Speaking truth to power, this lawyer-comedian-matchmaker serves her community with passion
FAIRFAX, Virginia—A lawyer, a comedian and a matchmaker walk into a room.
Yasmin Elhady is a federal attorney, a stand-up comedian, and a relationship consultant in the District of Columbia area.
Growing up in an immigrant family in Huntsville, Alabama was tricky. Her family had been seeking political asylum for years since her father, a former Libyan diplomat, was threatened with death under the Gaddafi regime in the 1980s. They moved to Huntsville in 1997, where her father got a job as a professor at the University of Alabama - Huntsville.
“We came here because my dad was threatened with death and no other country would take us in because my father is Libyan,” said Elhady. “He had friends that disappeared which we later found out were tortured in prisons and then killed by Gaddafi.”
Living below the Mason-Dixon line was tiring at times. The Elhady family faced racial epithets from the rural community on various occasions with people spewing hate, yelling things like “You need to go back to your country. You should die. You got a bomb under that thing.”
“People don’t usually want to have a conversation with you when they’re yellin’ those things at you from either a moving truck,” said Elhady said in her southern twang. “Beer cans thrown at me...I was physically assaulted in a mall. I was booed out of Wal-Mart after September 11.”
Despite this hatred, Yasmin planted deep roots in Huntsville. She became interested in speaking truth to power, something the dynamic 32-year-old credits her parents with instilling in her.
“I realized very early on that I didn’t like bullies, and that I would crush bullies left and right because it was unjust—and that’s a big part of my personality,” Elhady said.
Realizing that justice drove her, Elhady went on to attend the prestigious UCLA Law School. It was during law school in 2007 that Elhady first began match-making. A very single and visceral Elhady was always the go-to person for relationship advice.
“I had the ability to intuit who would really get along, who would find someone exciting, and who would find someone boring,” she said. “I was very single, but I was intuitive. I gave good advice and I was respectful.”
Ironically, the relationship consultant’s first ever relationship ended in divorce. She discovered, albeit the hard way, that she had heaps of internal work to do before getting into a lifelong relationship of her own.
“Without my experiences, without what I’ve been through I don’t think I would have been as good as I am today,” Elhady said.
Years later, Elhady met her current husband, Haider, who taught the relationship guru a thing or two about healthy relationships. After the matchmaking began invading Elhady’s personal life, it was Haider who thought of creating YasGuru.
YasGuru became an official platform for Elhady to provide relationship advice on a wider level, using social media to push out healthy relationship strategies.
“I realized that after matching for so long, I wanted people to actually match themselves and teach themselves these really important skills,” Elhady said. “I wanted to share with people something I wish somebody had told me when I was 23.”
So why get into standup comedy then?
Comedy was a vehicle Elhady used to normalize Muslims during highly politicized times. She wanted to prove that Muslim women were not only capable of laughing and having fun, but also of making others laugh and have a good time as well.
Greta Hendricks, Elhady’s colleague and fellow federal attorney, first encouraged Elhady to start doing standup.
“I have a friend who does standup comedy in the Washington, D.C. area, and he’s funny but Yasmin was way funnier. I figured if he does well, she would do really well,” Hendricks said with a laugh.
The rambunctious lawyer faced a large crowd during one of her first ever gigs at the Black Squirrel in Northern Virginia:
“I’ll answer some questions that you might have,” said Elhady from the stage. “Like, ‘where’s Aladdin, Princess Jasmine? Where’s Abu?’ You know, I’m just going to say kindly, I left them at your mom’s house last night...she was screaming their names.”
Roaring laughter shook up the room.
Elhady not only uses comedy to crush stereotypes and textbook orientalism, she also uses it as therapy to work out the difficulties of being a wife, a first-time mom, and a Muslim in today’s America.
Her charming personality, hilarious wit and wild spirit is infectious to those around her.
“She’s what fills up every room. She is an energy that people just gravitate towards because there’s so much energy there,” said Boushra Aghil, Elhady’s childhood best friend.
Taking on each of her very different roles, Elhady finds comfort in knowing that her work benefits the community, allowing people to have the right “to live freely, to speak freely and to think freely.