres as he was growing up. His rise to stardom arguably began in his time spent early on in Jamaica where he began competing in “sound clashes”, which were similar to DJ sound system hip-hop battles in the US. Khaled pushed the boundaries of what was expected at the clashes by mixing dancehall culture and blending it with hip-hop, quickly becoming a crowd favorite. He also built a name for himself through Miami ‘pirate radio’, hosting 99 Jamz, and eventually getting picked up by Luther Campbell of “the Luke Show” in 1998. Attracted to Khaled’s larger than life persona, Luther used this to build both his own show, as well as popular conception of the growing Khaled. Eventually, Khaled was able to use his notoriety to start organizing already existing stars to collaborate on his projects, leading to many highly successful albums including We the Best, Victory, I Changed a Lot, and Grateful to name a few. Although DJ Khaled creates a larger than life persona, he has a resonant theme of gratitude and counting his blessings. He even announced that he and his family would be donating $25k to the American Red Cross’s Hurricane Harvey relief fund saying, ““You’re gonna be okay.You’re gonna be great. Matter of fact, we are great. And God is the greatest, and I’m here to help out.”
Yousef Erakat, aka FouseyTube in full glory
The youngest of four siblings born to Palestinian parents, Yousef Erakat, more commonly known as FouseyTube, quickly rose to Youtube stardom via his comical spoof videos about his traditional family as well as his Palestinian roots. Yousef’s sister Noura, an activist and human rights lawyer, encouraged him to study acting, leading him to a degree from the San Jose State University. His content has many motifs: comedy, viral pranks, experiments with behavior and social justice, and commentary on his personal life and struggles. Many of his followers, “bruh bruhs,” can relate to the multi-faceted and highly entertaining nature of his content. Although comedy based, Yousef seems unafraid to get real with his audience, sharing his struggles with physical and mental health issues including weight loss, depression, and anxiety. His brother comments that the FouseyTube everyone sees is only one aspect of Yousef, and this does not represent his full nature. Yousef comments, “I wanted to show my audience that even though I go through depression and everything else, look at me now.” Yousef has been a key partner for many marketers, including creating original content for AdBlitz, and even partnering with Microsoft to help promote a social justice conference taking place in New York City.
Bella and Gigi Hadid
Bella and Gigi Hadid are both icons in the fashion and modeling industry, born to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and former model Yolanda Hadid, as well as real-estate mogul Mohamed Hadid, a Palestinian American. Gigi, the elder of the two was quick into the modeling game, starting out at only two years old after Paul Marciano of Guess clothing discovered her. In 2015 she was Daily Front Row’s Model of the year, and by 2016 the British Fashion Council honored her with the title of International Model of the Year. She has made multiple appearances in magazines, TV shows, short films, and music videos.
Bella has also had a highly successful modeling career as well, becoming Model.com’s 2016 Model of the year, and is currently Dior Makeup’s new generation pop icon. In addition to her modeling, she is a nationally ranked equestrian, starting competitions at the young age of three. She launched her first fashion brand, Robert Riley’s, in 2014 at the age of 18.
Anwar Jibawi first gained traction on the social media platform, Vine, with his intensely funny comedic sketches, often poking fun at cultural trends and human behavior. Once he felt he outgrew Vine, he partnered with Shots Studios in 2016 to collaborate on video creation and moved to Youtube where he quickly attracted the likes of over a million subscribers. His comedy, although spoofing aspects of culture, is nearly ubiquitously light-hearted. He says, “I like playing all types of comedic roles, from romantic comedy to action comedy to comedy-drama. I’m Middle Eastern and grew up in a Latino community, so I love playing all types of roles that appeal to all types of cultures.” Interestingly, he helped set up and launch Mike Tyson’s YouTube channel in 2017, and now they often appear on each other’s channels. If you are looking for a lighthearted laugh, Anwar just may be your answer! He can be found on his YouTube channel, Anwar Jibawi which is creeping ever closer to 2 million subscribers as you read. But now you are done, so go check it out!