Ross MBA student Rima Fadlallah and U-M Dearborn alum Yasmeen Kadouh, both Dearborn natives, created the podcast “Dearborn Girl” to challenge stereotypes about themselves and women in the community they call home.
Fadlallah and Kadouh said they heard people express concern about both leaving and staying within their city. Some attributed this to a lack of spaces for women to speak freely among each other and nearly everyone they have talked to said they shared the stereotype of the “Dearborn girl.”
“For many in and outside Dearborn, the term means that the girl is uncivilized, loud and obnoxious,” Fadlallah said.
In December, with the purpose of capturing these exchanges, Kadouh and Fadlallah filed into the Detroit Foundation Hotel in Dearborn to record a pilot podcast episode. The hotel offered their audio equipment free of cost for a two-hour time slot every week. After learning how to use the complimentary audio equipment and recording their tester, they decided to embark on the journey of creating a community driven podcast — an attempt to create a space for women in Dearborn to address their life experiences while reclaiming the term.
What started as a podcast idea has turned into a much larger project. “Dearborn Girl” expanded to videography and has 2,656 followers on Instagram after only one season of production. Malak Wazne, Dearborn filmmaker and Henry Ford College sophomore, caught wind of their project and immediately wanted to join their mission.
“I have always been passionate about storytelling. After Rima and Yasmeen interviewed me on the podcast about my film and photo career, I knew this project was something I wanted to be a part of,” Wazne said. “Shortly after putting our skills and passion together, it became more evident that ‘Dearborn Girl’ was much larger than any one individual.”
After a few recording sessions, Fadlallah and Kadouh realized they had enough audio to produce a full season of 10 episodes with extra to spill into a second season. On May 22, an audience of 150 attended the Arab American National Museum to listen to their debut episode, titled #proudlyaDG.
In the first episode, Harvard graduate Mariam Jalloul spoke of her transition from the Ivy League back to Dearborn. In 2016, she gave the commencement speech for her graduating class at Harvard, and, while it was a significant moment for her and her family, she said she returned to the Dearborn community to typical questions.
“‘When will you marry? What about having kids?’ as if none of what I accomplished mattered,” Jalloul said on the episode.
This is one of the many stories explored on the podcast. Since the debut of “Dearborn Girl,” Fadlallah and Kadouh said they have received press, been streamed in over 33 countries and have plans to expand their brand past audio and video. Their podcast is streamed on various platforms like YouTube, Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher. Kadouh explained that after their debut, many women at the live-airing said they enjoyed having the physical space while discussing issues.
Both are intending on and invested in growing their project into a business. They say that the physical space is just as important as the audio landscape for their community to engage in, but it all starts with a conversation.
Kadouh said she still hasn’t gotten used to the way her voice sounds recorded, but that isn’t stopping either of them from proudly promoting their brand and identity: Dearborn girl.
“We’ve had overwhelming support and sentiment. So many people are invested in our project, and engage with us over social media,” Kadouh said. “We are hoping to widen our scope. We are thinking of creating a blog, an inclusive clothing line and even a physical community center.”