Laila Alawa serves as the CEO of The Tempest, Alawa is a media & technology entrepreneur, motivational speaker and academic researcher. Alawa is a Forbes 30 under 30 media honoree. Alawa previously founded the jewelry brand, Lilla Stjarna.
Education and early career
Alawa attended Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, graduating with B.A. in psychology and education studies. She performed in the school's martial arts and archery teams and researched female leadership, minority stereotyping, and consumer behaviorism.
Alawa also worked on research initiatives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, and the Wellesley Centers for Women. She completed a Certificate of Social Entrepreneurship & Leadership at the University of Cambridge in 2015.
Alawa worked as a research specialist at Princeton University, studying socio-cognitive processing under the framework of community, identity and belonging. Alawa made contributions to the research study, Social Identity and Socially Shared Retrieval-Induced Forgetting: The Effects of Group Membership, which examined the formation of a shared, or collective, memory through socio-cognitive processing was later published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Experimental Psychology. Her research papers are used as a source of reference for studies in psychology and other academic fields.
In 2015, Alawa was a member of Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, serving as a volunteer on task force on countering violent extremism. Due to disagreements with the focus on police involvement and continued "othering" within the report's solutions, Alawa left the task force prior to the release of the report. However, the report failed to remove her involvement, and as a result, when the report was released, a blog published an article titled Syrian immigrant who said 9/11 'changed the world for good' is a homeland security advisor, misrepresenting Alawa and her work. She was a target of public backlash with messages threatening her life and mocking her looks and religion. Alawa is also a scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, DC. In 2016, she was the secondary investigator on a report exploring the politics and civic engagement within American Muslim communities, American Muslims in the 2016 Election and Beyond: Principles and Strategies for Greater Political Engagement. She served on the advisory board of Poligon Education Fund, a national, non-partisan organization dedicated to making progress on matters such as civil rights and economic justice on Capitol Hill.
The Tempest creates and shares user-generated content editorial content, videos, and podcasts aimed at a female audience.2,000 contributors identifying as women from more than twenty countries regularly contribute original content. A study on ethnic media consumption and production by Professors Matthew D. Matsaganis of Rutgers University and Shirley Yu of The University of Toronto, Canada, found that The Tempest actively creates conversations around the socioeconomics of the digital space, journalistic norms, and personal concepts of identity.
Honors and awards
2015 – Ariane de Rothschild Fellow
2017 – 40 Women to Watch 2017 Edition
2017 – Startup Grind's 50 Millennial Founders to Watch in 2018
2018 – Forbes 30 Under 30 list of "young people transforming the future of media"
2018 – CAFE's The CAFE 100.
Alawa was born in Ishoj, Denmark, in 1991 and immigrated to the United States at the age of six. She is of Syrian and Danish descent. Her family settled in New Hampshire, where Alawa was homeschooled until college. Alawa is the eldest of eight children. She is the sister of non-profit development director Huda Alawa. Alawa is married to social impact analyst Afif Rahman.
Alawa has written articles for The Guardian, The New York Times' Women in the World, The Atlantic, Vox, and Forbes, among others. She is a contributor for the bestselling feminist anthology, Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists On Why We Stay. Alawa contributed the foreword for the indie comic book, Kismet, Man of Fate.