She’s got the pedigree of a born champion, her own résumé of in-ring excellence and the natural charisma of a superstar. However, no matter how many battles she’s won in and out of the boxing ring, Laila Ali’s life has also been full of as many emotional peaks and valleys. These days, she bares her soul on her own inspirational podcast Laila Ali Lifestyle
, available on iTunes and the PodcastOne network. Recently, she stepped in as the new host of Home Made Simple
on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, and her new cookbook, Food for Life
, will be released on January 23.
Live Happy: Congratulations on joining Home Made Simple as the new host. What can viewers expect from the show?
Laila Ali: I’m really excited because I have the opportunity to make people happy by teaching them how to make their house a home. A designer, a carpenter and I go in and we figure out what the problem is, come up with a design plan and then make it happen for them. I also get in the kitchen and cook with the families and teach them simple healthy recipes from my cookbook.
Who in your life has taught you the most about happiness?
What I’ve learned over the years is to not to put too much on others for my happiness and to be in control of my own life. Otherwise, people let you down.…You can’t control what other people do, what goes on around you, all you can do is control your reaction to it. It’s very mental. If you feel down, if you feel like, “Oh God, the world is such a tough place. Nothing ever goes my way,” that’s going to be your existence. You’re going to bring that all to fruition. Happiness is really a mindset…that’s what I’ve learned time and time again.
When is the last time you laughed out loud?
My children make me laugh a lot of the time, without even trying. I have a 6-year-old, Sydney, my daughter. I have a 9-year-old, Curtis. Some of the things they say are just out of straight innocence, you know? Just super-duper funny. I don’t take myself too seriously anyway, so I love looking for a good laugh.
What is the kindest act someone has done for you?
The acts that stand out would be those that people do with no expectations in return. Sometimes people do nice things for you because they want a certain response and they want something from you. But something as simple as just being in line in the coffee shop, and the cashier says, “This guy just bought your coffee,” and it’s totally unexpected. That happened to me a couple weeks ago and that’s one of the things I always appreciate.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about encouraging others to take control of their lives through their lifestyle choices: eating healthy, exercising, having some spirituality, meditating, taking a holistic approach of finding balance in life. I think that this is especially important with all the problems we have right now with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and mental illness. It’s like we’re on this hamster wheel all the time, so, I just want people to know that they can actually change that. That’s really a passion of mine.
Where is your happy place?
My happy place is at home, in the kitchen or family room with my family. I would choose being there any time over anywhere else. I’m most comfortable and at home in my kitchen cooking a good meal for my family.
Gerry Strauss is a journalist who specializes in entertainment and pop culture.