Royalty in the field of sports, former boxer Laila Ali comes from a champion pedigree and has made a name for herself in her own right.
Businesswoman. Check. She holds a degree in business from Santa Monica College. Zero losses. Check. She retired from the boxing world undefeated. Small-screen queen. Check. She has appeared on numerous TV talk shows and hosted her very own for CBS, OWN and E! And now she’s taking on the fashion world.
Check out her exclusive ESSENCE interview below to see how she’s using style to empower women as the spokesperson for The Maxx You Project.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us about your collaboration with TJ Maxx.
LAILA ALI: T.J. Maxx is creating a community that encourages women to embrace their individuality. Despite the fact that every woman has something that makes her special, new research shows that over half of women filter their individuality just to succeed in society. But there’s good news: Seventy-five percent of women say that when they see others being true to who they are, they’re inspired to do the same. In its second year, The Maxx You Project will host a series of workshops and provide an online forum to connect women with one another and surround them with a “shecosystem” that inspires and allows women to tap into the momentum of others to accelerate their own journeys.
ESSENCE.com: When did you first realize that sports, fashion and beauty would be a multilevel niche for you?
ALI: I have truly been blessed to be able to go from professional boxing to TV hosting to being a cookbook author to having my own lifestyle brand and much more. I have continued to follow my passion and intuition confidently, and it has led me in the right direction.
ESSENCE.com: Given your family legacy, how did you adjust to fame early on and settle into your womanhood as an Ali?
ALI: Luckily, my parents were both very grounded and being famous was not important in our household. Having good character and living life with dignity, integrity and kindness were what made you a star. Early on I realized that I wanted to be my own person and create my own legacy that was dependent on who I was as a person, not fame. This realization has helped guide me and keep me grounded and allowed me to accept and love myself.
ESSENCE.com: How would you describe your personal style, and what fits your shape best?
ALI: My style is relaxed, casual and sophisticated. I don’t like to spend much time getting dressed, so for me it’s all about having pieces I love that I can mix and match.
ESSENCE.com: How have you approached being a Black female entrepreneur in unwelcoming corporate environments?
ALI: I have always brought my best to the table in any situation. Luckily, in the corporate world, I haven’t had any negative issues due to being a Black woman. But if I did, I would most likely continue to put forth all of the excellence that I have come to expect of myself and keep my attention and energy directed toward the goals I have set out to achieve. In trying times, I would ask myself, What would Michelle Obama do?
Visit MaxxYouProject.com for more information on Laila Ali and The Maxx You Project.