The National Black MBA Association held it’s 38th annual conference and exposition in New Orleans Oct. 11-15, 2016. Fitness and wellness expert and former boxing champion Laila Ali was in attendance and appeared to be in great spirits since the death of her father, activist and professional boxer Muhammad Ali. Rolling out had a chance to speak with her briefly on finding her true passion after retiring from the boxing ring, her thoughts on athletes using their platform to speak out against racial injustices, and advice for starting a business and brand.
How did you determine what you would do after your sports career?
For me, as an athlete doing what you love for so many years when you’ve worked so hard on your skills, unfortunately, there comes a time when it ends. Most of us have to go through a period of time when we get a little depressed. You’re like “wow, what am I going to do now that I can be just as passionate about?” It took me a long time to figure things out. The opportunities will come but you have to figure out which of them to take. I had to meditate and take some time to think about what I love and would do for free. That was when I thought about fitness and wellness and really empowering people to take their health in their control. That really comes naturally to me. That’s when I knew I needed to put a team of people around me that could help me turn this into a business for myself. As opportunities come, I thought about my long-term and short-term goals and developing partnerships with different people making sure they understand my core beliefs and values. I want to be involved in every aspect. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist as well a creative. I don’t want to just slap my name on something. I definitely need to have someone on my team that knows more than me and is more experienced than me to be able to come to a conclusion together.
What are your thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick speaking out on social causes and injustices?
I believe that everyone should do what’s in their heart. If you feel that you should take a stand then it shouldn’t matter that you’re an athlete, entertainer or just a regular person. Everyone can make a change in their own way but you have to be prepared for the long haul. Once you decide to take a stand I believe that you have to see it through. That’s the thing about being in the public eye, you have to be prepared for that and everything that comes with it.
Could you briefly speak about a time when you’ve used your athleticism and professional conditioning in the business world or to address social justice?
I rely on a lot of what I learned as an athlete and in the ring. Ultimately, you’re going in the ring for war to fight. It’s very mental. I am very strong mentally and I felt like I won my fights before I even got into the ring. Every cell in my body would tell me you’re about to win this fight. There is no doubt how it’s going to play out. I kind of have a positive outlook on everything that I do. I can achieve anything that I want to, it’s just a matter of what road I’m going to take to get there and how I’m going to deal with the adversities that come up along the way. That helps me a lot because there have been times when I feel like I’m not going to make it but then I push through. I recall those situations and it keeps me positive. Your mindset can hold you back obviously. It all starts there with everything that you do. I think that is something I have been able to take from the ring and apply it to every other area of my life.