At 15, Laila Ali got her first job at McDonald’s and she’s been hustling hard since, from becoming a manicurist and opening her own salon by age 18 to following her father Muhammad Ali’s footsteps into the boxing ring. Now the wife and mom of two is host of the new FYI culinary competition show, “Late Nite Chef Fight.” See her success secrets and what’s cooking in her sizzling career.
Name: Laila Ali
City: Los Angeles, CA
Title: Host of “Late Nite Chef Fight”
Her new gig: I love to cook and have won cooking competitions in the past. When the opportunity came up to host “Late Nite Chef Fight,” it was right up my alley. I love seeing these chefs go up against one another. My first hosting gig came after I competed in “Dancing With the Stars.” If an opportunity seems like it will be enjoyable, then I go for it because I like challenging myself.
Her start: I’ve always been independent and ambitious, and got my first job at 15. I was visiting my dad in Michigan during the summer and I wanted to have my own money so I took a job a McDonald’s. I began learning how to do nails in high school and by the time I was 18, I had my own salon. I was planning to expand that business into a chain, until I saw women’s boxing on television and started a new path.
Confessions of a retired boxer: My father tried to indirectly talk me out of becoming a boxer. I had no experience and I did not know what was going to happen, but I did have confidence. I did all of my learning in front of the public, which is different for most boxers who have an amateur career. Once I got to a certain level, the fights were not as challenging. I decided it was time to move on and start a family.
Her lesson learned: You can’t worry about what other people think. I remember when I first started boxing, people questioned my decisions. “Why do you want to box? You’re too pretty to box. This has to be a publicity stunt.” I felt like I had something to prove. I passed up other opportunities like a movie because I wondered if people were going to think that I was not serious about boxing. You don’t ever want regrets of not doing something your heart wanted to do.
Her professional highlight: After I fought Jacqui Frazier, I took a whole year off from boxing from a shoulder surgery. I came back and fought for my first title against a girl who was respected in boxing. I stopped the girl in the third round and won my first tittle. Winning the IBF title was definitely one of my professional highlights.
Her work/life strategy: My family always comes first. I turn down certain things if my schedule has me away from home too long. I don’t go chasing the dollar or a career. My dad raised me and he was gone all the time, so it’s really important for me to be present for my kids.
Her good fast food: My go-to meal when I’m busy are smoothies. It’s the quickest, most nutritious way to get something in your body. I include protein powder, a good fat like coconut oil or almond butter, and then add powdered greens or spinach, ice and almond milk.
Her favorite app: My favorite apps are Map My Run, Fitness Pal and Waze for driving.
Her mantra: Whenever I feel like something's a struggle, I just say, "Come on champ. Let's do this."
Her superpower: My security with myself, no matter where I go and who I'm around. If every material thing was taken away, you should still be able to stand strong and not hang your head low. That's something I learned from my father.
Her next chapter: I am working on a new book on fitness and wellness. It will include recipes along with my philosophy on fitness and health.
Her theme song: “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan.