The LA-based Saudi independent artist, singer, songwriter, and pleasure activist, Rotana Tarabzouni, will release the first season of her straight-to-camera sex education comedy show F*D & Blessed.
Tarabzouni was named BBC’s 100 Most Powerful Women. She collaborated with Vogue Arabia, Fendi, and Lucky Brand in their “New Class” campaign about “a generation of those who dare to be anything but conventional.” She was also covered by LA Weekly, Huffington Post, and AJ+.
In an interview with Muslim Girl, Tarabzouni talked about how comedy, in and of itself, was never meant to be part of her script as a host, adding that the show was supposed to be an “educational diary series” where she would tell people about the things that she “couldn’t believe” she was “oblivious to” — only to find her sense of humor spontaneously emerging during the shooting.
“Comedy just came naturally because I was so damn awkward talking about topics like sex, self-pleasure, sexual repression, etc. I had never said these words out loud, and I get funny when I’m nervous,” Tarabzouni told Muslim Girl. “My director Clara Aranovich, who was behind the camera, started to talk back at me while I was filming, or correct me when I would say something naive.”
For Tarabzouni, the show itself wasn’t an easy task for different reasons, and being humorous was a great reminder for her of her own humanness.
“I think humor is one of the greatest medicines that humanity has. This show was incredibly difficult for me to make for cultural reasons, feeling insecure, imposter syndrome, etc. Humor reminded me that I was only human and was just trying my best,” Tarabzouni explained.
Made up of 15 episodes, Tarabzouni does not exclude her Arabic-speaking audience. She is going to be using some Arabic in between during her episodes. Also, she provides Arabic and English translations for all of her episodes.
“Translating the show to Arabic was incredibly powerful to me because, for the first time in my entire life, I was using words like ‘sexual energy,’ ‘erotic aliveness,’ and ‘pleasure activism’ in my native tongue,” Tarabzouni said.
Tarabzouni explained that the aim of the show is to break “cycles of sexual abuse and domination, and inherited intergenerational trauma” that exist in the Muslim and MENA communities.
“This show is me finally saying out loud that sexuality is not bad,” Tarabzouni explained. “It is good, and in fact, holy. It is a gift, and a portal, to the divine.”
Tarabzouni discussed how she had “multiple breakdowns of crying and doubt” during the making of the show, specifically because she was working on it during a time when her “biggest fears” came true. “I’m so very excited, yet scared. It’s perfect,” Tarabzouni expressed her feelings regarding the release of the show. “That is just what happens when you are doing something that stretches you, that is uncharted territory for you — something that makes your whole body intuitively go like ‘fuck yes,’ and yet, you don’t feel you have the courage to do it — but you do it anyway.”
The first season of the show tackles a variety of topics including pleasure, anatomy, hymen, cervix, periods, consent, eroticism, sexual energy, arousal non-concordance, cultural interpretation of religion, amongst others. Also, the NY-based Saudi-Palestinian actress Dina Shihabi is going to be featured in one of Tarabzouni’s talks.
“These were the things I felt were my moral duty to start with,” Tarabzouni elaborated her choice of topics regarding her first season. “They are foundational elements that have been hidden in the shadows. And, addressing them is a huge part of harm reduction, and learning how to not perpetuate rape culture.”
Being “a curious Saudi girl,” Tarabzouni is getting a “Sex Doula Training” from The National Black Doula Association to be better equipped for her show’s upcoming seasons — specifically, the second season which is going to aim at covering more topics including, but not limited to, sexuality, power, cultural bondage, and mothers.
“Once we have covered these basics, we must get to the root of all of these things,” Tarabzouni explained the transition from her first season to the second one. “This is where our relationships to culture, God, our mothers, and those who don’t look, feel, or believe like us come in.”
This is not the first time Tarabzouni creates a one-woman show. In 2020, Tarabzouni performed her one-woman theater show Alien of Extraordinary Ability (AOEA) “in public about two or three times in the U.S.” — but was suspended because of COVID-19.
“Alien of Extraordinary Ability (AOEA) is a theater show that chronicles my journey of leaving home, and coming to the U.S. to pursue my path as an artist and my freedom,” Tarabzouni said. “It’s a blend of spoken word and music that takes the audience on a journey of self-realization in the face of Saudi tradition, God, friendships, sexuality, and family.”
Laying out further differences underlying her two shows, Tarabzouni added that F*D & Blessed specifically aims to educate about the very things that the Muslim and MENA communities are inclined to ignore.
“This means talking about things that are taboo or feel too ‘big,’ ‘difficult,’ or ‘sacred’ to touch. These are precisely the things we have to talk about — especially the things we have been brainwashed to believe we must simply have, and never question,” Tarabzouni explained. “Even something as foundational as faith is meant to be reflected on, examined, and questioned.”
Being Saudi-born, Tarabzouni expressed how her early life in Saudi Arabia has been a driving force for her to create the show.
“Growing up in Saudi, I was desperate to find Arab, Muslim women that loved their culture and religion deeply, and also embraced their wild nature as women,” Tarabzouni said. “I felt so alone, and like no one could understand how difficult it was to be myself. I felt like no one could relate to how much I would lose for being myself.”
Through this show, Tarabzouni hopes she will be able to create for all Muslims, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, the space she wished she had as a child.
“I hope this show speaks to Muslim girls, and the Muslim LGBTQIA+ community, and lets them know that they are not alone,” Tarabzouni said.
The show F*D & Blessed launches this July 1st on Tarabzouni’s Instagram.