Be Yourself. Change The World. With Laila Ali
Laila Ali is a four-time undefeated boxing world champion and the daughter of Muhammad Ali. Laila is also a fitness & wellness advocate, and a loving, dedicated parent. She joins Michael and Pele for a conversation on what it was like growing up with Muhammad Ali as her father, staying true to yourself no matter what room you walk into, and how she tries to pass down important lessons about nutrition and faith to her children. Plus, how do Michael, Pele and Laila all draw boundaries between “parent time” and “partner time”?
[00:31] Michael Bennett: Today we have one of the greatest human beings on the face of the planet. No, I’m not talking about myself or Pele. I’m talking about Laila Ali. She’s a mother, philanthropist, humanitarian. She got cookbooks — I’m not sure, I haven’t tasted the food, but on Instagram and the cookbook, it looks really good. Is the food as good as it looks?
[00:55] Laila Ali: First of all, thank you for that introduction. It was very nice of you to say all those things. Yes, my food is actually amazing. You know what makes it so amazing? Not only does it taste good, it’s good for you. That’s what I’m proud of. Many people can make food that tastes good by putting in all sorts of ingredients that aren’t necessarily good for you. So what I pride myself in doing is creating foods that we love, comfort foods, whether it be that fried chicken or mac and cheese or salads, pastas, whatever it is. But using high-quality ingredients, that’s what I’m all about.
[01:27] Michael Bennett: So we started there, might as well dig deep into food. Our foundation is based on food. And I was wondering, since you’re an athlete, since you’ve been doing stuff with food, have you seen all the issues with food within the community. Especially our community and the Polynesian community, with diabetes and all these things where food has been an issue?
[01:52] Laila Ali: Absolutely. There’s so much I can say to answer that question. Starting as an athlete, I learned at a very young age how important food was, you know, when it came to my performance. But when I was competing, I was much younger, I was getting in the ring fighting. You know, I needed my energy. So it was more about eating the right foods at the right time more so than the quality of the food that I ate. So I wasn’t about calories, any of that. You’re burning so many calories, right. You can pretty much eat whatever you want. So it was like how many carbs do I need? Then when I retired from boxing and, you know, had children, I started doing my research about how to fuel my body to have a healthy baby. And then you come across non-GMO and organic and, you know, all of that stuff. So, you know, I’ve continued to learn and grow from there. And of course, I mean, heart disease is the number one killer in our world, which is really sad because a lot of times it comes down to our lifestyle choices, mainly the foods that we put in our body. And it can go way beyond that. You know, our skin is our largest organ. A lot of people don’t realize that. The chemicals that we put on our skin through the products that we use on the air that we breathe, the plug-ins, the scents, the candles, all these different things.
[03:04] Laila Ali: So it’s like my whole thing is trying to reduce my exposure to the bad stuff as much as I can. And, you know, you think about eating to fuel your body as a human being. The food that you eat turns into the cells that turn into your hair and your brain and your organs and things like that. But we don’t really think of food that way anymore. And people opening packages, you look on the back of it, you see all these chemicals made in a factory that are not giving you any nutrition. And then we wonder why people are obese, but still hungry. Because they’re not getting any nutrition. So, yeah, I could go on and on about that.
[03:37] Pele Bennett: I love it because I think when we started our foundation, the number one thing we were always asked is what does Michael eat? What do I prepare for Michael? And I was like, I don’t really know at that point. And so we kept learning and researching and I think we started learning what he needs. But then also I’m like, wait, why am I only doing him, like, I need to be fueled myself. So, like, OK, what do I need? And I think it is like taking the time to read all the labels on the packages. It’s a little more work, but I’m like it goes a long way. But then how do you implement that into the house? So then I’m having three kids, my weight’s fluctuating, hormones like everything’s all over the place. He has, you know, a different way of eating. But I think what we are also learning is that it wasn’t only physically, it was also the brain. We’re like, how do we fuel our brain? And then not only for us, it’s like the kids. How do we fuel the kids? So teaching the kids good fats, bad fats. I love being in the kitchen, I grew up like that. We are foodies, so we like to cook. And the girls love to cook. We have three girls and they’re always in the kitchen. I think it’s important that they don’t only know how to cook, but like, what are the ingredients and why are you using those ingredients? Where does the food come from? What different spices do you use? And then it also goes into your product for your body. Like that is so true. So many homeopathic things you can do for your skin.
[04:50] Michael Bennett: Yeah. Every time we travel and we go out to a different countries, I’m like, dang Pele, I lost 10 pounds. And she always get mad at me.
[04:56] Pele Bennett: I’m like. Don’t tell me. I’m like, I’m the last person that wants to know. I’m not going to be a cheerleader for you right now. I probably gained 10 pounds. I’m like, I’m not going to pat you on the back.
[05:06] Michael Bennett: I don’t know how I lost 10 pounds. I just walked.
[05:10] Laila Ali: I’ll tell you how, because a lot of times, depending on what countries you go to, they first of all, they ban a lot of the chemicals that we use here in the U.S. They’re cooking fresher food. They’re not eating as much processed foods. So you probably, you know, you can eat a decadent meal, but it’s made with fresh ingredients, you know. I think that the more we educate our children while they’re young, the better chances they’ll have when they get older just to understand that food doesn’t come from a package. Take them to your organic farmers or your local farmers, you know, take them to the market with you. Shop on the outside of the market. Not the middle. And just start finding brands that you can trust. Then you don’t have to read the labels as much. When you start sourcing brands that you know are trusted, then you can — you know, you still gotta keep your eye on the label here and there.
[05:57] Michael Bennett: We’ve been lucky to be able to have privilege to afford certain things. How do we make eating a cool thing and in our communities? Because you see like if you look at the food desert, they only have, you know, the McDonald’s, everything fast food. They don’t really have access to fresh vegetables. How can we make food cool again? I feel like athletes have a role in that because a lot of times the athletes are on the McDonald’s commercials.
[06:24] Laila Ali: Not me. I’m proudly saying no. Never ever ever ever. Well, not only that. Let me just say this. Everyone does not have the same feelings towards food. So you might see an amazing athlete doing a McDonald’s ad or, you know, another fast food ad. They don’t necessarily eat it themselves, but they don’t have strong feelings about or educated about food. I will say that. This is something that I, you know, live. This my life.
[06:51] Laila Ali: So I know that I wouldn’t do it. You know what I mean? But at the same time, to answer your question, yes, a lot of people say to me, I can’t afford to eat organic or I can’t afford to eat healthy. And yes, organic food does cost more. There are ways that you can go about purchasing food that’s better for you at lower costs. You know, you’re gonna have to go to your you know, sometimes your Costco, or get some coupons. You’re gonna have to go to the farmer’s market where you can get it cheaper. And you’re gonna have to set some priorities because those same people will be going to the coffee shop spending $7 a day on a cup of coffee, or they’ll go get the name-brand clothes and they don’t want to spend — it’s one thing when you can’t afford all these things. But I’m talking about people who can’t afford them that are complaining because they just don’t really see the value in spending more money on the products that are better for them. So until they see things that way, they’re not even going to begin to do the things that they need to do. And you don’t have to cook gourmet food every night. I’m talking about you get some organic rice, you can go get some organic beans.
[07:53] Michael Bennett: Yeah, her brother ate lentils everyday. He literally ate lentils every day. His wife was going crazy. She’s like Michael, help me.
[08:02] Laila Ali: I mean, that’s not realistic for everybody. I’m just saying there is a way. But your point being, you can make it happen on lentils alone.
[08:11] Pele Bennett: But I do think putting your body as a priority — we always talk about that because people do, their money is spent on, you know, things that are materialistic that you can literally throw away. But your body is not, it’s here forever. So I think it is important to put your body first. But that’s not highlighted. That’s not like something that’s in right now. So I think for us, teaching the girls, that is so important to what you’re eating. Like, I love, love, love being in the kitchen with them. And I love talking about food, because there’s so much you can do with it. But another side of it is the scientific part of it. You know, when you’re cooking certain foods, how does it break down? What does it turn into? You know, and then how does that feed your body? And I think putting that together with, you know, his career and then also the girls are very much into sports. They play basketball, soccer. And so, you know, teaching them those little things.
[08:57] Michael Bennett: They’re not good yet. I’m coaching. I’m actually the coach of my daughters’ teams at home. How many daughters did your father have?
[09:15] Laila Ali: There are seven of us.
[09:16] Michael Bennett: So what exactly is a girl-dad, to you? Because I feel like a lot of times before, men didn’t really want to have daughters. It wasn’t something that like, “oh, I have a daughter!” Since Kobe has passed, I feel like this has been more in the forefront of like, oh, I’m a girl-dad.
[09:45] Laila Ali: I would say that there definitely is a girl-dad, since there’s a name for it now. But, you know, the thing is, is that they’ve always been there.So if it’s positive, I don’t care what the reason is, that’s a good thing. But I would say that my dad wasn’t a girl-dad. I remember when I said I want to box, he said, no, it’s not for you. It’s not for women. It’s a man’s sport. And I said, well, watch me. You know, and of course, he was just scared. He was worried about his baby girl. Didn’t want me being in a dirty boxing gym with boxing men, you know. But then he saw I followed my heart and he’s told me he was wrong. Years later, after winning my titles, he was like, OK, I was wrong. You can fight. Women can fight. I was like, wow, that’s a win. Because he changed his mind about women.
[10:27] Laila Ali: But I think now is a different time and we’re able to see through all the amazing athletes and women that we have, that it is possible. But, you know, I think a girl-dad would be someone who supports your girl, the same way you would support anybody, anyone you love. Right. You should support them. You support their dreams and in any way that you can, whether it be physically, financially, emotionally, to make them feel like they can do anything that they put their heart to. Doesn’t mean you’re gonna be amazing at everything. Because I also don’t like selling — especially people who want to be athletes. Some people just have natural ability. Others have to work really hard, and they can make it happen. And some will never make it happen. But so many positive things come out of the pursuit of trying to be your absolute best.
[11:11] So basically it’s just equal parenting because I feel like with men, the parents seem to put more into them because they feel like they’re going to have a better chance in life, because if you look at men have higher paying jobs, men have all these different things that are just better than women. Just being honest. So basically I feel like being the girl-dad is just you putting the same amount of work in and believing that your daughter can have the same amount of success regardless of her gender. I think that’s a really positive thing. I hope that it stays true to like how people are really feeling, because I feel like we live in a society where things can turn into fads and like next week we could it be like, no, we don’t want that. For Kobe to pass and that to be one of the things that people will remember, I think that’s positive for men who have daughters. I feel like people always look at you differently. They feel like you’re not a man unless you have a son.
[12:16] Pele Bennett: A lot of people did that to us. They’d say, “oh, you guys have kids.” And we say we have three girls. “I’m so sorry.”
[12:20] Laila Ali: Because everyone wants a girl and a boy, for whatever reason. But a lot of times, you know, you think of a man, a boy is going to carry on the family name. Whereas your daughter? Like me? I got married. I’m not Ali anymore. I’m Conway. My kids are Conway. So that Ali name is now gone. So that’s why I think from the beginning of time, people want to have, you know, men.
[12:47] Michael Bennett: Who made that rule, though?
[12:50] Pele Bennett: Men. I know, man.
[12:55] Laila Ali: I’ll tell you what, I’m just not that stuck on my last name anyway, like, I don’t feel like I have to continue that, because if I did, I would. But it’s not really a concern of mine. But I would say that, you know, with my daughter, it was really important for me to have a daughter because I feel like the woman has more control because she’s actually raising — having given birth, raising a child, choosing a man — so having a daughter was really important to me. I wanted both. You know, so it’s really all just about balance.
[13:21] Pele Bennett: I think for me, sometimes it’s difficult because he’s a male athlete. We have three girls that are always around more male athletes, we’re in the football world, we go do different things. It’s so many men everywhere, you know. And I see how, you know, even for me when I go in, like they don’t know who I am, they really just go to him. Right. I see so much of that and my girls see that. So for me, it’s really important to make sure that their voices are uplifted and how do they, you know, converse when they’re in a room with males and females. But how would you do that with your daughter? Because you’re an athlete. I’m looking from the outside.
[14:04] Laila Ali: Well, I think our daughters watch us and we’re their example. And my daughter sees I don’t care whose room I walk into and who’s in there, I’m the same Laila no matter where I go and I walk in with the same energy, like, you’re going to see me. You’re going to feel me. So regardless of who’s beside me or who’s not. And that’s one thing that my husband knows about me. My father knows about me. My daughter knows about me. Because I don’t really care what your socio-economic status is, what titles you have or don’t have, I treat everybody the same until they show me they need to be treated differently. And I’m not the type of woman who tries to compare myself to men. And I’m not going to tell my daughter, you can be as successful as a man. You can be something, something as a man, as a man, as a man.
[14:50] Laila Ali: I take pride in being a woman and being different. You know what I mean? And my daughter — you’re gonna be successful at anything you want to do. We’re not going to compare it to anybody else. I’m not even putting that in her mind. And I just teach her to use her voice, even with me. And trust me, she’s just like me, so we’re always like bumpin’ heads. Oh, my goodness. But it’s like if she doesn’t agree with something, I want her to tell me. It doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get your way. But I want her to get used to speaking up to me so that she knows in any relationship she’s going to expect that that’s what she’s going to be able to do. And she’s going to expect that people will let her say her piece no matter where she goes. It started at home. So I’m not one of those parents — some people will be like, you’re gonna let your child — Well, why? OK, I know I can’t go outside. But why? I’m like, she wants to know why. And I don’t get mad at that. Now, at a certain point, I told you and it’s time to be quiet. Because they’ll keep going. But they’re already — I see it with both my kids like. They will voice their opinion, and I think that, you know, when you teach them to be confident, truly confident in themselves, not because you feel like you have more money or you have name-brand clothes on or your parents are doing certain things, you’re truly confident in yourself and what you bring to the table, you can walk in any room and stand on your own, you know, regardless.
[16:08] Pele Bennett: I love that because I always say that with the girls. I’m like, if I’m talking to you in the house and say I’m telling you to go take something, or I’m asking you a question, if you cannot speak to me, and we’re at home and I’m your mom, how do you speak outside this house?
[18:31] Michael Bennett: Speaking of confidence, your husband was a great receiver. You are a great boxer. Your father was a great boxer. Your sister’s a great writer. Like how in a family like that do you help a kid have their own mind? Like, because when your parents are super successful, how do you make your own lane?
[18:59] Laila Ali: And I’m in process of doing it. So it doesn’t mean I have all the answers. We’ll see. We’ll see. But I will say that for me, I’m just all about unconditional love and not setting a standard of expectation for my kids. Like I don’t go around the house like, you know, I’m undefeated. I got 21 knockouts. You know, I never lost.
[19:17] Michael Bennett: I do that sometimes.
[19:19] Laila Ali: That’s OK. You asked me what I do. But it’s all in fun and it’s OK. But I’m saying that at the end of the day, my son’s not athletic, you know, and I never would have guessed that that my son would — not that I want him to box. I don’t. Don’t want him to play football, but I’m talking about just playing a sport. He doesn’t want to. And you feel bad because you don’t want to drag them there. But we want you to stay active. We want you to participate. That’s just one of the things you’re gonna have to do. But it feels bad when your child doesn’t want to do it. He’s more into engineering. He’s more into building, aviation. And he’s super smart, a little nerdy, you know, I’m like dang, my son? Kind of what you would think of as soft. He has a big heart, you know, and he’s just not a fighter at all. And totally not what I expect these giant — he’s like big and strong, but totally like this big sweet little teddy bear. So it’s just not something I expected. But what do you do? So I have to nurture him and let him know that I love him unconditionally. And I’m going to guide him to be great at whatever it is that he wants to do. And, you know, my daughter, on the other hand, hasn’t — she’s kind of coming behind her brother and she’s always trying to be like a brother, but she hasn’t really found her own things. Like how come you’re always talking to him about what he likes to do when people come over there? They’re always talking to him about — because he builds like airports and things like that.
[20:41] Laila Ali: I’m like, you’re younger and you haven’t really found your thing yet. You know, and you will, and we’re gonna nurture you the same way, you know. So it’s kind of like, you know, we don’t really put it in their face, and we don’t have this expectation/ Because a lot of athletes, a lot of times, you know, want to push their kids in a certain direction. And our kids, you know, they came through us, but they don’t belong to us.
[21:02] Michael Bennett: Exactly. But the expectations are so high, you know. Interesting that we both are a part of Athletes for Impact, and your father had such a big impact in the historical context of athletes standing up for something. Like in this generation, like as athletes, how do we keep that legacy living for our own selves? I feel like Athletes for Impact, it was like the first time in a long time that athletes kind of connected on stuff outside of the field. That legacy, did that impact you or did you just create your own as you started to come into yourself and find out what was your passion?
[21:58] Laila Ali: I think it’s amazing to have an organization like Athletes for Impact that provides support for athletes specifically that want to give back, want to do philanthropy, get involved in certain causes. Because we’re busy. You know, we have the platform, but we don’t always have the know-how and the tools needed to actually take things to the next level. So I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to connect that are, you know, athletes that are like-minded. I happen to be the daughter of Muhammad Ali, who changed the world. And he did so by just being himself, just loving himself, loving other people and being willing to take a stand. And I feel like that’s what all people should do. And most people do not have that kind of courage. That’s why they look at him in awe. I kind of obviously him being my dad, but a lot of things about him are very aligned with who I am as a person.
[22:46] Laila Ali: So I’m not as I wasn’t ever in awe, as I’m about to do the same thing. If I was back then at that time a man — because it’s different for a woman. Because I wouldn’t be doing certain things now just because I have children. I need to be home with my children, you know. So just things like that. But, you know, it’s a different time. And I’m like, what can I do? You know, coming and living through the biggest shadow of all time. I never woke up thinking, I’m Muhammad Ali’s daughter. What can that do for me today? Or I’m Muhammad Ali’s daughter. How can I try to go get out of his shadow and do my own thing? I just thought, hmm, what am I passionate about? How can I change the world? What is authentic to me where it doesn’t feel like a job? Right. So there’s a million causes out there. Everyone, you know, people pull on you left and right, can you give here? Can you be there? Can you come to this charity event? You can’t do them all. So for me, I figured out which ones resonated with me the most. And it happens to be with kids, women and sex trafficking, you know, things like that. And then, you know, I partner with organizations that I can really make a difference in. And for me, my main cause is just empowering people to be the best version of themselves through their lifestyle choices.
[23:55] Laila Ali: And that really is a holistic view when it comes to your mind. And that’s not I talk about on LailaAli.com, my website, my whole brand, Laila Ali Lifestyles is about helping people replenish their health, their mindset and their purpose in life, because I feel like those are the three things that really need to be balanced if you’re going to, you know, come into who you are and figure out what you’re actually here for on Earth. But it doesn’t matter what your purpose is if you’re not healthy. Right. And if you don’t have the right mindset, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are. And if you have no purpose, then your life isn’t going to be meaningful. You’re going to look back when you’re 75 and be like, well, what is it all about? You start having regrets. So those are the things that are really important to me. And it has, you know, a lot of the things that were in my dad are also in me. But I think that we have to always remember, because a lot of times people say, well, this athlete’s not doing this and they’re not doing that. Athletes, just like any other person, are people. And just because you’re an amazing athlete does not mean you’re gonna be an amazing person. Does not mean you’re going to be ready to give back, ready to put your everything on the line. We can’t expect that of people. What I do like to try to expect of people who have a platform, whether be an athlete, actor or just anybody, a teacher or principal or what you’re doing, just give back in some sort of way, whether it’s financial, your time, support, you know, and it’s like if you’re not going to do, if you’re not going to help make the world a better place, don’t make it a worse place. You know, just be quiet and just go with the flow. Some people out there are taking away.
[25:17] Michael Bennett: Just delete their Instagram, just delete Instagram.
[25:23] Laila Ali: It’s sad because something that can be good can turn bad. Right. Because people are living in this fake world and they’re always — anything that has you in constant feeling less than, like, I want this. I want that. I don’t have enough. And people take a snapshot of something amazing and put it on Instagram and then someone else is like not having a great day or just not where they want to be, looks at it, it makes them feel worse about themselves. When unfortunately, you know, it would be nice if one was stronger than that. They see something, they believe it, and then they feel bad about themselves. But we’re just living in a society where that’s not the case. And really for kids, that’s what I don’t like about social media.
[26:01] Michael Bennett: When I was reading your sister’s book, your dad was talking about the thing that he regretted most was family. And I think that’s the thing, too. I think that what I really like about you is that you’re saying you still can have an impact. But it’s also important that the impact that you have on the outside world should be the same impact that you have inside your own home. Because like you said, everybody’s pulling you to do something. And next thing you know, you’re getting pulled so much and you’re missing so much of everything that your own kids are doing.
[26:34] Laila Ali: And I refuse.
[26:35] Michael Bennett: That’s why I think it’s amazing that even though we see people as giants as a child, you can see the mistakes that your parents made, and then you can make them even better and create something that’s even better for a legacy. I think that’s interesting. I like that. I think it’s important that we as parents make sure that our kids know that we care about them and not in the sense of like — I feel like a lot of parents, especially in the black community, are always like, I provided for you. I gave you a home. I gave you this. But it’s like what about the emotional, nurturing part that each individual needs?
[27:09] Pele Bennett: I mean, yeah, I think there’s a lot of sacrifices that happen. But I also like implementing your children into what you’re doing, but also in a marriage. So, Michael, you know, he started doing different things. And I did do groundwork when I was really young. And so I could relate to certain things. But now it’s a new time, new issues, new time. And so when we do have this conversation with just us in our house and I’m like, hey, I’m like, this is happening, you know, different people are pulling you to stand for different issues also. And so that’s where I’m like, OK, this is this what you want to do? Because I’m like, hold up. Do you know about this? Do you know what this cause is? Do you know what they’re asking you to do? Do you believe in this? And also for me, it’s not just OK, well, go say what you want to say and leave. Like, no. Like we’ve been together for a long time, so we’re a unit in everything. So I’m like, OK, we need to have a conversation, because if you’re gonna do that, this is including me. You know, I’m not the face of it, but I am in the conversation. And so I’m like, this needs to be a family conversation because now the kids are in this also. And sometimes it could be a scary situation where I don’t know what’s going to come out of it. So do you also do that with your family where your husband, you know, you’ve had these conversations on different things that you stand and then do and do it as a unit?
[28:13] Laila Ali: No, it’s a little different in my house. The thing is, is that, you know, when I need to ask a question or get my husband’s opinion, he’s definitely there. But I have a system in place after doing it for so many years in which everyone knows on my team that anything I’d do, anything I get involved with, I have to be passionate about and it has to be authentic to me. I know right away usually with something coming and that’s a no, that’s a no, that’s a no. And it’s like this is probably a no. Right. They have to ask me. And then I’m like, yes, no. And then certain things I’ll say, let me see, and then you want to follow up for more questioning? It could be a great cause, but it could be that I’m just spread too thin right now. Because what’s going to happen is they might say, oh, we just want to do X, Y and Z, then they’re gonna want you to follow and promote and promote on social and it’s just one more thing to do. And then as a mom who — my priority is to be there for my children, you know, I do not have a nanny. I cook dinner five nights a week. You know, I also work. I run, you know, my lifestyle brand. I have spice blends. I have a cookbook, I do speaking. I do all these different things. So, every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. Yeah. You know, because my schedule might be open right now. Six months later, you keep filling it up. And then when the time comes, something I really want to do I can’t do because I said yes to all these things. So it’s like I don’t feel bad. And that’s the issue we have a lot of times as women, saying no. And a lot of time when you’re a kind person, you’re a giving person, and someone like you, Michael, that possibly — and my dad was this way. Let me use my dad as an example. My father went bankrupt so many times giving his money away. It’s like if I can’t be there myself, I’ll try to support it some way. I hope we can support on social or we can you know, you can give back in some way. But yeah, no, I definitely am really good at making decisions for myself, but my husband is absolutely there, when I need him, when I can’t make a decision, then he’s kind of like the tiebreaker.
[30:31] Michael Bennett: So as a family, we always talk about traveling. How do you travel as a family? People are like, why are you taking your kids everywhere?
[30:50] Laila Ali: I love taking my kids with me.
[30:51] Michael Bennett: That’s what we say!
[30:50] Laila Ali: Look, you’re doing well if you’re not like most people, because these people nowadays, they ain’t got it together. So feel good if you’re not like most people. When people are like why do you do that? That’s good.
[31:11] Michael Bennett: Pele feels like they’re the best travelers.
[31:12] Pele Bennett: I love traveling with them!
[31:13] Michael Bennett: Those are people who want to get away from their kids. You’re family people, obviously. And when I’m with my entire family, I feel whole. When I’m away from my family, I do not. I can’t wait to get back home. Like I do what I have to do. When I’m out on them streets or I’m in New York City by myself, I’m like man, I can’t wait to get home to my babies. And I just don’t feel whole.
[31:42] Michael Bennett: As a parent, you feel like your number one goal is to protect your children. And when they’re not there — especially when both of us are gone, that’s when it really hits us is that we’ve got to get back. I don’t care if we have to fly back at 12 a.m., we need to go back.
[32:00] Laila Ali: That’s what I do. Oh, I run myself ragged to get home. It’s like people are like you gonna stay in town? I’m like, nope, I’m out on this flight, this flight tonight. So there are people like you, I’m one of them.
[32:11] Michael Bennett: I mean, we love our family. But then do you find it weird traveling with just your husband? I feel like when you meet somebody and you’re strong in your marriage, it just feels like your spouse becomes your best friend.
[32:35] Laila Ali: I think that’s what makes a strong marriage is being able to marry your friend. Right, that you enjoy being with. For me, the struggle, the hardest struggle is finding the balance between being mom, businesswoman and wife. Because I’m in mom mode a lot of time, my husband has to remind me, you know what I mean? My husband has to remind me to be wifey or girlfriend, whatever you want to call it. So because, like, you know, he’s like, man, I come last sometimes. I’m dealing with the kids, I’m tired, he comes into a room like “heeey.” I’m tired! That’s really my biggest challenge is just trying to — because I say it all the time to women. How do you do it all? I’m like, trust me, if I’m doing it 100 over here, somewhere there is not 100. You can not do it all 100 percent. Yes, you can do it all, and you could try to find balance. But it’s not going to be 100 percent everywhere, it’s just not. So pick and choose where you want to have the deficits.
[33:44] Laila Ali: Ten o’clock. Mommy-daddy time. Don’t knock on the door.
[33:50] Pele Bennett: That is a schedule that we have created because we wanted our time. So it’s like that’s where Michael, he’ll start, you know, helping with the dishes after we cook, so then when we can get all this done together.
[34:01] Laila Ali: Look, I’m gonna tell you this. I had to schedule days. I got days at my house. On this day and that day, this is our hangout day for sure. Now can we have some extra days? Possibly. But on these days, I know and you know what to expect. Because what happens is I’m the one that usually causes the problems in my relationship. Because I’m the one that I’ll just keep going and going and going, oh, god, I got to finish this and I’m down in the office. I get done and my husband’s asleep. And it’s like, hey, what about me? And that’s part of a marriage, you know. So it’s really important. And I was like, OK, babe, I know at first it’s like, schedule? It’s like, hey, look, this is the life that we live. I’m telling you, I’m going to dedicate this time to you. You know, we can switch it up, but these two days.
[34:48] Pele Bennett: So don’t ask me any other day.
[34:53] Laila Ali: You got to do what works for you. Some people are like, oh, that’s just not spontaneous.
[34:58] Michael Bennett: It’s just hard because you got to schedule around your kids because these kids — the second you close the door it’s like the house is gonna fall apart. I’m like look, take the iPad, take the keys to the car, order what you want.
[35:23] Laila Ali: Mine are nine and 11. Their bedtime is 9:30. So when they go to sleep they’re asleep, you know. I mean so I don’t have that problem.
[35:33] Pele Bennett: We have a nine year old also. She’s a middle child. She is the ultimate middle child.
[38:12] Michael Bennett: So what do you do for yourself? I see you do so much for everybody else. How do you get Zen?
[38:23] Laila Ali: So I meditate. I haven’t been as consistent as I would like to be. When I fall all the way off, then I start back with like 10 minutes, then I might do 15 minutes, 20 minutes. I also go get a manicure-pedicure every two weeks. I’m super consistent about that. Like that’s one thing that makes me feel good. I enjoy it. That’s like my away time. But I really enjoy being home cooking in the kitchen. That’s my time as well. Just being home with my family. But I would say that if there’s one thing I would want to do more of that I’m not doing is just taking a vacation for enjoyment. That’s something I’ve been trying to be better about. Just like at least once a year, taking a vacation anywhere I want to go. Usually somewhere warm, an island or somewhere tropical like that and just getting away and the kids can be there, I’m fine with that.
[39:14] Pele Bennett: Come to Hawaii.
[39:17] Laila Ali: That would be nice.
[39:28] Pele Bennett: I feel like as a man, I want to be friends with another husband who has a family. Like, I don’t want to have single friends, that’s just me. I told one of my friends if a couple of gets divorced, I’m like, oh, I can’t hang out with you no more. I like it when you can hang out with families and the kids could play, and you feel safe in that space. Like, I don’t feel like I have to go out to the club to feel like I’m having a great time.
[40:03] Pele Bennett: And I think that your goals and, you know, are similar within the family.
[40:07] Laila Ali: A lot of single people don’t want to hang out with married people anyway.
[40:11] Michael Bennett: They pick up the baby, they’re like “do you want it back?”
[40:19] Laila Ali: Because unless you’re a certain type of man, you’re not trying to be out all night. You’re trying to be home with your family.
[40:27] Michael Bennett: And then if we do decide to go out or something, we hang out with family or friends, and then it’s like two o’clock in the morning. Like damn, we have to get up in the morning with the kids.
[40:34] Pele Bennett: I’m not going to stay out all night. I know I have to be up in the morning with my kids. If I’m not up with them and getting them going, everything falls apart.
[40:55] Laila Ali: I don’t even want to be out. That’s the thing. I can be home on a Friday evening getting ready to watch a kid-friendly movie. And I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world. I’m not like, man, what else they doing? I just thank God for that, that I feel good within my own spirit, that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something.
[41:14] Michael Bennett: I think it’s important because I feel like we live in a world where you see something on Instagram and you feel like you because you’re not there, like you’re not at the Oscars, you’re not worth anything.
[41:34] Pele Bennett: Where are your values, though? For us, it’s our family, our kids. So we take them everywhere with us.
[41:51] Michael Bennett: I grew up Baptist and Pele grew up Mormon. Did you grow up Muslim?
[41:59] Laila Ali: But my dad was a Muslim, you know. And I told my dad when I was 8 or 9 years old that I did not want to be Muslim. And I was, I think, only the only child of his to tell him that. And I remember him saying, you don’t know, you’re not old enough to know what you want to be. I said it’s not my heart. So we bumped heads about it, till he passed, really, to the end of his time here. But no, I’m more of a spiritual person. My mother used to go to Agape, which is Reverend Michael Beckwith’s church, which is non-denominational, but it does have a Christian foundation. Unconditional love. So I went there. I was like, man, I’m really feeling this. You know, I never really got into the Christian side of it or any of that. It was just this whole idea of positive energy, having my own relationship with God, knowing right from wrong, being a kind person. That’s what really resonated with me. So, you know, then I met Curtis, who was Christian, my husband, and he went to Agape with me and was really feeling it as well because I had the Christian base. He was right at home.
[43:03] Michael Bennett: So with your own children, how do you base faith in their life?
[43:11] Laila Ali: There’s a lot of questions, especially more recently because my kids went to a school that was Baptist and wasn’t my religion, and I didn’t have a problem with them learning the foundations of religion, but I knew I wasn’t gonna keep them there long because I knew when they got to a certain grade that they would get heavier. Because one thing — what I don’t care for about a lot of religions is the rules. Whereas when you come to the base of it, you know, there’s one God, you know, be a good person. All the rules and things about the sins that, you know, so-called sins that all human beings make. Right. If that’s the case, which I think is just a part of being human. The intention behind it is what’s important to me. So my son recently started getting some anxiety. And long story short, I got to the bottom of it and his school had told him that, you know, if you don’t accept God in your heart, you can go to the other side. It was heavy. So that really, my son being very highly sensitive, really affected him deeply. And I ended up I took him out of school and I was like, you know what? Bye. So I’m homeschooling now, which was totally not planned and has turned my life upside down.
[44:30] Laila Ali: But I will do whatever I need to do for my children. But that was because I was like, how am I going to send my son to a school because I’m telling him that’s not true, you know, yada, yada, yada. Then I had to have the religion — this is the thing about religion. You know, there’s rules. You know, one person might say this. And I gave him the whole story about my father, which I hadn’t had to yet. And what we went through. And then he says, well, how am I to know who to believe? They’re saying this. You’re saying that. He’s very smart. Very smart. So I was just like, OK, I gotta take him out, because how am I going to send him back to a school and tell him that’s not true, but just go there and they’re gonna keep putting this in his head every day. So I was stuck in the crossroads, so I took him out. And then it was like, now what? We couldn’t get to the school that we want to go to , in the middle of the year. So then it took me like six to eight weeks just to do to all this homeschool research. And now my kids are home right now until next year. And I’m working out of this through therapy and all these things anxieties he has now about death and dying. And thinking that way, you know, because he’s like, how as a kid do I know, because he is so smart, feels things deeply, if I accepted God into my heart or not? I don’t know if I believe this or believe that. I said you have your whole life to figure that out. All God wants you to do is be a good person. I’m talking about the basics. I say when I say good person, I’m not talking about curse words. Because he was like that kid, “they’re cursing! They’re bad! They’re sinners!”
[46:03] Laila Ali: Very literal. So I said, I’m talking about people killing people. I said so someone said to you, go punch that boy in the face and take his iPad. Would you do it? He’s like, no. I said, why? Because it’s not nice. I said, because you have God in your heart.
[46:31] Pele Bennett: I love his curiosity. But I also love that you had a conversation. And I think that’s missing a lot of times with children. They are smart. They know what’s going on. And I think it’s our responsibility as parents to lead them and nurture that. But also like see where it goes. You know, I’m not going to tell them you choose this or that because we are a complete opposite and we’ve kind of blended now together. I need to also transition because you said homeschool. So we, this first year, during the season, was our first year doing homeschool.
[47:01] Laila Ali: Good. See, especially if you like to travel, it’s a great lifestyle. And I can see why so many people are doing it because of the issues with the school system, the whole vaccine situation, just really wanting to customize your child’s learning to your beliefs, because the world is changing fast. And they’re putting it all into the education system. So it’s like how your child perceives himself in the world is really important. And I can totally understand why people choose to homeschool, especially someone who travels all the time, because you’re learning every day. So to be able to take your kids and travel, as long as you have a good curriculum, you know. But it is something that you have to be dedicated to because it’s not easy, you know. Now, you know, it’s on you in terms of unless you have a hired teacher to come in, there’s all kinds of ways to do it. That’s what I wanted to do as well. But we’re still trying to figure things out right now. But yeah, I think it’s great.
[48:02] Michael Bennett: That’ some straight bullshit to put that inside of a kid’s mind. That’s the reason why I don’t listen to podcasts, because I would not listen to podcasts because I don’t want people planting seeds in my brain. And then I got to think about the seeds all day.
[48:30] Laila Ali: But why podcasts? That’s on television. It’s everywhere.
[48:34] Michael Bennett: On TV, I can look away.
[48:58] Laila Ali: You are what you spend your time doing, listening to who you surround yourself with. So that’s just with everything, when it comes down to it. So it’s like there’s some really good podcasts out there. You know, something that might inspire you, educate you. You know, form you like what we’re talking about today. You know, I will say that I had an experience with that school that doesn’t mean all religion is that way. But it’s just that, you know, I can believe that that happened. And for me, I was like, oh, I got to do something about this. But I would say at the end of the day, to button up religion, it’s like if you’re a kind person, a giving person and you never had or any religion, any of your life, I think that’s what we’re all striving to be. Is open hearted, kind, giving back. We know what being good is and believing that there is a higher cause, so call it what you want to. A lot of people are so religious, they go to church because they want to be forgiven for their sins or please make me stop having these hateful thoughts or do these things. And they’re still trying to figure it out. So I think if you can get to that place where you’re a kind and giving and you have peace in your heart and love in your heart for people that you don’t even agree with or understand, that’s really where we’re all trying to get through religion or not.
[50:07] Michael Bennett: Yeah, well, I still can’t fuck with Trump though.
[50:08] Laila Ali: Well, I’m definitely not. That’s what’s so scary about this world to me. Like we might have to move to another planet.
[50:17] Michael Bennett: I want to thank you for coming out today and taking your time. It’s a blessing to be able to have you in here and the energy that you’re speaking about. I just enjoy people who take their family so serious. So it’s just a blessing to have the energy here and be able to put that into the world so other people can listen.
[50:39] Laila Ali: Well, thank you for having me on.
[50:56] Michael Bennett: Please subscribe to us or like us on anything that you’re listening to. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever you’re listening to get away from your family, whoever you don’t want to be around. And make sure you rate us or give us a comment. Even though we don’t give a fuck about your comments, give us a comment. Mouthpeace is a production of Lemonada Media, which you can find online on all social platforms @LemonadaMedia. You can follow me on social media, @MosesBread72. I love bread, and biblically, I always thought I was Moses.
[51:26] Pele Bennett: And you can follow me on Instagram at @pelepels. Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett is executive produced by us, the Bennetts. Our Lemonada Media executive producer is Eli Kramer, and our producer is Genevieve Garrity. Our assistant producer is Claire Jones and our audio is edited by Brian Castillo. Thank you to our ad sales and distribution partners at Westwood One, and to all of our sponsors for making this show possible.