When Muhammad Ali died in 2016 the world lost a legend, but Laila lost a father. She tells HL about the tender moments she shared with the late boxer.
Home Made Simple host Laila Ali, 41, is revealing what she misses most about her dad, Muhammad. The former boxer – whose show will make its Season 9 premiere on OWN on Nov. 9 – opened up to HollywoodLife during an EXCLUSIVE interview about the DIY series. Three years ago, in June 2016, fans mourned as the boxing legend passed away at the age of 74. But, while the public may miss Muhammad Ali the icon, Laila misses the simple things about her dad.
“I miss my father. I just miss his touch, you know,” she says. “I miss the smell of his skin, the feel of his hair, his energy. He just always had this warm, strong, bright energy whenever he was around, even though he had Parkinson’s and he didn’t really speak that much.” As Muhammad Ali fans know, the sports hero was diagnosed with having the neurodegenerative disease in 1984, which over the decades made speech difficult and left him shaky.
“You miss being able to just give your dad a hug and kissing him on his cheek,” Laila says about her late father. “Looking him in his eyes… But one thing that always gives me comfort is knowing that my father is in a better place and he’s happy again. He’s no longer struggling with Parkinson’s. So, anytime I have a sad feeling and I miss him – of course I accept that I’m having those feelings – I have happy thoughts about him and I’m happy that he’s moved on and he’s free.”
Laila is just one of Muhammad’s nine children. The former world heavyweight champion (who famously boasted that he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee), had seven daughters and two sons. Laila is his youngest daughter. When it comes to the man that she knew in private, the mom-of-two says that one thing his fans may not know is that her dad “used to cry often.”
“I remember growing up, my father used to cry,” she says. “You would think you don’t want to cry in front of your kids, but he used to cry regularly. And he’d say, ‘No, no, I’m not sad.’ We’d say, ‘Daddy, why are you crying?’ You know, you’re 5-years-old and your dad is crying. But he’d say, ‘I’m crying because I’m happy…’ He’d just have tears of joy.”
Laila adds, “He was highly sensitive, but it was a gift. And he would see us happy, see us having a good time and it would just bring him to tears. So, he was very loving, he loved children and he loved always to put other people first. He would give you the shirt off his back, literally give you [the] last money in his bank account. He literally did that a couple of times… My mom was like, ‘We went bankrupt because your dad gave all the money away’… to causes and things like that. He always put himself before others.”
Giving back to others is something that Laila says she loves about her show Home Made Simple, which transforms the homes of families with “amazing stories.” “A lot of times they’ve been through a lot and they’re really deserving of a home makeover,” she says. “So that alone makes me feel really good.” Season 9 of Home Made Simple premieres on OWN on Nov. 9 at 9am.