Laila Ali celebrated her father's first birthday since his death in June by continuing to advance his legacy of helping kids. Muhammad Ali would have turned 75 on Tuesday, and Laila is sharing the compassion her father brought to the world, but she wants to maintain a sense of individuality and do it her own way. Laila, who went 24-0 as a professional boxer herself, is now 39 and a fitness host, lifestyle writer and philanthropist. She has partnered with MENTOR, a foundation for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States. She talked to ThePostGame about her "Mentoring Flipped" video, remembering her father on his birthday and what she didn't know when she signed on for The Celebrity Apprentice.
ThePostGame: How was the process filming this video with MENTOR?
LAILA ALI: It was fun. I was approached by the organization, and they told me what they were doing and I thought it was a great idea. I love that it's National Mentoring Month and to release this video on my father's birthday is amazing. I hope it reaches a lot of people and they get a lot of people singing up on mentoring.org.
TPG: How was working with the kid on this?
ALI: Kids are great. She was shy, of course. But she came prepared, had all her lines down.
TPG: How did you help with the acting?
ALI: Obviously, being a boxer, I came up with some ideas we could do in the ring. It was a quick moment, but we wanted to make sure it made sense. I showed them my boxing stance.
TPG: Today is your father's birthday. Is this something you knew was coming and is it a day you circle that has a little extra emotion?
ALI: I hadn't really thought of it that way. Every year, on this day, it's a special day, and it has been for many years and it always will be. You know there's other people remembering him and they'll be many reminders throughout the day and I'll be thinking about my dad all day long because they'll be no way to get around it, which is fine. That's how he wanted it. He never wanted to be forgotten.
TPG: How are you celebrating today?
ALI: Well, my sisters and I are getting on the phone and telling memories of our father. There's not really a whole lot that I'm going to do personally, but the memories are what we share. The reason why I loved this video is it's available on my father's birthday. I believe if he were here and people would have asked him about doing this, he would have done it and enjoyed it.
TPG: How has your life changed since your father's passing?
ALI: It hasn't changed too much. You still get up and do everything you need to do. When my father was alive, I never woke up and thought I'm Muhammad Ali's daughter, what am I going to do today? Mainly, it's just different with him not being here, as it is for anyone with a loved one.
I have a lot more requests. I get a lot more emails from kids asking me to help them with their school report. They say, "I'm doing a report on your father. Can I interview you?" And I cannot possibly do every interview. But it reminds me the time has finally come, where Muhammad Ali, who is a part of history, is not here anymore. He's gonna be one of those people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela, someone that generations to come, they never got to see him or live in the world with him. He's a great role model and story from the past.
TPG: Your father left an extended family, but you are the most public figure in the family. Do you feel like that gives you added responsibility?
ALI: I don't like to put pressure on myself because I'm someone who always wants to live life the way I want to, not how people expect me to. You know who my father is, but I'm going to carry on his legacy in my own way, not as a chore, not as something I have to do. Even though I'm the one people know from boxing, I have a lot of sisters who are very proud of what our father did. I've never lived my life thinking I'm Muhammad Ali's daughter and this is a weight that's on my back. What my father would want is for me to keep being a great role model and keeping giving and keep expressing spirituality.
TPG: Did it hit home yesterday that this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day was the first without your father?
ALI: Definitely. I've got pictures of them together. There are so many parallels. It just kind of reminds me of the circle of life. My father, when he was talking, before his Parkinson's got to where it got, he was always in tune with the fact he would not always be here. One of the things he wanted to do was he wanted to do everything he could when he was here, so his life would actually mean something. I've thought about it since my father's passed. We all have a legacy, but it's on a different level when you're written about in the history books. I would never compare myself to my father, but I'm going to be written about too, because I'm his daughter. It makes me think, wow, what can I do while I'm here on this earth. Even if it's mentoring kids, you never know what that kid is going to amount to. He could be the next Muhammad Ali.
TPG: Your father had a relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. He even sent a telegram to him while Dr. King was in a Birmingham jail. How did your father speak of Dr. King?
ALI: I didn't have too many conversations with my dad about [Dr. King]. But I know he had a had a lot of respect for Dr. King. He thought of Dr. King as a warrior, a real warrior to be out there on the front lines and not have fear. It takes a special individual to be able to do that, to love their families, to leave their families, to sacrifice for the greater good. There were certain individuals he felt were called upon by god to be compelled to do that and he had a certain amount of respect for them.
TPG: How did you celebrate MLK Day?
ALI: Just watching footage, reading. All you have to do nowadays is go on social media and you see so much. Martin Luther King wanted us to remember we're all one, to have compassion toward others, a lot of the things my father had. You look at the world now, we have Donald Trump coming in as our president. Thinking about all the things he's said leading up to his election, it's kind of a scary time right now. You have to remember how far we've come, how much farther we have to go, and have faith. It's important to me because a lot of kids these days, they're listening to the radio, hearing people who have no values, no morals, nothing to answer to, they just kind of say what they want to, and these kids need to be led the right way, down the right path.
TPG: This week, leading up to Inauguration Day, what is your message and what would your father's message be to people who may be worried?
ALI: Just to open your heart and your mind and to remember at the end of the day, God's in charge. I think that's what my father would say. I truly believe that everything that's meant to happen, happens and would happen. Whenever I have fear, that's what I have to remember. Whatever's meant to happen is gonna happen. I just have to keep making sure I'm doing the right thing and doing what I know is right. I definitely don't want to live in fear. Ever. That's not good either.
TPG: You mentioned kids. What should the message be to kids, especially with the president-elect being compared to a bully?
ALI: Oh, wow. I tell my kids -- I have a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old -- I teach them at home, kids fight sometimes. They say things sometimes. That's just not a nice thing to say. People say don't say things to other that you wouldn't want them to say to you. Some people are nice or mean, they're unhappy inside, so they act mean to other people. You don't have to listen to that. You can walk away. You have to keep it simple with kids. But I understand you can't run away from it. There are kids who live with parents who just aren't nice. We learn from our parents. I tell them, "They're sad and they want to make you feel sad too. Just walk away from those people. You don't ever have to be around someone who doesn't make you feel good." For me, it's just about doing what is right and having compassion for people.
I have people who write on my social media pages, "You're nothing. You're just Muhammad Ali's daughter. You'd be on welfare if you weren't his daughter." I'm thinking, "Wow, somebody actually takes the time to write that on my page. What must this person feel like inside?" I delete it and I move on with my life. There's a lot of resentful people out there. We can only heal the world one person at a time.
TPG: You're on The Celebrity Apprentice right now. Take through your decision to be on that show, especially considering the person who made that show famous.
ALI: So, Celebrity Apprentice, we filmed back in February, and I've said this many times before, I'd been asked to do the show three or four times and I said no. This was before Donald Trump was even a presidential candidate. I didn't care for him much. I didn't think going on the show would be a good look for me because I knew that I'd have to deal with him in the boardroom. When you're on a show, they have control of editing and making you look bad, so I thought I don't want to go on that show with him because I know I'm going to get into it with him because I don't like his attitude and the way he talks to people and I didn't want to go be in his boardroom. And it's shot in New York, so I was just like, that's not the show for me.
Then, when they asked me again, and said it was a new Celebrity Apprentice with Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was like, OK, so Trump isn't involved anymore? No. As I knew it, he hosted the show, they got a new host, it's going to be shot in California, there's going to be a new vibe, which there is, there's going to be advisors. I said oh OK, I think this would be a good time for me, I've got a lot of things I'm doing that would be good to promote on primetime TV. I've got my cookbook coming in the fall, I've got my podcast, I've got my Laila Ali Lifestyle blog and I can go and raise some money for the Women's Sports Foundation. Of course, we shoot the show, and almost a year later, finally, because of the presidential election, it got pushed back, pushed back, pushed back, here comes Donald Trump publicly saying he's still an executive producer on the show. That was a surprise to all of us in the cast because we thought he had nothing to do with the show. Again, he's not involved in the show, but because he was there for the inception, a lot of times when you host a show and I know from myself being a host, well, you can say I want to be an executive producer and then you make money on the back end. His name is still probably going to roll with the credits and he's going to make some money, but he's not involved. I'm aware the show isn't doing as well as we would have liked for it do because a lot of people don't want to watch it because they know he's still involved in that aspect. I don't think they really truly understand that it's just his name in the credits.
I don't regret doing it because at the end of the day, The Celebrity Apprentice has raised $15 million for various charities over the years and I don't want so many people to suffer just because one man is making a couple dollars. At the end of the day, it's done now. I probably would have done something different if I would have known he was involved, but now, all I can do is think positive and be happy that I actually raised money for my charity.
TPG: So, the show was taped in February at the beginning of the Republican Primaries cycle ...
ALI: Yes. We were told he wasn't involved in the show. Like, we were told he's not involved, not executive producer, nothing. So, a lot of people were very upset to find out that he actually is involved because we had no way of knowing that other than what we were told.
TPG: Well, thanks for clearing that up.
ALI: It's important because a lot of us have been dealing with that with our fans and social media: "How could you be on somebody's show like that?" I publicly was against Trump and voting for Hillary Clinton. So then you turn around and people are like, "You're selling out." Of course you don't want to hear that. People don't understand how the business works. They don't realize the show was shot back in February or what we were told. But I don't want to focus on the negatives, so I'm not going to keep talking about it. What's done is done.
TPG: You said you weren't a fan of Trump long before he was a presidential candidate. Have you ever met him before?
ALI: I've never met him, but like I said, I didn't know the extent I would come not to like him. But just his demeanor in the boardroom, to me, he was always kind of a narcissist. I'm very outspoken and I'm not going to bow down to everyone. That whole, "Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump," I didn't really like that whole interaction with him. You have to know as a person and as a celebrity, what kind of show is going to paint you in a good light and I think I'm one of those people who just wouldn't have done well on that show. I didn't want to come on a show and lose my self-control and cuss out Donald Trump. It wouldn't look good, it wouldn't be positive. (Laughs)
TPG: Trump has posted photographs with your father. Before his death, your father was outspoken against Trump's opinions on Muslims. Were there any other opinions your father had on the election before he died?
ALI: I wouldn't know. I know that my father wouldn't have voted for Donald Trump. I know that. My father, first of all, would take pictures with everybody. Just having a picture with my father doesn't say anything. My father would never say, I'm not going to take that picture. And this was before Donald Trump ran for the presidency and saying the things that he said. My father's not the type of person that would come out and say something nasty about somebody. [Trump] is obviously a misled individual. My dad had so much to say about racist people when he was younger, so you can imagine he'd be saying a lot of similar stuff to what he said back then. It is what it is. [Trump] is what he is and it's obvious. What's more sad is there's a lot more people in this country, like him, who elected him as our president. That's what's amazing to me. When he started running to me, I thought it was a joke. I mean I knew it wasn't a joke, but to me, he's a joke. To me, he has a lot of money and this just might be on his bucket list. There was no question he wasn't gonna make it. The fact that he made it really is scary.
TPG: Are you going to watch the Inauguration and would your father watch if he still was alive?
ALI: Probably. I don't know. I can't really answer everything for him, but you can not turn on the TV, you can act like it's not happening, but it's still happening. So it doesn't matter if you're watching or not. He's still going to be the president, so I think you've got to pay attention to what's going on.
— MENTOR (@MENTORnational) January 17, 2017
TPG: We could talk all day, but going back to mentoring, who are some of the people who you look up to today as mentors?"
ALI: I find inspiration from multiple people, but in what I'm trying to do in my life, in terms of going in the direction of health, fitness and wellness, that's where my passion is, I would say Lisa Nichols is somebody who I look up to. She's overcome a lot, she's turned herself into this business mogul and she's an inspirational speaker and she's had an impact on so many people's minds. I still look at Oprah Winfrey, and she's such a powerful woman and being a black woman, she's someone people see beyond her color and she's changed so many lives.
MENTOR has also partnered with Isaiah Thomas, Dexter Fowler and Trent Shelton in its "Mentoring Flipped" campaign. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the organization announced a partnership with Nike to promote equality in communities across the U.S.