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Laila Ali KOs MTSU with stories of losses, victori...

Laila Ali KOs MTSU with stories of losses, victories in and out of boxing ring

With a flurry of Hollywood-style lighting and audio of Muhammad Ali stating “I AM the greatest,” Laila Ali took the stage Wednesday night, March 22, as MTSU’s Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote speaker.

Former super-middleweight boxer Laila Ali delivers the dual Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote address at MTSU’s James Union Building March 22. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Former super-middleweight boxer Laila Ali delivers the dual Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote address at MTSU’s James Union Building March 22. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

However, the story she told to an attentive James Union Building audience was not one of glitz and glamour but of hard lessons and harder work.

Ali, the youngest daughter of the late heavyweight boxing champion and humanitarian, spoke of the hardships created by her parents’ divorce when she was 8 years old, a stepfather she described as “mentally abusive” and hanging out with the wrong people.

She credited a three-month stint in a juvenile correctional program after a shoplifting arrest for turning her life around.

“That program really gave me the structure, the nurturing and the support that I needed and helped get me back on track,” said Ali.

Laila Ali competed as a professional boxer from 1999 to 2007, earning the female super-middleweight titles of four governing bodies of boxing and the light-heavyweight crown of the International Women’s Boxing Federation. She retired undefeated with 24 victories.

A former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Ali promotes equality for women in professional sports, fitness and wellness. She also is a regular panelist and contributor for “We Need to Talk,” a panel discussion program on the CBS Sports Network.

As a business entrepreneur, Ali recently debuted a signature line of hairstyling tools with Helen of Troy hair care products. Her charitable endeavors include support for Feeding America, Peace 4 Kids and the American Dental Association.

Dawn Stigall, a sophomore fashion merchandising major from Memphis, Tennessee, said she found Ali’s talk “very eye-opening.”

“I didn’t know about her going to jail … just the rough patches she went through to get to where she is today,” said Stigall. “Being a major celebrity’s daughter, I thought that she would be so privileged.”

NWHM 2017 headerAli spoke of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder’s constant presence around her father, but she said he still kept his door open for visits with all kinds of people.

Married to former NFL player Curtis Conway and the mother of two children, Ali said that although she also knows celebrities, her closest girlfriends are her hair-care buddies.

“I don’t ever want to become disconnected like some people do, you know, and just be living in a bubble,” said Ali.

“Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” is the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month observance at MTSU. In conjunction with the theme, buttons are being distributed across campus bearing the likeness of Madam C.J. Walker, the hair products magnate who was hailed as the first self-made African-American millionaire in the country in the early 20th century.

You can learn more about 2017 Women’s History Month events at MTSU here.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


Trailblazer Laila Ali to give knockout March 22 keynote at MTSU

Trailblazing athlete and entrepreneur Laila Ali will deliver the dual keynote address for MTSU’s Women’s History Month and Black History Month celebrations.

Laila Ali

Laila Ali

Ali, a former four-time boxing world champion, will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, in the Tennessee Room of MTSU’s James Union Building in the free public event.

A printable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap.

Ali, a daughter of the late heavyweight icon and anti-war activist Muhammad Ali, competed from 1999 to 2007, earning the female super-middleweight titles of four governing bodies of boxing and the light-heavyweight crown of the International Women’s Boxing Federation. She retired undefeated with 24 victories.

A former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Ali promotes equality for women in professional sports, fitness and wellness. She also is a regular panelist and contributor for “We Need to Talk,” a panel discussion program on the CBS Sports Network.

NWHM 2017 headerAs a business entrepreneur, Ali recently debuted a signature line of hairstyling tools with Helen of Troy hair care products. Her charitable endeavors include support for Feeding America, Peace 4 Kids and the American Dental Association.

“Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” is the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month observance. In conjunction with the theme, buttons are being distributed across campus bearing the likeness of Madam C.J. Walker, the hair products magnate who was hailed as the first self-made African-American millionaire in the country in the early 20th century.

You can learn more about 2017 Women’s History Month events at MTSU here.

MTSU NWHM 2017 button webMTSU’s Black History Month Committee decided to co-sponsor the university’s Women’s History Month keynote address after TV personality Terrence J. had to cancel his planned Feb. 23 Black History Month keynote talk.

Other co-sponsors of Ali’s appearance include the Distinguished Lecture Fund, the Women’s History Month Committee, the Office of Student Success, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, Student Programming and Raider Entertainment, the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, the Women’s Health Clinic at Student Health Services, the MTSU student chapter of the NAACP, the Student Government Association, the MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences and the Department of Health and Human Performance.

For more information, contact Barbara Scales, co-chair of the National Women’s History Month Committee, at 615-898-2193 or barbara.scales@mtsu.edu or the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at 615-898-5910.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


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