Ramla Ali On Body Image, Sexism In Sport And Inspiring The Next Generation Of Girls

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Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Ramla Ali's ascent in sports, fashion and activism has been nothing short of inspirational.

Over the past few years, she has risen through the amateur ranks of boxing (becoming the first British muslim woman to win national titles), and turned professional - including signing to Anthony Joshua's management label - where she remains undefeated.

Most recently her boxing career was topped off by representing Somalia, the country in which she was born, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and carrying the flag during the opening ceremony.

Photo credit: Patrick Smith - Getty Images
Photo credit: Patrick Smith - Getty Images

But, there's so much more to Ali than boxing, as we discover in ELLE UK's September issue, for which she graces the cover.

The London-raised athlete is also a model, signed to IMG and is a face for luxury jewellery brand Cartier. She's also a proud activist, having launched Sisters Club: a free self-defence class for vulnerable women in London and taught young refugee girls who had fled the conflict in Syria how to box while visiting a refugee camp with UNICEF. Next up for Ali, is a part self-help, part memoir book Not Without A Fight and a film is being made about her life.

There's no reason why the worlds of fashion, activism and boxing can't co-exist alongside side each other for Ali, who is proving that every day. She explains this a video for ELLE entitled: I Am More... Than My Appearance - in which she discusses how she came to respect her own body while lamenting the negative stereotypes and prejudices female athletes face.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

In secondary school, Ali was bullied over her weight and by her own admission 'absolutely hated [her] body'. Her boxing story began when she attended boxercise classes to lose weight, however it was the positive effects on her mental health and the internal strength she grew that she noticed and celebrated.

'Over time, I grew to love how it made me feel mentally, it made me feel really strong and that I was powerful enough to tackle anything. It's how you feel, if you feel beautiful, gorgeous and stunning, that's all that matters,' she tells us.

Ali says it is when she is the ring, make-up free, when she feels 'most beautiful' as she's treated the same as everyone else in the room: 'Putting so much value on appearance is very detrimental to a person's mental health because you'll keep chasing perfection and perfection is never there... Beauty is strength, being comfortable in yourself and loving yourself.'

Photo credit: Antony Jones/BFC - Getty Images
Photo credit: Antony Jones/BFC - Getty Images

Ali is also vocal about the detrimental effect that sexism in sport can have on young, ambitious girls vying to become athletes: 'Young aspiring athletes will heat that and think, "Is this how women are thought of?" you're taking that away from a potential future Serena Williams or Naomi Osaka.'

Having previously spoken out about sexist remarks by commentators in boxing, Ali elaborates saying it makes a 'mockery out of all the hard work, sacrifice and dedication we've put in to having our time in the ring'.

As for her lasting legacy, Ali wants to be remembered for her successes outside of the ring, just as much as the wins inside.

'I'd love to show young girls that it's ok to be you, and ok to be different and it's ok to love yourself.'

Hear, hear.

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