Laila Ali, 39, is a force to be reckoned with! You may know her as the iconic, undefeated boxing champ, who went 24-0 before she hung up her gloves in 2007. However, that was only one chapter of the astonishing book that is her life. Now, she’s working with T.J. Maxx [learn more below] to inspire and help women embrace their individuality, all while juggling a family, her entrepreneurial pursuits and so much more. Laila also reflects on what her father, “global icon,” Muhammad Ali, taught her that has shaped the woman she is today. Check out our full interview with the stunning and inspiring Laila Ali, below!
Our readers look to strong, positive women like you to influence their lifestyles. Can you break down your favorite workouts and superfoods? — I like to mix it up, depending on what my fitness goals are. Right now, I like dong high intensity interval training (HIIT). I start with cycling, then move to elliptical stairs, sprinting on the treadmill and end with the heavy bag. I also do a light weight training before I cool down. When I’m busy filming a show and unable to work out regularly, I usually gain weight. That’s when I hit the road and run 4-5 miles 5 days a week to get weight off easily.
Healthy eating is a big passion for me. Most people know me as a professional boxer, but I’m also a cooking enthusiast! I’ve been working on a cookbook, “Food for Life: Delicious & Healthy Comfort Food From My Table To Yours!” that features recipes I’ve carefully selected with promoting healthier eating habits in mind. Check it out!
I like to start my morning with a nutrition packed protein shake which usually includes spinach or kale, berries, nut butter or coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla protein powder and ice. I also add Maca powder and chlorella powder for a superfood boost!
You do it all; chef author, boxing champ, mom — How do you balance? What advice can you give to the moms out there?
It’s hard! It’s a balancing act, that I’m not sure if I’ll ever perfect. When you have a child, everything changes. Your whole thought process in the morning changes when you wake up. And this all-consuming identity of being a mom may be reflective of traditional gender roles, it’s important to stay true to yourself and not to fall victim to the stereotyping. You can be a mother and still let your individuality shine. Your time is more valuable and you’re forced to be more selective about how you spend it – you’re not the only person in the equation anymore. That’s why I think it’s so important that T.J.Maxx wants to help women everywhere identify what makes them one-of-a-kind with the Maxx You Project. Once you discover more about yourself and identify what makes you unique, you can really focus on what exactly you want to nurture when you’re not on mommy-duty. Learn how to prioritize and don’t feel guilty about not being able to extend yourself.
Consistently writing things down really helps me out. Because if you don’t write your short-term goals, life will just pass you by. I don’t think there’s any woman who’s successful that won’t tell you we still need to find more time for ourselves. For me, I make sure every two weeks I get a mani and pedi; that’s one thing I’m going to stay on top of.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with T.J. Maxx? — How do you stay true to yourself?
I partnered with T.J.Maxx on The Maxx You Project, an ongoing initiative to inspire and help women embrace their individuality, this spring. I was so excited when T.J.Maxx asked me to continue this collaboration as we propel this mission forward with the Maxx You Project Lab. We’re hitting the road and inviting women to participate in an immersive live experience that features a series of playful, thought-provoking and interactive activities designed to help women explore their strengths and uncover something new about themselves to reach their highest potential.
Throughout my life, I’ve learned the importance of challenging the stereotypes that hold you back. It’s better to confront stereotypes and gender norms head-on. I know all too well the challenges of being put into a box – whether it’s as a woman in the boxing ring or in the kitchen. I’m able to stay true to my multidimensional-self when I can shake loose of external forces and expectations.
Is there a life philosophy you live by each day to stay motivated?
You have to push yourself or you’ll never reach your goals. If you don’t push yourself, your unique aspirations will remain just that – dreams. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone sometimes, and be a little uncomfortable, before you can get comfortable again and let your individuality shine.
What are some attributes that have helped or hindered your journey to success?
Well I had the double or triple whammy that my father, being the greatest boxer of all time, coming behind him there would be a lot of comparisons to him. Then the fact that I’m a woman, when people weren’t even aware that women boxed. The third one was just, ‘You don’t look like someone who should be a boxer; you’re too pretty to box. Why don’t you just model?’ Forget the fact that the same blood is running through me; they couldn’t fathom the fact that I was a woman, a pretty woman, who wanted to fight. I think because of the spotlight, because of my last name, many women judged me or assumed that I was going to be easier to fight.
How has your father taught you the importance of being you?
My father taught me how to be confident and to be fearless in everything you do. To me, he’s a global icon; And not a champion boxer. He felt that boxing was just his platform to do all the greater good. He took his confidence and fearlessness and used it in a positive way to make a difference in our world. He brought the passion you see in the ring in his commitment to humanitarian causes.
How do you break through barriers and stereotypes to be true to yourself?
Your dreams should know no limit. Your dreams should be so big that they knock down barriers, stereotypes and roles that society has imposed on you. Let your individuality shine and do it in the biggest way possible. A lot of people gave me a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t get into the ring – they said “women shouldn’t box” and I just started a business of my own and was expected to head in that direction. That’s why I think it’s so important that T.J.Maxx wants to help women everywhere identify what makes them one-of-a-kind with the Maxx You Project. Hopefully it will give women to confidence to pursue what makes them one-of-a-kind in the biggest, boundary breaking way.