These Two Sisters Created CupCake Fairies And Transformed New Orleans In A Positive Way


Fairies are known as mythical creatures who grant human beings wishes with a wand and a pinch of fairy dust, but what if I told you there were fairies who can fulfill all your sweet dreams IRL? Think I'm kidding?

Well, meet Melissa Woods and Michele Burton-Oatis, sisters who are widely known as the CupCake Fairies.

Located in a peppy pink building on the historic Bayou Road, CupCake Fairies isn't just a cupcake destination, it's a café that carries pies, brownies, cake pops, éclairs, custom cakes, designer cakes, wedding cakes, hummus, coffee, teas, fraps and vegan options. They also offer low sugar and gluten-free. These delectable treats are big and bold and a reflection of their fun-loving personalities and vibrant hometown. And it's truly evolved into a family affair with their husbands and children helping with the execution of their famed desserts.

"It's love. We bake with love. When we're baking we're listening to music, laughing, and having a good time. It's a lively place to be. If you've ever been to New Orleans, you feel the energy," Melissa shared.

Since its inception in 2009, the CupCake Fairies have risen to prominence thanks to the cultivation of their specialty treats and unbelievably moist cupcakes comprised of only the best and finest ingredients. The ladies were even featured on Food Network's popular baking competition Cupcake Wars. For all intents and purposes, noteriaty and a thriving NOLA-based business have been the creamy icing on the two sisters' proverbial cupcakes. What many might not be aware of however is just how humble their beginnings actually were. Especially because baking for a living was never in either of their plans.

Growing up, Melissa and Michele were always close, even with a five-year age gap (Michele is the oldest), but they never thought they would ever go into business together. Born and bred in New Orleans, Melissa and Michele cultivated a business out of the pure love they have for their community whom they also credit for the start of their delicious entrepreneurial endeavor. "We always baked at home. Michele and her husband Michael always did the desserts at holidays. I baked for my kids and so, from that, it just started to become too much so we started giving it out to one of the organizations we worked with and they ordered from us," Melissa explained.

It was also an unconventional healing opportunity for the residents of New Orleans who were recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Michele chimed in, "We had a big event to do with them the following day and they asked if we could bake some cupcakes and we said yeah. Later on that day, I asked how many, and they said 300. And that didn't make Melissa and I happy because we don't bake regular size cupcakes, we bake jumbo cupcakes and we only had two pans at my house. So, I had to realistically do the math and try to figure it out."

After baking all night and the following morning, Melissa and Michele showed up to the event with 300 jumbo cupcakes in hand and with a simple bite, guests began inquiring about the desserts. Playfully implying that they had a little help from fairies to accomplish such a massive order, everyone began referring to them as the "cupcake fairies."

With no plans of turning their fun hobby into a profitable business, they had no company name and when the non-profit decided to write a check for their hard work despite the ladies being volunteers, they wrote it out to CupCake Fairies and thus, their baking business was born. "We felt this is where the universe wanted us to go, so we drove to Baton Rouge with check in hand and [the] LLC Cupcake Fairies and we opened up a bank account that day," Michele said. "When we got home, we were happy, we were excited. But then, the next day, reality set in and we were like 'Ok, what do we do now?' Luckily, we built up a good reputation with our non-profit that those organizations started to support us on that journey. So cupcakes found us."

With their signature Fairy Cakes, which are twice the size as a traditional cupcake, Melissa and Michele captured the attention of people in New Orleans and its surrounding areas, but when they landed on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, they had also captured America's attention."Two of the most memorable experiences that we had on Cupcake Wars was we had a lady, her and her children were going through a rough time and she wanted to do something special for them and her children just loved her, so they planned a family trip to come down to meet the fairies. When we heard that story, it just brought us closer, [and] brought tears [to our eyes] because we were so honored and so we made it so special for them," Melissa shared. "Those are the things that we hold near and dear to our hearts and that's why we push so hard and try to be a good representation of the people that are our family, our city because we understand the impact our presence will make."

Having a positive impact on others has always been their number one passion. Prior to becoming the CupCake Fairies. Michele, who worked in education and Melissa, who worked in finance, developed a non-profit called New Orleans Video Voices after Hurricane Katrina. The non-profit taught documentary film skills to community members and organizations as a platform for empowerment and engagement. Its purpose was to share the real-life stories of the people of New Orleans and the reconstruction of the city.

While their non-profit is no longer active, they still partner with other community organizations to give back and with next year marking CupCake Fairies' 10-year anniversary, their community can expect a special treat. "When we first started out, I called us the funky train. It was an old funky train on the track that wasn't working and nobody wanted it. Now we're on the track and we're beautiful and shining, so everybody who believed in us when we were the funky train, we want to celebrate them as well. It's amazing what this business has done and the people it brought into our lives so that's what the celebration really is about," Michele shared.

For more CupCake Fairies, check out their site: www.cupcakefaires.com and be sure to follow them on Instagram @cupcakefaires.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
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