TV Shows Pop Culture

The Baby-Sitters Club season two is an injection of joy the world needs

Did I expect to spend the weekend sobbing over a bunch of middle school characters as they explored everything from friendship to budding romance and even death? Maybe not, but since I’m the one who chose to binge the second season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix in one weekend, I really should have seen this coming. 

I devoured season one of The Baby-Sitters Club last July. I had just moved to a new apartment in the middle of the first pandemic summer, and as much as I loved my new neighborhood and my morning exploratory walks, I missed, well, life. I thought the first season of the series, which adapts Ann M. Martin’s sprawling empire of novels, was perfect in almost every way: a sweet, uplifting show that nevertheless tackled big conversations in the world today. And importantly, it was one that allowed me to forget the pandemic.

The Baby-Sitters Club season two hit Netflix on Oct. 11, 2021, and built upon the solid foundation of its first season. It offers a lot of the same things the first season does, while deepening storylines, character lives, and conversations. In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, it stars a group of middle school girls, led by the entrepreneurial spirit of Kristy Thomas, who start a club/business: in exchange for money, they will babysit neighborhood kids. Along the way, they learn important lessons about family, standing up for yourself, pursuing your dreams, and so so much more. 

I spoke with Jen Petro-Roy, who is a former teen librarian and also the author of a few middle-grade novels, including P.S. I Miss You. She pointed out something I loved about the show myself: how modern it is. It’s set in a pandemic-free alternate universe version of contemporary times, and the showrunners did an excellent job modernizing the cast, the storylines, even the props.

“All of these updates seem so natural, too,” Petro-Roy said. “Of course it makes sense for MaryAnne to find her strength standing up for a trans girl she’s babysitting. Of course, the cast is more diverse. It makes sense, and that’s all because of how accepting, loving, and inclusive the world of Stoneybrook and the Baby-Sitters Club are.”

The beauty of the show, of course, is that it deals with such real-world topics through the framework of a middle-grade media property, and every episode ends on an uplifting note. The characters may go through hell over the course of the episode, but they’re going to end up stronger, happier, and better off than they started. 

As a kidlit writer myself, one of the things I try to remember in penning my young adult novels is that they need hope. That’s not to say that everything needs to be hunky-dory throughout the story, or even that everything wraps up in a bow neatly for the characters. The Hunger Games is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Those characters go Through It over the course of the trilogy, but the ending is meant to show up that there is hope despite this. Katniss makes some choices at the end of Mockingjay that I hate, but they are accurate reflections of her trauma, and the ending is ultimately hopeful for a better day.

The Baby-Sitters Club is a shining example of middle-grade media because it’s enjoyable to people of all ages (I’m 28 and obsessed with it, but the focus is squarely on the middle school-aged characters — and their real-world counterparts, the viewers. The struggles the girls face are relevant to their age. This season, MaryAnne had her first boyfriend, and an episode’s plotline was about her trying to figure out what that meant for her. Whereas maybe a young adult audience would have wanted to see the story revolve around a first kiss or even first time having sex, for middle-graders it’s perfect that it just revolves around taking the relationship from “friends” to “more than friend.”

Petro-Roy thinks the show is a “perfect example” of media for middle grade.

“The main cast are actually real kids and the BSC themselves are dealing with classic issues of growing up (making new friends, first boyfriends, a loss in the family),” she said. “Middle grade is that strange time when kids are starting to solidify who they are in the world and wanting to have adventures on their own while still being called back into the fold of their family pretty strongly. This show exemplifies that so perfectly in its storyline and its talented child and adult cast.”

There is so much, so very very much, to love about The Baby-Sitters Club. It hooks in adults, teens, and tweens alike, telling the stories that we can all relate to: middle school drama and trauma. Both seasons are available now on Netflix, and I highly recommend the show.

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History Historical Badasses

Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black female millionaire

Earlier this year, a mini-series on Netflix was released called Self MadeThe mini-series is inspired by the life of the first self-made Black female millionaire Madam C.J. Walker. The life and work of Madam C.J. Walker is an important story to tell because it celebrates the success of a Black woman and the beauty of Black hair.   

A few months ago, Kat Graham from The Vampire Diaries did a morning routine video on Vogue’s YouTube channel called “Kat Graham’s Natural Hair Beauty Routine.” During the video, she explained to her viewers that this is the first time that she has been completely without additional assistance when taking care of her hair. While Graham was talking about a hair care product that she was introduced to that really helped her hair throughout quarantine, she started crying and getting emotional.

Watching the video made me reflect on my own experiences with my hair as a Black woman. It also made me reflect on how having Black hair is an emotional, personal, and empowering journey. Madam C.J. Walker is a woman who truly understood the emotional and empowering experience of having black hair. And ultimately, she was able to use her experience to become a successful entrepreneur and help other Black women. 

Before she was known as Madam C.J. Walker she was born as Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, on a Louisiana plantation. Her parents were both enslaved before the Civil War ended and later became sharecroppers. At the age of seven, her parents passed away.

After their deaths, she moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi with her sister and worked picking cotton. At the age of 14, she got married to escape her abusive brother-in-law and had her daughter A’Lelia Walker at 18 years of age. Two years after giving birth to her daughter, Walker’s first husband died. After his death, she and her daughter moved to St. Louis, to work for $1.50 a day at a barbershop owned by her four brothers. In St. Louis, she joined the St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the National Association of Colored Women. She also got married to her second husband, but the couple eventually divorced.

A newspaper Ad for Madam CJ Walker's for Wonderful Hair Grower product that is titled "Is Your Hair Short?" On right is a picture of her and on the left there is an article promoting the product.
[Image Description: A newspaper Ad for Madam CJ Walker’s for Wonderful Hair Grower product that is titled “Is Your Hair Short?” On right is a picture of her and on the left there is an article promoting the product.]  Image Source
Walker’s hair care journey began in the 1890s and early 1900s. She was struggling financially and developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose her hair. In order to work on growing her hair back, she sought advice from her brothers and experimented with home remedies. She also tried hair products by Annie Malone, another prosperous Black hair-care entrepreneur. After using Annie Malone products, she became a commission agent and moved to Denver in 1905.

In Denver, she met her third husband, Charles J. Walker. Soon after meeting her husband, she began her brand. Her husband encouraged her to use the name “Madam C.J. Walker” so that her brand name would be more recognizable. She began traveling throughout the South and Southeast for almost two years selling and promoting her “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, which was a scalp conditioning and healing ointment.

By 1910, she was able to settle down in Indianapolis where she built a factory, a hair salon, a nail salon, and a hair care training school. Throughout her life, she used her own personal experience of losing and regrowing her hair to build a prosperous Black business.  Today, she is known not only as the first Black self-made female millionaire, but also as a Black woman who supported her community as a pioneer of hair care for Black women.

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Work Career Advice Now + Beyond

According to Auntie-ji, having big dreams makes me a capitalist pig

Dear Auntie-ji,

I’ve wanted to write to you for some time, in hopes that explaining myself will bring us closer together again. We are not so different, you and I.

I know that you have struggled with finding the balance between work and life and that you had to make some difficult decisions. Our gender always seems to get the short end of the stick, doesn’t it? Like many women, I cast my lot with entrepreneurship as a solution. It seems, on the surface, like the ideal opportunity to prove ourselves, take leadership roles, and actively build our skillsets, while having the flexibility to give attention to other goals as well. But misconceptions and challenges abound.

Am I money hungry? HA! I had to invest my savings into this business and work for a long time without a salary before I started to see any return. I gave up a high paying job to take this risk. If I was in it just for the money, I would have quit a long time ago. There are easier paths towards wealth, like accepting a rishta from a rich family.

Don’t I care about my family? Yes, and that’s half of my motivation for doing this. It lets me aspire towards the highest sense of leadership in my field while giving me the flexibility to take care of a family’s needs. I might fail, but the potential reward of being able to provide for my family in a way that also provides for my own happiness and well-being is worth it.

How will I survive if I fail? I’ve thought a lot about this. Failure never seems far enough away. All the revenues I earn have associated costs as well. I miss getting a clean check every couple of weeks. Having my business taxes audited by the IRS wasn’t fun either. But here’s the thing, why make problems today in fear of problems tomorrow? Plus this business builds my resume, so that mitigates the risk.

Shouldn’t I be doing more appropriate and proper things with my time? I mean, I got a master’s. I got married. I did a lot of the “right stuff.” I no longer feel like there are right and wrong answers. It’s not like I’m gambling away all of my savings in a casino, or shooting up heroin. I’m just not doing something with a straightforward path. It’s scary, so it makes sense if it scares the ones who love us the most, too. Let’s talk about the reality, and maybe it won’t seem so scary anymore.

If I’m not going to make a consistent salary, shouldn’t I at least keep my home clean? This is the hardest part of being a woman entrepreneur for me. When men start businesses, they would also not bring home a consistent salary, but no one would ask them why they don’t manage to make fresh parathas (fried bread) at night for their families. I’m helping my family achieve their goals, but I need my family to support me, too. We all need a dream to survive.

Who am I to think that I’m so special? I don’t think I’m so special. I just do what I do anyway. Sometimes it may seem intimidating that I’m pursuing seemingly lofty goals, but I think it just irritates you because, in your heart, you know that you could be doing this too. And Auntie-ji? It’s 100% true.

Join me.

I need you along with me on this journey.

In order to make our paths viable, we need the buy-in of our support system. Entrepreneurship is contagious, and one of my cousins has already started her own immigration law firm, and another her own PR firm. If you want to join us, I believe that your success will eclipse ours. Even if you do not choose entrepreneurship as your path, let us support you in the path that you do choose, as you support your daughters and me in our paths.

Let our love for each other be a driving force for a circle of shared success.

Always yours,


Career Advice Now + Beyond

What they don’t tell you about entrepreneurship

I’ve started feeling like I’m not good enough. I just feel really sad.

It’s not just loneliness- to be clear, I haven’t isolated myself. I could be with my closest friends, and all of a sudden, start feeling gloomy. Today it happened while I was in a cafe, and as my friends were discussing their senior design project, I felt a heavy anchor of sadness.

My stomach starts hurting, and my throat feels like it’s constricting. I have a lot of thoughts I want to push out, but I can’t. I’m not going to make it. I’m a failure. I’m not really good at anything. Where am I heading, with my life? Am I fit for the startup world? Will I be able to successfully close the fundraising round? Will I make it?

Nothing seems to happen fast enough, and the only thing that’s flying at a pace I can’t keep up with, is time.

Time enough to answer all my emails, to send out proposals, to meet leads and clients, to close deals, to start new projects, to finalize projects, to check-in with different departments. It feels like there’s not enough time.

But there’s a lot of work to do.

I don’t know if I can make it, to the end of the year, quarter, month, and sometimes even day. At times like these, the only thing that keeps me going is one step. I need to take one step at a time. Sometimes that one step is getting through 5 more minutes. 5 and 5, till I get through an hour. Then another, then another.

Not every episode is this bad, sometimes it’s easier to get through. Sometimes, it’s a lot worse. At the lows, I’m thankful for the people that make up my support system. It’s sometimes easier to word out all my feelings of uneasiness and anxiety, and why I feel like everything is going wrong. Other times, it’s not as simple.

Some episodes I start reminiscing, and spiral down a path of should-haves, could-haves, and what-ifs. Those are the weaker moments. I know there’s no other path I would rather have chosen, but sometimes I do wish someone had told me what entrepreneurship would be like, in the most raw and unfiltered way. I know every entrepreneur’s path is different, but I had no idea what was coming my way when I entered this ecosystem.

It’s also the same naivety I see when I’m at startup events with students pitching startup ideas. They’re so hopeful and convinced they’re going to change the world, or their industry, or that their solution is the best damn one in the market. The confidence is great, and I absolutely love seeing it, but if it was that simple, every other person in the world would have “made” it, quite literally. Based on which article you read, 60% and 90% of all startups fail. There’s a higher chance of failure than success, and yet we’re all still so optimistic that we will inevitably make it to the success stat.

Entrepreneurship is a tricky road. I’m often asked to speak about my personal journey as an entrepreneur and why more students should consider it as a career path right after university. That’s where I’m wary- because I don’t want to paint an ideal image, when the reality is so far from it. I don’t want to discourage anyone (hell, I chose this for myself), but I worry about giving the wrong impression. There is a reason you see more older entrepreneurs than younger ones, especially in this region. Not everyone can afford to have a startup, when they’re right out of college. And, while there are increasingly growing resources and initiatives to encourage and build out young entrepreneurs, more often than not, there is a long long way ahead. If you want a lot of comfort and financial security, the startup life is not for you. It’s as simple as that.

Most folks glorify the “hustle”, and the “grind.”

Most people romanticize the successful fundraising rounds, and exits. They don’t talk about the breakdowns and the panic attacks. They don’t talk about the rejections in the first phase, the criticism in the second, and the years leading up to the “overnight” success.

Not as much as they need to.

They talk about starving entrepreneurs and tell you to “do what you got to do.”

But, don’t talk enough about how to survive.

Each narrative you read has probably been changed a few times (lo and behold PR), to make it seem like a gorgeous roadmap, where each failure was a milestone to success.

That’s why I’ve built a subconscious filter to bullshit, hypocrisy, the buzzwords, and the pretense.

And in the midst of it all there’s the mental battles with myself; imposter syndrome- a curse I wouldn’t wish on anyone in the world.


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.

Money Now + Beyond Interviews

Entrepreneur Zeyna Iman is redefining feminism

When you’re on the cusp of giving up on society and the latest poll numbers for Donald Trump have got you down, your search for a light at the end of the tunnel may seem futile. Zeyna Iman’s got you covered. Zeyna’s “White Tears” scented candles (also available in “White Feminist Tears” and “Male Tears”) are the IT item for all of our needs. 

We had a chance to sit with Zeyna to discuss her inspiration, the feedback (love and hate) she’s received, and where she’s headed next.

The Tempest:  So, what inspired you to start the business?

Zeyna Iman: I’m not completely sure what the catalyst was, but a little over a year ago the idea struck me that “white tears scented candles” could be one of the greatest and amusing things I could produce myself  and distribute with the right supplies and aesthetic vision; it wasn’t until this past November through being broke enough and feeling creatively stifled that I decided to power through with the idea. It didn’t take me too long to design my labeling, whip up prototypes, and snap some photos. As soon as that was completed (over the course of a few days), I listed it all with Etsy, shared as much as I could without spamming social media, and hoped for the best. I think that best came when Hannah Giorgis included my candle line on a holiday gift roundup for Buzzfeed – that was really major for me.

What have been some of the internet’s reactions to your candles? Have they been a mix? Are there any particularly outstanding reactions you’ve gotten (good or bad)?

Oh, God. Definitely a mix. A deliciously if not often disturbing, messy, mix. I’ve had a lot of wonderful people reach out to me to share that they admire the candles and support my innovation and what I’m doing, which honestly will never ever get old. But of course, there have also been a considerable amount of folks who’ve decided my product is not only offensive but actually *racist*. The comments section of that Buzzfeed roundup, in particular, was riddled with debates on White Feminism and whether my “racist candles” belonged on such a holiday gift list, a list that was specifically curated for black girls/women(!). One of the first commenters said my candles are an example of the reason why he married a white woman haha. People are really amazing, though not surprising at all. One conservative media site even did their own write-up on my candles, drawing special attention to my pricing while comparing them to Walmart of all places! It’s almost as if I’m not one woman handling every aspect of a small business herself without the backing of a corporate machine allowing her to sell a handmade product for pennies… Like I said, people are truly amazing.


Outside of your business, what are you involved with? Where do you see taking this in the future?

I plan to expand the Zeyna Iman brand into a larger, lifestyle line. I have a lot of big visions for it that I’m pumped to see manifest soon, but don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. Right now though I am working on some event curation involving beautiful brown people sharing space and getting free in NYC, my hometown, now that the weather is starting to pick up. If anyone is interested in collaborating with me I’m so open!

You’ve come out with White Tears, Male Tears, and White Feminist Tears candles – all of which have been incredibly popular online. What’s next in the works for you?

I’ll definitely be branching out from online to outdoor markets and festivals this spring and summer; I’m really excited to be able to connect with buyers IRL while also pursuing wholesale opportunities. Getting my product into brick and mortar locations is a huge step I’m super excited for; I’m making moves to have that happen sooner than later.


What’s your advice for young women of color looking to create and sell in their own businesses?

Find peers whose vision, insight, and intent you can trust, definitely make sure you have people in your circle who will keep it all the way real with you and support you above all. As women and gender-fluid/-queer people who don’t have the privileges of whiteness going for us, it’s really important that we’ve got each other’s backs and create our own networks of support, and take that support seriously. A good friend of mine, Cherrell Brown, has this saying “Black women saved my life” which for me just really speaks to the significance of having people who look like you, look out for you when it’s clear that no one else cares to do so. Definitely don’t let anyone invalidate your ability to be an entrepreneur with the rest of the bros just because you don’t fit the straight white male archetype; find the people who will hold you down and then get free with them. Oh, and definitely utilize social media to every last end! Building an online network of people interested in your art/product can and will go such a long way, don’t ignore that opportunity!

Are there any women you take inspiration from in creating your products and in life, generally?

A great friend of mine from high school, Morgen Bromell! As a creator, it’s so important to have other creative spirits around you putting in serious work and realizing their dreams into the amazing and tangible–that’s what Morgen is doing out in the Bay right now with their dating app for queer and non-binary people, Thurst. They’re just one of those people who is always hungry and in pursuit, willing to take risks and get things done–basically my favorite parts of myself but even more focused! It’s really important for me to be around that energy, to draw from my peers and friends as my greatest inspirations before I think to look to the (ostensibly?) inaccessible. Intimate and real over everything.

Zeyna Iman can be found on Twitter.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tech Now + Beyond

Get ready to watch live theater performances from your couch

Google is bringing live performances to a whole new level.

According to the Google Cultural Institute, Google is now partnering up with multiple performing art institutes across the globe to bring live theater performances straight to your laptop or phone screen.

These 360-degree performances will offer new, amazing experiences for those not able to travel the world and view theses forms of art firsthand. You can watch anything from American ballet, cultural festivals, and multiple operas.

There are 60 institutes in total that are participating in Google’s new program. Partners include the Metropolitan Opera in New York along with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the U.K.  You can watch performances from Poland, London, Italy, and more.

Their website features an interactive map categorized by type of performance: music, opera, theater, dance, and performance art.

Aside from performances, you can take virtual museum tours featuring different collections and exhibitions. These features are part of Google’s goal to create a universal platform to showcase works of art and basically contribute to a world of wonders.

The Google Cultural Institute launched in 2011, with plans to make different cultures and experiences available to the vast majority of the public through photos, documents, videos, etc.

If you haven’t already tried it out, you need to explore the website at least once – it will literally change your life. From artwork to history to countless exhibitions, there are a ton of different things you can explore. It’s perfect for those of us who can’t travel around the world that often, or just want to discover something new.

You can even visit historical sites virtually through their website – think Google Street View, but for historic cultural sites and museums.