Exploring the Arab American Identity in the Midwest with Dearborn Girl Podcast
Part of the Detroit metropolitan area, Dearborn, Michigan, is home to the largest Arab American and Muslim population in the United States—some 40,000 people. It's also home to Dearborn Girl, a podcast launched in May 2019 by best friends Rima Imad Fadlallah and Yasmeen Kadouh. During 25- to 35-minute episodes, they discuss the Arab American woman identity and pass the mic to other hosts to give voice to others in the community. This duo is determined to change the media's narrative on Arab American and Muslim women by showing that they're strong, capable and ready to talk. We spoke with Kadouh to learn more about their work.
For someone who has never been to Dearborn before, how would you describe the city?
YK: Dearborn is this beautiful Arab American enclave. It's this space to for Arabs to unapologetically own our identities. Dearborn especially signifies to Arabs and even Muslims across the nation that we do and can take up space in this country, especially when we've been told not to. This is the place that gets to tell the Arab American story.
What is Dearborn Girl?
YK: Dearborn Girl is a podcast that chronicles the stories of Arab and/or Muslim women from the Dearborn community. My co-founder and I wanted to be able to create a space for people to share their stories and really empower our community to wholeheartedly own our identities. But then, at the same time, to carve out space for our community. Our stories are so powerful, so beautiful—it's like the idea that you can't be what you can't see.
Who is your primary audience?
YK: Gen Z or Millennial Arab and Muslim women that want to feel seen by the media but also just really want a good story.
What topics or stories do you explore?
YK: The main purpose of the podcast is identity affirmation. But we've also had conversations around race and about "being the first." For example, we had a guest who was a nominee for a CNN Hero and another who was the first in her family to go to Harvard. We also focus on community engagement. The last couple of episodes, before a little pause, were around the elections in Dearborn and encouraging people to go out and vote.
What inspired you to create a platform for Arab and Muslim women?
YK: I never felt like I fit in, ever. And I think that was always the driving factor to ask myself, "Why you don't fit?" Then Rima and I became good friends, and we'd have conversations around identity, Dearborn, and our community. We had similar pain points, as far as not feeling like there was ever space for us. We were kind of always going back and forth, not necessarily talking about a podcast, but thinking maybe we could do something.
When did you decide that the platform would be in podcast form?
YK: We started by having a series of coffee chats at a local place. We would post a title and topic, and women could come and talk. Then we began wondering how we could make this space more accessible, because the capacity was only 15 to 20 people. But at the same time, thinking bigger: How do we take the conversations we're having, and open then up to more people? And we were like, OK, let's do a podcast!
Why did you decide to create a broader media company instead of just having one podcast?
YK: It happened very naturally. Arabs around the country, and in over 85 countries, were streaming and listening. Our hyper-local podcast went outside the bounds of our city because the story is unique. We decided that for what we're doing to only sit within the bounds of Dearborn didn't feel true to our truths and our purposes. So for right now, we're taking a more national approach, but in the next couple of years, we want Arabize Media to be global.
Since the first episode of the podcast, their business has broadened. Kadouh says they've paused the podcast as they transition to a larger media group, Arabize Media. In the meantime, you can listen to their previous episodes on Spotify.