Laila Alawa speaks to Entrepreneur Before 25 podcast about the story behind The Tempest

The Tempest’s CEO Laila Alawa spoke with Chelann Gienger from the Entrepreneur Before 25 (EB25) podcast. EB25 interviews inspiring and empowering entrepreneurs like Laila who began their journey whilst aged 25 or under.

[bctt tweet=”I found that I started being put in situations where my people pleasing hurt me. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Laila talked about her background, her family, why she started The Tempest, and life as an entrepreneur.

Whilst explaining the realities of chasing your dreams, Laila also divulged some gems of advice for budding entrepreneurs. She dived in deep and discussed why being a people pleaser has the potential to destroy freedom.

“I used to live my life very afraid of hurting others, I found that I started being put in situations where my people pleasing hurt me.”

Listen to the entire podcast here.

Love Life Stories

Rain drop, drop top, in 2016 I started writing and I just won’t stop

2016 was a new year that presented many new opportunities for me. Last January, I was working part-time at a retail store, struggling with my grades, and wondering when my life would begin.

Over the course of the year, everything was turned upside the head.


I’ve always lived a very sheltered life. My parents and my brother have helped me through almost everything, but in turn, also protected me from everything. I got used to being told what to do with my life, and I started doing what everyone else said. I even took up a major in university just because I was told to.

I was never given a chance to live by myself, or to step out of the bubble I grew up in. Now, all I can think is what ifWhat if I’d changed my major like I wanted to? What if I hadn’t listened to what others said? I realized that somehow in the midst of fulfilling everyone’s wishes, I lost sight of my own goals. I forgot that I had to live this life for myself. 

[bctt tweet=”I had lost sight of my own goals.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Summer rolled around, along with my not-so-quarter-life crisis. I turned to my talented and amazing entrepreneur friend, Aurooba of Wanderoak, and told her of my troubles. And like any good friend, she steered me into the light…okay that’s very dramatic. What I mean is that, she asked me to try out The Tempest fellowship. 

I gave it some thought. I remember always setting up websites and blogs for myself in my past years. Anyone remember piczo? No? Okay. I just loved the idea of blogging. But being the impatient person that I am, I knew I wasn’t cut out for doing something grand by myself. So I filled out the application for The Tempest. 

I honestly had no idea what to expect. I’d never written commercially, hell, I’d never even written for myself. And yet, I applied for the Editorial Fellowship. The fellowship that requires you to write quite a bit, challenging you with new topics and sections to push you out of your comfort zone. When I interviewed with the CEO, I’m pretty sure I told her that I’m bad with deadlines, that I’m lazy, and I procrastinate a lot. Regardless, she saw potential in me. 

[bctt tweet=”I honestly had no idea what to expect.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Now, four months and over a dozen of articles later I can truly say that this was by far one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself. 

The Tempest not only helped me develop as a writer but also helped me grow as a person. I didn’t truly realize the power of writing a piece that could be loved/hated internationally. Friends and families from overseas would message me about how they came across my piece. 

The team of editors and fellows worked together day and night to bring out amazing content. This team has helped me become who I am, they supported me when my pieces did well and helped me out when I was running out of ideas. 

[bctt tweet=”The Tempest helped me develop as a writer, and as a person” username=”wearethetempest”]

As this year and fellowship comes to an end, I can confidently say that I’ve become a much better writer. I’ve learned how to fine-tune my writing to dive deeper into my interests. It was a hard but fruitful fellowship.

I can’t believe I got to be a part of this incredible movement, and how this incredible team of fierce women have taken the media by a storm.

I know a lot of people keep saying 2016 was awful, but The Tempest made my year incredible. I started out as a regular student and ended up feeling like a badass woman with a powerful voice.

Notes from the Editor Life Announcements

Dishing on our cultural trials and triumphs: The best of Culture & Taste 2016

2016 hands down has been one of the most challenging years for so many of us. When it was good, it was incredible, and when it was bad, it felt like the worst, ever.

Since The Tempest‘s launch in March 2016, things have been really busy. So many diverse women want to share their stories and they have, but many others are still hiding, afraid to do so.

This year we’ve led the way in talking about the issues that face us, and continue to be committed to share those authentic narratives The Tempest is known for. From New Zealand to Egypt,  New York City to Grenada, our writers span the globe, sharing their experiences, dreams, and challenges.

I’ve been in awe reading the stories of these phenomenal women, who for so long, have been told that their perspectives and experiences didn’t matter- that no one wanted to read them. The Tempest has flipped that script – you absolutely do matter, and we want to share your tales.

One thing that I’ve learned this year is that there’s so much more waiting for you just outside your comfort zone.

Taking the leap is scary but it’s SO worth it.

It’s difficult to choose just five, but here’s my #BestofTheTempest2016:

1. I won’t apologize for not being married. 

A shameless plug for myself as a writer but I’ve included it because it was something I was nervous about writing and required vulnerability to do it, and I’m absolutely glad that I did. It may just be my favorite piece I’ve written thus far.

2. Don’t let anyone shame your wedding fantasy.

Being feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be romantic, which I think can be a common misconception with the label feminist. I loved the way this article showed that it’s not an either or situation but you can easily be both feminist and romantic, and being romantic doesn’t detract from that. Something I can completely relate to.

3. I come from a long line of women who disobeyed society’s rules.

2016 made you want to throw your hands in the air and give up. There are so many gems in this powerful piece which I think embodies so much of what The Tempest is about; for one, smashing the patriarchy. I think it’s inspiring when we can look to women in our family as trailblazers and when we think of hard times remember what they endured, and that gives me strength to continue.

4. My skin might be brown but my mother thinks that my mental health is white.

As the Senior Community Editor, there are some pitches I receive which gives me chills, and this is one of them. This piece talking about a life long battle with mental health issues, is so raw and encapsulates the authentic narratives The Tempest is known for. I was honored that she wanted to share her story with us.

5. Being broken down was the most freeing moment of my life.

I love this article because it was spot on about going out of your comfort zone, and taking things one at a time when you feel like your life has completely fallen apart. I know exactly how she feels and reading this gives me hope and helps me remember how to take those first steps to mending those broken pieces.

Reading the life stories and thoughts of our array of writers this past year, has given me motivation to keep moving on. Now more than ever, the voices of diverse millennial women who’ve been othered need to be told, and we’re here to tell it.

Notes from the Editor

The Story Behind The Tempest

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?