Frida Deguise: Challenging the stereotypes as Australia's first female hijab-wearing comedian
Tucked away in Sydney’s ‘Little Lebanon’- Punchbowl, the Roxcii
store is the second home to an extraordinary family and
businesswoman, who is true to herself in every way.
Flicking through her lavish couture racks, she carefully hand picks
the perfect style for her customers, making them feel glamorous
trying on her designs one by one. Her handcrafted dresses shine
with detailed embellishments and delicate materials that have
graced the finest red carpet events both locally and abroad. The
store is full of chatter, a friendly casual air that gave me a sense of
wanting to hang around for much longer than my scheduled
Frida Deguise, is not short of talents. A former chef who became a
respected fashion designer through her Roxcii brand is now
exploring her vision to be Australia’s first female hijab-wearing Muslim comedian. Whatever her pursuits, the Lebanese-Australian star has a penchant for breaking down stereotypes that have been thrown at her, one joke at a time.
“I don’t care what they say”, says Frida when asked how she feels
about people stereotyping her. “It doesn’t worry me, it gives
me more material to use in my jokes. I am probably more Australian
than most.” she laughs. Her most common judgment is that she lives
an oppressed life being a Muslim. “We have options, she giggled
sarcastically “Wow” she says, rolling her eyes to the stigma.
Born into a small traditional Lebanese family in country Victoria,
Frida has always been hilarious, regularly performing in bars and
comedy clubs across the country, comedian, mother-of-four has
proved many times she is not the typical female Lebanese. Closely
connected to her Australian culture and lifestyle, she was quick to
shut down Federal Minister for immigration and border protection
Peter Dutton’s comment in a recent SBS interview painting all
Muslims with the same paint brush "Out of the last 33 people who
have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22
of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-
Muslim background," he also referred to former Prime Minister
Malcolm Fraser’s decision to accept and settle refugees from
Lebanon back in the 1970’s a “mistake”.
She tackled this comment head on saying politicians like Minister
Dutton are “Just f*** depressed and they should call the help
She also made headlines at a Fashion Palette, a Sydney fashion parade where she wore a T-shirt that said, “I am not a terror threat, I am a fashion threat”. A testament, to show the world you don’t need to be skinny and perfect in order to design beautiful clothes.
A strength in the face of adversity, she has braved the world and every stereotype imaginable. Turning her pet hates into jokes and describing her worst fear to that of attending a Lebanese wedding she laughs.
Sitting on her rotating chair in her store, she wears a grey hijab and
black jersey wearing no makeup allowing her warm eyes and
infectious smile to shine through the camera lens just as she is, a
natural and outspoken. Her soft tone and hilarious personality is
infectious to those she meets.
Comedy was always in her, but it wasn’t until five years ago it truly
became her passion. Rising early and working late the balance of
motherhood, business and now comedy has not come easy. Her day
begins with writing for a minimum of three hours to develop her
material. It’s no wonder she has managed to attract reputable shows
and agencies to take her on as talent. “I definitely had to work my
a** “, she says.
“It’s one thing to be funny around people but to do it in front of an
audience and make them laugh, that’s not easy”, says Frida.
Volunteering for ABC TV show Gruen, shaped her writing skills.
Testing the waters, her efforts have not gone unnoticed by industry
professionals. So much so she has been recently invited to the
Maldives for a family holiday to speak to the youth and get them into
acting and the arts.
Investing her time into what she loves most, she has completed two
comedy courses and has starred alongside comedy legends, Joe
Avati, Tahir Bilgic, Rob Shehadie. She also is mentored regularly by
her LA based agent.
Frida was a hit in her first ever debut solo show- Outspoken, held at
the Sydney Fringe Festival two years ago. Holding nothing
back she clearly demonstrates that she can say what she wants,
when she wants and how she wants.
She has never been one to take herself too seriously opening her
show with the comedy line “I’ll give you a few minutes to stereotype
me”. A perfect ice-breaker to reinforce the judgment she and other
Muslim women face.
Aside from her professional mentors, she has had the love and
support from her biggest fan and husband, Albert Deguise. Raised in
Sydney from an equally traditional Lebanese Muslim family he has
embraced her career and her many achievements in all she has
chosen to pursue. Challenging at first for her husband who
understands the consequences of such a career with their
community. His initial thoughts were “Oh sh**, she is going to get
shot” he says, much like her children who think she should be at home cleaning Frida confesses smiling. “My husband and I are a pretty good team,” she says who has also shaped the Roxcii brand into what it is today, now no longer in a physical store but the online brand is thriving.
She also jokes about her husband who tells her to
always keep the house clean ensuring food is on the table never
knowing when she might get the ‘call’, she laughs.
Steve Hughes, Eddie Murphy and Rebel Wilson are just some of the
names that have inspired her career stating her future goals are to
establish her own TV show and to appear on top rated US shows
such as the Graham Norton Show.
Olivia Reppas, long- term Melbourne based buddy to Frida shares
the view that she has always pushed the boundaries and says it as it
is. She laughs recalling a time where they used to hang out together
at Australian pubs and coffee shops doing crazy things such as
running through food courts sampling food to pass up time in
Melbourne as teens.
With an unbreakable friendship they share one key common fact,
“We don’t give a f*** what others think of us”, says Olivia. Covered
in tattoos, she too experiences a similar judgment that Frida relates
to. Together they defy the odds, despite distance they maintain
contact just like the good old days.
The turning point for Frida was being scouted to audition with
twelve other comedians at Australia’s Got Talent, an eye opener
performing live to eight hundred people and a panel of expecting
celebrity judges. She was one of three that made it to the auditions
in Melbourne where Eddie Perfect described her as a bold “In an
industry full of men, to have a woman like you is really refreshing”, while Kellie Osborne says “She is fighting the biggest terror of war
Despite not making it further in the competition she was
commended by reputable judges such as Dave Hughes (Hughesy) making her realise this was only the beginning for her comedy life.
In a recent Today Tonight television interview with reporter David
Richardson, she attracted almost 30,000 views on that discussion
alone, an impressive figure for this female comedian on the rise.
Success has not come easy for Frida, “I have no social life, we don’t
really do much, my kids are loud that’s about it”. Her family is
everything to her, “Me time is them, otherwise it’s boring” she says.
Watching comedy cooking shows such as “Come Dine with me”
lounging on the couch is her way to wind down, from the busy
scheduled life she upholds.
In her opinion she believes when you make it you can make a good
return on investment as a comedian although she says, “I don’t
know, I ’ve not felt anything yet”, she laughs.
“You definitely need an agent.” she says to all those considering a
career in comedy, having tested the ropes first hand she discovered
that raw talent is simply not enough.
In between designing her collections she has kept busy planning her
following debut show AKA Wogan. The second solo show in the
making and the fifth comedy show in total. AKA Wogan promises
not to disappoint. The concept encompasses her true identity as the
‘Wog-Bogan’ (Australian) to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe
Festival in 2017.
In her opinion, Australia could do with more comedy clubs and
sitcoms on TV. “We don’t really have anything besides, The Habib’s.
There is a lot of talent out there and we should not be afraid of
putting comedy on TV”, she says.
Ultimately, this extraordinary woman is paving the way to how she
would like to be remembered, as Australia’s first female Muslim
hijab comedian- AKA Wogan, combating terrorism one joke at a