Laila Ali: I wanted to be independent
Working with hands was nothing new for Laila Ali. Before she became a world championship fighter, she had her own nail salon. Now, in retirement, she has her own line of hair-care and skin-care products.
"I've always been a very ambitious person. Before I actually started fighting, I decided at a very young age that I wanted to be independent. I wanted to move out of the house by the time I was 18. I always wanted to grow up fast. So I said, how am I gonna support myself? So I went to school. Learned how to do nails while I was in high school. Took the bus way across town. Got my license. Became a manicurist. ... I had clientele. That takes a lot of responsibility. I got very good at it.
"Anything that I do, I want to be the best. So I was going to be the best manicurist there was. I still think I am, by the way. And by the time I was 18 I had my own nail salon and was very successful. And I was going to school full time. I lived on my own. And I was right on track.
"And that's why when I saw women's boxing for the first time, it took me a year to really actually decide to go for it 'cause I was like, how am I gonna do this? You know, I had my plans in place and I like to follow a plan. ... I just had to follow my heart into the ring.
"I can remember the first time I saw women's boxing. I was tuning in to watch a Mike Tyson fight, and all of a sudden these ladies came out that were on the undercard and I was totally surprised, unaware that women even fought. And at that moment something in me was just like I want to do that. I can do that. And the seed was planted.
"When I started thinking about retiring, the one thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to have children. So I'm a planner. So I said, OK. How am I gonna have children, be at home to raise my children, but still be able to support myself and my family?
"So I decided, because I am a business-minded person, to go back to business, go back to beauty, because that was my passion. Before I started boxing, I was gonna start a chain of nail salons and who knows what that would've turned into? So I decided to go into creating beauty products. Hair care, styling tools. And, you know, pretty much create a lifestyle brand that was based off of being better for you. You know, beauty comes from within. So I believe in eating right and fitness and health and also using the best non-toxic, earth friendly products on yourself as far as everything you put into your body and you put on the outside of your body.
"So that's my major focus right now and I'm learning a lot along the way. So I feel like I'm starting all over again and it's definitely a challenge."