On paper, influencer Faiza Rammuny and I have nothing in common. I’m from perpetually sunny Phoenix, Arizona; she’s from the windiest of cities, Chicago, Illinois. She was raised a conservative Muslim; I was brought up Jewish — and reformed at that. I was allowed to love whomever I wanted and marry (or not) whenever I pleased; she was introduced only to men her father approved of and was meant to marry before 25. I was taught to never care what anyone thought of me, so long as I was true to myself; Rammuny was taught to prioritize her reputation in the community above all else.
Despite our vast differences, though, I found myself laughing, crying, and deeply empathizing with the 35-year-old on a recent Saturday afternoon. We were no longer two people from opposite spheres of influence — we were just two young women trying to make our way in the world. As Rammuny shared her life story with me, I couldn’t wait to hear more. I, in turn, felt compelled to share my own experiences and thoughts with her. Within minutes, I could clearly see why she and her online platform Expired N FabulousTM were so successful. It was obvious why nearly 400,000 people followed along on Rammuny’s adventures on Instagram®, and why thousands more — from varying backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientations — have identified with her story. Many have even become clients, booking “Vent Sessions” with her, through which she shares advice.
Rammuny was born to a Palestinian father and Galatian-Italian mother, and spent most of her childhood in Chicago’s South Side. “When my mom met my dad, one of the things they decided was that any kids they had were going to be raised Muslim with a conservative Arab upbringing, and my mom was completely OK with that,” she explains. “I wasn’t allowed to date, wasn’t allowed to wear certain clothes, really wasn’t allowed to have an opinion in a lot of ways.”
One of the major ideals of Rammuny’s conservative upbringing was her father’s obsession with marriage and belief that a woman “expires” at 25 years old. In spite of that, however, Rammuny found herself 25 and unmarried in 2009 — with no prospects in sight. It was that year that she started an anonymous Google® blog called 51 FridaysTM, chronicling the journey of a father trying to marry off his daughter by introducing her to a different man every Friday night. “It was inspired by a true story — my experience with my dad,” she says. She kept the content private at first, knowing that her dad couldn’t find it that way (he wasn’t internet savvy). “The blog was an escape, a place where I could just vent, not have any censorship, not have anybody tell me it was right or wrong, where I could just talk,” she says.
However, shortly after starting 51 Fridays, a family friend committed suicide because he was being forced into an unwanted marriage, and Rammuny realized it was important to go public with her blog. “The response was immediate,” she says. “I don’t know if it was just destiny or God’s way of trafficking everybody over to me, but it caught on like wildfire.” Before she knew it, there were people from all walks of life turning to Rammuny to share their own stories. “Anything I heard, I would share with other people,” she explains. “Listening turned to learning, and learning turned to sharing — that’s when I finally felt like I had a voice.”
A few years later, at 28, she decided to go against her culture, faith, and family, and date a man she fell for, whom she nicknamed “Pan,” because he was like Peter Pan and didn’t seem to want to grow up. The relationship soon became emotionally and physically abusive, and she chose to leave. She’d given her virginity to Pan — and disobeyed her family and faith to be with him — and he reacted to that by spreading rumors and trying to destroy the most valuable thing in Rammuny’s culture: her reputation.
She was quickly ostracized, by everyone from her religious leaders to her own family. People were told not to turn to her for advice because she would lead them astray, noting that she couldn’t even control her own reputation. “It got so bad that I contemplated suicide, and at that point, I ended up being hospitalized,” Rammuny says, tears streaming down her face.
[Editor’s note: If you or a loved one have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please be sure to reach out to a skilled healthcare professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.]
Shortly after, Rammuny created Expired N Fabulous, and shared her story, unfiltered and unchanged — with her real name attached to it. “There are so many misconceptions because MusRabi are very private,” she explains. [Editor’s note: “MusRabi” is Rammuny’s portmanteau for “Muslim Arabs.”] “I decided to go against all of that and recorded a video sharing my story.” She knew that there had to be someone out there who could relate to her and feel less alone after watching. Turns out, there were plenty: the video went viral almost immediately. Thousands of people, from Saudi Arabia to Mississippi, began contacting Rammuny.
“Before I knew it, I was followed by amazing people — people I would have never connected with had I not shared that vulnerability and decided to use comedy to bridge that gap,’” Rammuny says proudly. “I realized I had a responsibility to not only let girls in my position know that they’re not alone, but also to open the doors for people to understand my culture and my faith in a way that I myself didn’t [always] understand.”
Today, Rammuny is still unmarried, and defies her restrictive upbringing on a daily basis, sharing comedic videos and blog posts with the world, and shining light on the misconceptions about and within Arab culture. She is determined to change the dialogue around her faith and community — and with a recently released book, her From Broken to FABULOUS GuideTM, she seems well on her way to accomplishing that goal. Read on to hear more of Rammuny’s story, what she thinks of being dubbed the “Arab Carrie Bradshaw,” and what products have a permanent place on her vanity.
Spotlyte: Your father was never aware of 51 Fridays or your writing career. What was your mother’s take on it all?
Faiza Rammuny: My mom was aware and supportive. I think she knew I needed to have an escape; otherwise, I would have just had a nervous breakdown. I have a voice and want my thoughts to be heard, but I had people putting duct tape over my mouth. Writing was the only escape — an escape I could control. Even though I had to do it behind a façade, it gave me light in a dark place.
Spotlyte: Your initial plan for Expired N Fabulous was to share your story and dating experience with the world, but how did you foresee its role beyond that?
FR: I couldn’t have anticipated that it could have had that ripple effect. I had no idea that different people from different walks of life — Jewish girls, Christian girls, Catholic girls, agnostic, atheist — could relate to this.
Spotlyte: How did the platform begin to take shape, and how did you expand to covering other topics within Arab culture?
FR: I got to a point where I honestly hated my community, my faith, the people in it. It was because of all the people around me giving this distorted, ugly image of the faith and the culture, and that made me feel I had a responsibility to show a different side. I started finding my own space and read the Holy Book. I started educating myself, and I realized all of the things [I’d been told] I have to be as a woman weren’t true.
I learned that the religion was about harmony, understanding, and acceptance. It’s about making mistakes, but learning from them. God is always there with an open hand, yet we never hear that side. Here I was being exposed to a whole new world! I knew that somebody needed to talk about this. When I started opening the door to that discussion, it changed a lot, but it also opened the door for a lot of backlash.
Spotlyte: What sorts of backlash have you received?
FR: The same people who ostracized me now reach out to me. My community has come around. The extended Muslim world still has a big adjustment to make. Spiritually-adjusted people practice religious tolerance and compassion, but there are a lot of people in our faith who don’t. They have such a distorted image of the faith because of the culture. It’s important for people to know that the Arab culture is a male-dominated culture, and it doesn’t cater to women.
In many ways, though, the faith was created to open the door to freedom for women. It teaches that women have rights, a say, control. But the more you speak out, the more backlash you get. I’d have people tell me that I’m not a real Muslim or Arab, or that I’m not a good woman. A lot of people think that because I have an opinion, I’m trying to burn down the temple — but on the contrary! I’m trying to make sure it survives. The faith is so beautiful that I want people to know the different sides of it, so people can continue to connect, as they do on my platform now. When I post something about Muslims, there are so many comments from people who aren’t even Muslim who say, “Oh, I didn’t know anything about this faith until I heard you [talk about it].” They come to my page and see a whole other side to Islam.
Spotlyte: What are your thoughts on being called the “Arab Carrie Bradshaw?”
FR: I have no idea where that came from. I don’t know if it was because of the curly hair or because of my infatuation with heels, but I think it’s more so because I share my experiences. I am honored that people relate me to a strong, powerful woman who’s not afraid to use her voice, to make mistakes, to be vulnerable. I f*cking love Carrie Bradshaw. I love that she has a voice and is unafraid to talk about her sexuality. I mean, we’re all here because of sex — or as I call it, shish-kababing.
Spotlyte: What have been the biggest challenges in running Expired N Fabulous?
FR: Staying true to myself. We’re in a “cancel culture” society, where people just want to find any reason to end your career. Having to always stay true to me, my mission, purpose, and voice — despite the backlash, the criticism, and the personal attacks, which I’m faced with daily — has been one of the hardest things for me, but I’ve been successful at it.
Spotlyte: What role has Instagram played in your career? Would you call yourself an influencer?
FR: Instagram has played a massive role in my career. I’m able to connect to people all around the world because of it. Social media is an amazing tool — though I think that people make it ugly. Influencer? Why not! There’s such a derogatory image of that name, but it really just means “someone who is influencing change,” and of course, I’m influencing change. More people need to use their voices to do that. That’s our responsibility.
I understand that mistakes happen. It’s part of growth. I don’t want to be a docked ship; I want to be a sailing one, and I’m going to face turbulent waters — and I’m okay with that.
Spotlyte: You’ve spoken a lot about your first relationship, but what have some of your dating experiences been since then? How have they informed the outlook you share on your platform?
FR: I only recently started dating again, and just shared that with my following — I’m actually in a relationship now. I did what I encourage people to do in my From Broken to Fabulous Guide, which is to go a year without dating. My former relationship ended in 2015, and I only started dating again in 2019, so it’s been quite some time. I’m 35 years old, and I spent 31 years living for everybody else, so I had to take some time to just focus on me. I needed to make sure I was in a good place, understanding what love and connection really are, and how past mistakes can affect your current situation.
I didn’t allow loneliness to dictate my decisions like I did before, and like I think many women do. We get afraid of being alone. Like, “the clock is ticking.” F*ck the clock. You’ve got to focus on you first, like I did. But does that mean I don’t make mistakes? F*ck no. I make mistakes daily. But I don’t run from that, and I’m not ashamed. I understand that mistakes happen. It’s part of growth. I don’t want to be a docked ship; I want to be a sailing one, and I’m going to face turbulent waters — and I’m okay with that.
Spotlyte: What is your beauty philosophy?
FR: Beauty is imperfection. We chase this unattainable idea of perfection that does not exist. What is perfect are imperfections and people being different. I’ve got a big nose, and you know how many times people have told me to get a nose job? I don’t [care]. I love that about me; there’s only one me in the world. Difference is beautiful. I say that all the time to my followers, and I think they’re starting to get onboard.
Everyone has good days and bad days, and we need to stop running from our bad days. Let yourself go through them, but don’t let them become a constant. As long as you’re moving forward, it’s a battle that you can fight and win. I know I have, and if I can, anybody can. I truly mean that.
Spotlyte: How do you keep your skin so radiant, especially in the midst of a hectic schedule?
FR: Self-care is very important. Every weekend, I take the time to do a face mask. I usually use the 111SkinTM Mask, and I use the Dr. Brandt® Sleeping Mask constantly. I always take the time after a long week to pamper myself and to bring the focus back to me. I have eczema, and I really have to stay on top of my [skincare routine].
Spotlyte: What does your everyday skincare routine look like?
FR: My morning routine is pretty basic. There’s no lavish toner or anything like that. Every morning, I will wash my face with the Skin&Co [Roma]® Whipped Cleansing Cream, which is like putting your face in some whipped cream, and then I use Cerave®. At night, it’s the same routine, but I recently added the Dr. Brandt Sleeping Mask, which has changed my entire skin life. Even my followers noticed! I’ve been doing this routine for quite some time now, and it was very influenced by my dermatologist. It’s important to be your own advocate for your health and for your skin. I do cheat sometimes — I won’t lie. I fall asleep with my lashes on — one day a week at least.
Spotlyte: What are your thoughts on injectables? Have you tried any?
FR: I just had fillers done by a plastic surgeon, Dr. Mike Horn. It was my first experience with injectables, and I’m very excited about it. I know a lot of people have this stigma with injectables and plastic surgery in general, but that’s . . . just another way for women to hate on other women, and I don’t agree with that whatsoever. We’ve got to stop doing that to each other. I was very public about my injectables because I wanted to break that stigma. It’s been a few months, and I’m still loving my results. It’s 110 percent something I will do again.
Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: Have you tried any other medical aesthetics treatments?
FR: No, but I’m open to them, especially because I have scarring from eczema. There are a whole bunch of things to target [scarring], like laser treatments and microdermabrasion.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.]
Spotlyte: How do you achieve that coveted work-life balance?
FR: When you have a purpose and something to say, you will always find that passion. You will always feel motivated to wake up in the morning. I do not consider my work a job whatsoever. It’s been my life’s pursuit in many ways — I’m passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless, helping the underdog, and finding ways for us to all connect. That always keeps me going.
Spotlyte: What advice would you offer to other young women who want to make their voices heard?
FR: Get angry! I know that isn’t a conventional answer, but you have to find something that feels unfair. There is power in being a victim. People don’t see that, and will always shy away from it, but a lot of things in history have changed because of people being victimized and persecuted, so get angry and find your voice. Don’t be afraid of anger. Use that anger to direct it towards a passion.
We live in a society where people use anger to shoot up schools and do bitter, awful things. Channel your anger for good; for self-growth. Find your voice and your mission, and then go at it.
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