By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief
Photo Credit: Allen Cooley
You might think that being a child of an international legend, one of the most significant figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time, would automatically garner an easy ride to success. Coming from a background as privileged as that of course has its perks, but like anything in life, success isn’t guaranteed and only hard work coupled with a motivated mindset, can bring dreams to fruition.
Photo Credit: Matt Armendariz
For Laila Ali, a four-time undefeated boxing World Champion, health & wellness advocate, entrepreneur, author and TV personality, independence and drive have taken her beyond her lineage. With consistent determination and a clear plan, Ali has carved a career for herself; one that is of her own making, fueled by her passion for wellness and helping others.
Entrepreneurship isn’t a new endeavor for her, founding her own business before she ever entered a boxing ring. “I’ve always been ambitious, and I’ve always decided what I wanted and created a plan. When I was as young as 15 I told my Mom that I wanted to move out of the house when I was 18, and I wanted to go to school full-time and I wanted to work.”
Photo Credit: Laila Ali - on the beach
Ali persevered and soon discovered she could study full-time, by learning to be a manicurist and earning her cosmetology license. Taking the bus to the other side of town to get to school, she went to “school” after class to learn how to do nails, and by the time she was 18 she had her own business, Laila’s Nail Studio, in Marina Del Rey, CA. Quickly amassing a full clientele, Ali was living on her own, loving the freedom to be creative and make her own life, when she discovered boxing, “When I first saw women’s boxing on television, I was about 17 years old and that’s when I got the idea to box myself. Most people assume that it was me just following in my father’s footsteps. It’s funny because when I was young, I didn’t feel it had anything to do with him, of course not knowing any better. It was in my blood, obviously, but I am the only one out of his nine children that became a boxer, so it’s more than just being in my blood,” she says. “I had this desire that was awoken in me and I went after it. There were a lot of naysayers, including my father who didn’t want me to do it. He said, “It’s not for you. It’s too hard. It’s not for women,” and that’s because he was scared, he didn’t know. It was a man’s sport and he didn’t want his daughter in this grimy gym, so I thought. I’m going to show you Dad, I respect how you feel, but this is my life and I’m going to make it happen,” Ali tells us.
Photo Credit: Laila Ali
With hard work and determination, she found unparalleled success, making her father proud, “Of course later when I became a World Champion, he apologized, recognized he was wrong – not only about me, but about women – and it was powerful to me to change “the Greatest of All Time’s” view of women and the limits that we sometimes put on them, on us in our minds. I became an undefeated boxing champion: Four wins, zero losses, and 21 of them by knockout – four Championship belts, and now I’m an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle.”
Photo Credit: Laila Ali Lifestyle
Finding a renewed focus, Ali’s business experience inspired her to create her lifestyle brand after her boxing career. “Laila Ali Lifestyle is something I started probably about 10 years ago, and came out of my passion for encouraging people to be the best versions of themselves through their health, their mindset and their purpose,” she says.
With a content-rich website, Laila Ali Lifestyle is a platform of inspiration, motivation, blog articles, recipes and her storefront. “Anyone can go to my website and sign up for my free Replenish series, which goes through these steps to get you started, and there is a wealth of information there through my blog with easy tips and tools,” she says. “What I try to do is meet people where they’re at when it comes to health. You want to start people in the right direction without them feeling overwhelmed . . . What can we add to what we’re already doing, as opposed to focusing on what needs to be taken away? That’s what I try to do and that is what Laila Ali Lifestyle is all about.”
Photo Credit: Allen Cooley
She continues, “A mindset is so important and that’s why I’m always showing people that, because life is not easy – there’s always going to be challenges – and it’s really important to find what your passion is, find what your purpose is. Once you know that, even when things get tough, you dust yourself off and keep going. When you’re not really into something, when you don’t really want it, then you will give up. How hard are you willing to work? Is your grind as strong as your dream and your desire, because it’s going to take a grind? It’s not easy for anybody, but the difference between the champions or the people who succeed, is that they don’t quit. They don’t let roadblocks get in their way, they don’t go into their shells and say they couldn’t do it. We find another way to win,” Ali says.
Photo Credit: Matt Armendariz
She continues, “It’s not about being undefeated. Yes I can say I was undefeated in the ring, but I have had many challenges outside of the ring; things that didn’t go my way, and then I found another way. So my mindset is very strong. I’ve always, thank God, been that kind of person who was born a fighter, born strong minded, and that’s something I’ve tried to reverse-engineer, dissect, to help figure out how I can help teach this to other people. Once you do get past that self doubt, that coach in your head that’s telling you no – why you can’t do something, why you shouldn’t do something, why you don’t have everything it takes – once you can get past that and overcome that, you can make anything happen in life. We all have those times when you’re in a darker place than usual, but it’s being able to pull yourself out of that and recognizing it’s ok to be down sometimes. It’s ok to contemplate and think about things, but you don’t want to get stuck there.”
Mindfulness in the products she creates is a priority to Ali, who is passionate about cooking and healthy eating. Starting at the young age of 9 or 10, she decided early on that she wanted to do a cookbook and that became the genesis of “Food For Life,” which was released in 2018, followed by her Spice Blend line. “I had some great recipes in the book for my spices and I thought this would make a great product, because we sprinkle spices on our food everyday. People don’t realize that a lot of the ones we find on store shelves have additives or they are made with white table salt, which isn’t good for you. They have fillers and chemicals in them and MSG disguised as other things, and sprinkling on your food everyday could be harmful,” she says, adding, “A lot of the herbs we consume are good for us and have benefits, so you want to be sprinkling nutrition on your food, and I thought about making something that was not only tastes amazing, but is good for you. That’s how Laila Ali Spice Blends came about.”
Ali recently launched three new Spice Blends, which she is thrilled about. “I actually go into my kitchen with all of the ingredients and put these blends together myself. There is a lot of testing that goes on and then I take the recipe and send it to my supplier, who makes it in bulk. It takes me a while to come up with new recipes because I am testing them and checking with my friends,” she says. The new stars to her line are a taco seasoning called, Perfect Taco, which Ali says, “It’s so good – it has a twist of lime, which makes it really different,” Garlic Goddess, a salt-free, garlic blend, and the one she is most excited about, which she tells us “Is the Greatest of All Time blend, which I have dedicated to my father, which I love on burgers.” She says, “The Spice Blends are my baby because I am literally in the kitchen making these recipes myself, so I feel closest to them, but I also have new products coming for YOUPLENISH, my nutrition line, which is a pharmaceutical grade, high quality line of supplements, and I’m adding more there because now with everything that’s going on, more people are focused on their health.”
Ali’s focus is always quality first. ”I like to partner with manufacturers who have the same values and create amazing products, which just makes it easier for me because I’m working with experts that already know what’s good and what isn’t. Then I can give my input and bring my products to market, so it’s been a really fun process.” Committed to wellness, all of Ali’s products are pharmaceutical grade and tested by a third party that has certifications. “Most of the time products on the market have not been tested. They might be FDA approved, but that’s not the same thing. You send your ingredients, nobody really tests them and your FDA approved as long as you don’t have any chemicals that are on their list, but that is not that valuable to begin with because here in this country, we use a lot of ingredients that are approved, but other countries have banned. I have a green powder – I could be using grass out of my backyard, grinding it up and putting in a green powder, and nobody’s checking. With pharmaceutical grade it has been checked and certified for any toxins, heavy metals, mold spores and all these different things, so it’s the highest quality product you can buy. The manufacturers who make my products create products for doctors, so it really is high quality. I’m excited about it. It’s products that I use because I don’t like to offer anything that I wouldn’t use myself.”
This year Ali launched Laila Ali Skincare, “Laila Ali Skincare is all about anti-aging, luxurious, plant based ingredients. It’s sulphate free, paraben free, phthalate free, not tested on animals, and made in the U.S.A., so we actually know what’s in the products.”
When asked how she would like to help our community and influence the world with her brand, Ali says, “I’m involved in multiple causes. Some to mention are Athletes for Impact, and Peace for Kids – those are a couple of grass-roots organizations – Billie Jean King’s Women’s Sports Foundation, American Heart Association, Feeding America and American Diabetes Association.”
Laila Ali Lifestyle is part of Ali’s personal legacy, but as she says, “I am still writing my legacy. I always feel like there’s a whole lot more to do. We don’t always see the path ahead of us, but I’m going to keep moving in the right direction, and be someone who can be a positive role model and a positive example for my children, and hopefully create something I can leave for them. As a TV host or as a “celebrity,” once I’m gone, that’s it. I want to leave something for my children and for my family and for generations to come, that they can build off what I’m creating now.”
Photo Credit: Matt Armendariz
Wherever her journey takes her, Ali is a dynamic force to be reckoned with and as she continues to write her legacy and inspire us all to do the same, she’ll be coaching us from the sidelines, just like a boss!
Watch the interview with Laila Ali below: