Laila Ali, 39, is the proud daughter of the late, greatest Muhammad Ali — the eighth of his nine children. She is also an accomplished athlete, multimedia personality, author, businesswoman and mother. After a perfect 24–0 record as a boxer, Ali branched out on TV shows like Dancing with the Stars, Chopped and American Gladiators. Most recently, she joined the cast of NBC’s The New Celebrity Apprentice and launched the Laila Ali Lifestyle podcast on PodcastOne. We chatted with Ali, who gift of gab (and jab) rivals that of her father.
What attracted you to The New Celebrity Apprentice?
Well, the word “new” is the main difference that got me in this time. I’ve been asked to do the show multiple times before. The fact that it was a new boss, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, and moving here to Los Angeles, and then the names of the advisors in the board room really attracted me.
What was Arnold Schwarzenegger like to work with?
He was a lot of fun. Aside from being a businessman and a fitness competitor and a governor, he is an actor and a comedian. He’s really funny. I knew him more as a governor, when I was on his governor’s council for physical fitness, here in Los Angeles. So I had that connection with him. He also has always been a really big fan of my father’s and a friend of the family. Being able to do the show with him was a lot of fun.
What’s your favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?
Was there any interaction with the old boss, President Donald Trump?
No. He wasn’t even a topic of conversation.
You’ve been on Dancing with the Stars and Chopped; how does Celebrity Apprentice compare to those shows?
I love cooking, so Chopped was amazing. It’s a really hard show. It’s no joke about it, you gotta really know what you’re doing in the kitchen. Dancing with the Stars was an opportunity to show a different side of myself, coming straight out of the boxing ring and going to ballroom and showing people that I wasn’t just a mean boxer. I needed that for my career. And then Celebrity Apprentice flexed the different muscle for me, putting on my executive hat and having to work in a corporate space and make decisions and work with others as a team, and different personalities and these different celebrities, but at the same time, to be able to raise money for charity. I loved the fact that Celebrity Apprentice has raised $15 million for charity, over the seasons, which I think is great. It’s a win-win show for everybody.
How did you meet your husband, former NFL receiver Curtis Conway?
We met through a mutual friend. He was having a fight party at his house, and somebody that I knew brought me to his house for the fight party and that’s where we met. It was (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.). He was fighting (Arturo Gatti).
You were an undercard on two Mike Tyson fights, do you have any Tyson stories?
I don’t really have a good Tyson story per say, because you know when you’re ready to fight, you’re focused on yourself. But I remember I was fighting a girl (Erin Toughill) who was in MMA, a mixed martial artist, and she was also a boxer. I remember really, really kicking her ass and loving it. That was fun. She’s big like me, athletic like me, she felt like she had what all these other girls are missing. And I’m like beating her down, and all of a sudden, she turns her back, so I was like, “You can’t tap out in boxing! What are you doing?” I remember her being pissed off about that statement, like “She’s disrespecting MMA.” I’m, “No. I’m not disrespecting MMA. I’m talking to you! You cannot tap out, don’t turn your back on me, girl!” Then the ref stopped the fight, but her nose was broken, she needed to be stopped. The funny thing about that is, I ended up hosting American Gladiators with Hulk Hogan and she ended up being one of the gladiators, and they had to come ask me my permission. Did I mind? And I said, “No, it’s okay.” I still let her have a job, even after all that trash talking.
I read that you helped save Hulk Hogan’s life?
That came to my surprise, too. I knew he was going through a divorce or something, going through a lot even when he was shooting the show (American Gladiators) and I had kind of invited him to my church, Agape, at the time, with Reverend Michael Beckwith. And I fixed him up with reading the book The Secret, and he really got into it and started going to my church. I called him at some point, probably just about a question about (American Gladiators). And the story went that he had a gun to his head, and I called and I saved him. I see that more as divine intervention. It wasn’t like I called him and he told me what he was about to do and I talked him off the ledge or something like that. But hey, it’s positive, as long as he’s still here with us, so that’s great.
What got you interested in doing a podcast?
I want to have a place where I can just speak my mind, share information, interact with fans, take calls, take questions, bring on inspirational, informational, entertaining guests and I haven’t had the opportunity to do that. I was like, “Let me do something where I can be me, talk about what I want to talk about for as long as I want to talk about it.”
What was it like growing up as the daughter of Muhammad Ali?
I wouldn’t change it for the world though because I love my life as it is. Having the same DNA as Muhammad Ali, it gives me a tremendous amount of confidence. And so much of who I am is because of who my father is. And a lot of the same things in him are in me, so I love it. But everyone loves Muhammad Ali. It’s amazing how many people have had the opportunity to actually to see him, touch him, feel him, or be in his presence. He passed away recently, and so many people in the world mourned his death along with our family. But it gives me comfort to know that he’s no longer suffering with Parkinson’s and he’s moved on to a better place now and he can be happy and free — running his mouth like he used to.
Do you have a favorite memory of your father?
There’s so many. My father has always been the type of dad that would pretty much give us anything we wanted. He was like a big kid. He loved piling us all in his Rolls Royce and put the top down and go cruising down one of the main boulevards in Los Angeles and going to a local diner. We’d be there for hours because he’d be signing autographs. That was every day with my dad. He liked attention. He liked a crowd. He welcomed people.
What do you think he would want his enduring legacy to be?
I asked my sister, Hana, that because she was like closer to him than any of us kids. And she said that, he said he wanted people to remember him as someone that tried to help everybody. That’s truly what he was. He was that guy that whenever we would go to the restaurant, he’d leave the waitress a $100 tip. He tried to make everybody feel special, more special than he was. He’d look them in the eye — whether it was the janitor or bus driver, whoever it was — and he would make them feel bigger than life. My dad wanted people to have a happy heart. He would give his money away, he’d go broke, he’d take his shirt off his back. He was that kind of guy. And he wanted to be remembered as such.