Notes from the Editor

The Story Behind The Tempest

Our tone has mass appeal, but we are quite literally run by voices who normally wouldn’t have mass appeal.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When I first pitched what would eventually become The Tempest to a friend of mine, her response was a mixture of disbelief and tentative joy. “So – you’re saying that this would be a media platform – for my stories?” It was a reaction that quickly turned to doubt: “But are my stories good enough?”

Two years ago, we started as Coming of Faith, a media platform for American Muslim women, fueled by my own experiences of feeling left out and silenced from conversations about women in the mainstream media and within my own faith community, I found women who felt the same, women who shared my experiences and who were empowered to take a stand, to walk the walk and to show the world our true multifaceted lives. Together, we decided it was time to flip traditional media on its head, time to breathe our voices into the mainstream landscape, and, within five weeks, Coming of Faith was born. We weren’t here to break stereotypes by featuring reactive commentary, we were here to change perceptions through the radical decision of vulnerable, honest storytelling and multimedia content.

In a matter of months, Coming of Faith became nationally known for its distinct brand of raw reportage. Unafraid to discuss issues ranging from late periods, sexuality, anti-blackness in minority communities and the intricacies of our intersecting cultures and religions in a fresh and appealing way, we managed to ruffle feathers while simultaneously attracting a unique fan base: Millennial women who both vehemently agreed and disagreed with our stories, but kept coming back, craving the voices they couldn’t find elsewhere. We had created a community that spanned across the globe.

With rapid growth came pressing questions, and with questions came decisions and room for experimentation. Our team had always aimed to create a space for the unfettered, full-disclosure-only scoops and confessionals, but, in creating a space for Muslim women, we were not amplifying the full range of voices that were begging to be heard. Backed with data on our audience and their interests, with each new visitor, we asked ourselves: Why is this a space that only covers a slice of the marginalized community? What about other underrepresented women? Where is their biting and accessible relevant space? How could we claim to push a media revolution, when we represented only one group of marginalized women?

Meet the Founder

Laila Alawa

Founder & CEO

Check out Laila’s origin story >

In early 2015, we ran the radical experiment that allowed us to quietly pivot our mission and goals. Rather than creating a space that heightened only American Muslim women’s voices, we began to aggressively recruit and magnify the voices of millennial women from all diverse backgrounds–ethnicities, sexualities, faiths and upbringings that weren’t reflected in mainstream media outlets. In a move that allowed us to grow organically and powerfully, we worked closely and tirelessly with our 400+ writers, recognizing them as the life and meaning of our company, prioritizing their insights, experiences and perspectives above all else. The articles, essays, and multimedia narratives of our writers continually reflected a raw freedom, strength, and dismissal of society’s expectations and stereotypes. We continued to grow our reach by engaging our audience with different mediums, including a popular and unfiltered podcast, quick humorous videos, and user curated mixtapes.

Consider this: 88% of traditional newsrooms are white men. While digital media outlets are boasting diverse figures, those diverse staff numbers still fluctuate between a whopping 8-27%. The current media climate is broken, and people are searching for narratives they identify with. The Tempest was the solution everyone was aching for: a forward-thinking, biting, sometimes-irreverent media platform, but run by women of marginalized voices. Our tone has mass appeal, but we are quite literally run by voices who normally wouldn’t have mass appeal.

Our experiment’s results were surprising in how unsurprising they were: We found that we’d captured a deep-rooted demand for stories that were simply not on the mainstream market. Stories about dealing with bigoted relatives, coming to terms with one’s sexuality from a faith perspective, and the hottest eyeliner looks for every kind of eye. Perspectives were relayed through audio, visual, and written mediums, varying from listicles to intimately agonized essays. Within several months, we’d grown from less than 50,000 users monthly, to hundreds of thousands of readers –all while running on less than $500 a month. People had been craving these perspectives, and our writers and team were helping to quench them.

The Tempest Explainer Press Graphic

We’d hit upon the mother lode. Instead of discussing the lack of diverse women’s voices in the media, we were the platform for diverse millennial women to speak out on anything – from catfishing to cultural appropriation, family struggles around interracial dating to death. It’s one thing for writers to cover how black fashion bloggers are changing the game for African American fashion – but few outlets actually include them as part of the mainstream fashion landscape. The Tempest moves past the conversation of representation as an anomaly, and instead emphasizes our differences as a reality. Our writers were producing their own stories – real, raw, and unfettered – in a market that was never friendly to them to begin with – and quite frankly, there is no substitute for their experiences.

It only made sense, then, that we shift publicly into the larger media space, and with that growth and pivot came the shedding of an identity that once fit us so well, for one that reflected our purpose and audience. The Tempest rises from the ashes of Coming of Faith, promising a storm of voices and stories, lives and opinions from diverse millennial women, for the world. We aren’t here to fade away into the distance; we’re here to change the media landscape, entrenched in years of static storytelling, for the better. Rather than tokenizing women and minorities, we’re normalizing the media landscape.

People are itching for the content we provide, and it’s time to give the world what it wants. The Tempest is here to whip up a storm for the better – the question is, will you be here for it?

Laila Alawa

Laila Alawa

Laila Alawa is the CEO and Founder of The Tempest, a leading media company where the world goes to hear the stories of diverse millennial women. She is also the host for The Expose, a weekly podcast tackling tough topics with snark and wit. Her work has been mentioned in The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, Mashable, Color Lines, Bustle, Feministing, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. She's also appeared on Al-Jazeera America, BBC World News, NPR, and Huffington Post Live.

Our weekly email will change your life.