I’ve been thinking for days now about how to sum up the trip to L.A. and getting a chance to visit with Laila Ali. It’s hard to quantify the way I was affected.
One interesting thing I noticed was that in Laila’s presence, I didn’t think she was tall or imposing. I felt like we were the same height. She was so open and welcoming. Really genuine, down to earth and gracious, even though she had been up working on her new t.v. show since 3 a.m. When I saw the pictures of all of us afterwards, she is leaps and bounds taller than I am, Actually, I am a shrimp compared to her.
It was shocking the difference of being in her space in the moment versus the visual of the pictures.
This difference intrigued me. I am fascinated how such a physically imposing person can open herself up so much to let us into her space and not dominate the room while at the same time being charismatic and commanding of respect. It was awesome.
The lesson that stuck with me most was the affect our judgements have on others. We often talk about our celebrities as if we really know them…..as if we know what they should or shouldn’t be doing. We don’t think twice about how these opinions could make them feel. We don’t treat them as real human beings. We act as if we are superior and have the right to judge. Just the day before we met Laila, I was having a very big opinion about a person I didn’t know and then immediately was put in my place after our visit.
Laila has received a ton of criticism about not supporting women’s boxing. But, that criticism is unfounded. She just doesn’t take the spotlight for her contributions. This is a person who knows that her name alone could overshadow anything she is involved in. Laila reaches out to women boxers via text, personal phone calls, direct twitter messages and by inviting athletes into her home. Boxer Jen Hamann, Mary McGee and myself were not the first group to visit her over the past several years. Laila provides inspiration to boxers by being personal and private with her encouragement and advice. Just ask our Gold Medalist, Claressa Shields who inspired her to box, and she will tell you, Laila Ali.
I’ve a lot more to think about before I can sum up our visit in more words, but for now, I’m asking each and everyone of us to pause when we are having a large opinion about how others should act, or what they should or shouldn’t do. Our opinions matter and we should probably pause a little more and look in the mirror before pointing outward.