I’ve never met a superhero, but Laila Alawa is the closest I’ve ever come. She is the founder of the media company The Tempest, but before that, she was working at the White House and Congress, and before that, she was a research specialist at Princeton University. To say she is impressive is a vast understatement.
When she wasn’t out forging a path for diverse women, she set down for a phone call with me to discuss all things business, love, and dating.
What do you do and why do you do it?
I am the founder and CEO of The Tempest, the fastest-growing media company by diverse millennial women. I always say I’m trying to take over the world by creating and developing a media company that empowers and provides a space for women to share their stories. I grew up feeling left out of social circles and I made a vow to myself that I would never allow for another girl to feel disenfranchised. I worked at Princeton for two years studying how our memories affect us and our sense of belonging. Half the world’s population are fighting to be heard. On average, only 20% of people in a newsroom are going to be women. There’s a lack of diversity in media and I want to change that.
What’s the best gift you ever got?
My cat, named Mishi. She’s a gorgeous tortoiseshell. I went to the shelter with my mom and she ran to the back and scooped her up before anyone else could get to her. I love Mishi—she’s been my rock.
What’s the worst gift you ever got?
I always say that friends can either make or break your life. I have had bad friends give me bad advice that really affected me. The worst gift I ever got was a bad friendship.
What’s your advice for all things love, sex, and dating?
Ironically, my advice is don’t try to follow others’ advice. Be yourself. I know that’s difficult to do, especially after finding someone you like and feeling like you have to impress them, but be yourself. If they don’t like you for you, then they’re not the person for you. I’m also a big proponent of “no games.” Don’t listen to all the “wait 4 days before calling” rules—it’s all BS. Just go for it!
What’s your go to pick-me-up?
I love going and getting my nails done and then sitting at home, watching a few episodes of “Law and Order: SVU.”
Tell us about your first heartbreak..
When I was 5, I was living in Japan. My best friend was a boy who was 6 months older than me. We hung out all the time. He left Japan before me and before he left, he kissed me on the cheek and said “wait for me.” I always said I was going to find him, but I never talked to him again because you know, it was the ‘90s. It was a lot harder to contact people. But I really believe that was my first heartbreak.
Tell us about a time you bounced back better than ever
I think this happens on a daily, if not weekly, basis with me. As someone who runs a startup, I’m constantly faced with clients who need something turned around on a dime or investors who need something done immediately. There’s always something new and challenging. I’ve failed a lot in what I’m doing, but it’s in those failures that I learn. I’ve had to take a step back for each of those mistakes and reevaluate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I always ask myself, “what did I do wrong?” But It’s not always you. I’ve learned that sometimes I’ve got to get out of my own way.