Khaliah Ali Wertheimer: Designer, Author, Host, and Humanitarian

Instagram: @khaliahali

"We have to make the knowledge about health and wellness that some of us have been disproportionally gifted with, more accessible, and without shame."  

ON FORGING A CAREER WITH NO REGRETS

I'm a people person. A gemini. Always have been and always will be. I think a lot of that came from being Muhammad Ali's child. At the height of his celebrity in my youth, seeing how he was followed by love everywhere he went. There's a duality to everything, but that was the positive side to it. It ignited a passion for people within me. 

"I've had a varied career but the core has been about profoundly connecting with people and not just listening to them but really having the ability to hear them."

I think it's subconscious. For me, [connecting with people] is inextricably bound with my being and it's one of the spaces in my life that's very sacred because it's effortless, just like being a mom and loving my son. It just occurs.

To a certain extent, [holding a strong set of values] has had a negative effect [on my career]. I think I could have been further along or maybe people would have been more aware of my existence, but ultimately, that was not what I was striving for.

The older I get, it's about my self-constitution and my internal happiness. I just recently got social media. Back when I was doing my book launch, people would say, 'Where's your account? What's your IG?' I would always say, 'Nah, my life is my own. I'm not doing it.' Everything feels for sale sometimes and so I feel like it's priceless [to own my space]. Therefore, there are no regrets.

 

ON FAMILY LEGACY

You're going to get to a point where you can't take things with you. I lost a best friend this week. He was a great journalist. He was the President of the National Association of Black Journalists, an editor at CNN, Jet, and Ebony, and a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer. He always said, 'Never feel bad, I lived a great life.'
 
What's left are the good deeds, and if you have children: how well you've raised them. If I tell my son something - if I recommend not to do something - he understands. He knows I've lived and breathed my truth. And that's generational; I learned this from my father.
 
My father lost everything at one point in his life. When it came to Vietnam and not fighting in the war, being stripped of his title, his money, everything. Coming home after the Olympics in Rome with a gold medal in his hand and he couldn't even sit at a counter and have lunch in his hometown of Louisville and be treated like a human. And yet he still stood there.
 

ON SPEAKING OUT AS AN ACTIVIST

I don't feel like [speaking out] is an option. Don't build a higher wall, build a longer table. When you've been disproportionally blessed, as I have, you have to disproportionally give back.

This summer, we had Black Lives Matter coming into the forefront. With riots and senseless deaths, it wasn't optional for us to speak out, but as a mother, it's scary because my son is out there. I just had to let him go and realize that this is part of who we are as a family. It's our little piece of making a contribution towards change.

 

ON TRANSITIONING INTO GRASSROOTS WORK

In the earlier half of my life, it was about policy. Now, I'm more in contact with rolling up my sleeves and getting into the thick of it. It's about grassroots, hands-on activism, which was inspired by my son.

Catherine Flowers, my absolute mentor, opened my eyes to how climate change is not equal. The past couple of years, I've toured Alabama and New Orleans with Catherine and General Honoré [Climate Reality] and I've seen things that are simply unexplainable.

They took me to Cancer Alley in Louisiana. It's about an 85-mile stretch where over 100 companies have moved onto what was once a beautiful piece of land where people grew their own food for generations. These companies built factories that have been spewing chemicals into the air and water, causing the town to now have a cancer rate that's 50 times the national average. I looked at a school that sat in the shadow of a well-noted chemical company and saw the chemicals showering down onto a field that they gifted the children to play. They're taking advantage of people who can't fight back. They call Catherine the 'Erin Brockovich.'

"You go to a church and they ask anyone to stand up if someone in their household has been affected by cancer.
There's not one person who doesn't stand."

I also sit on a board with Catherine, Jane Fonda, and Kat Taylor [CREEJ] and a woman, Pam, passed away before we got to gift her a new home after hers was destroyed by straight piping and waste-water.

It's just been really touching and very eye-opening. The tiny things we take for granted in our everyday lives are things that a lot of people struggle for. I'm just humbled to be in the presence of all these people.

 

ON THE TIE BETWEEN ACTIVISM AND WELLNESS

I think it's important for people to do work that's sustainable and work that they're passionate about. I don't think there's any perfect recipe or way to be. It's just like wellness.

"No matter how good your intentions are to help others, 
you've got to be well and healthy first.
You have to be able to show up."

It just needs to be manageable so that you don't start and not finish. Hell was paved with our good intentions in life, trust me, I've got plenty of mine!

That's what my father would say. He would always say [from The Isley Brothers], 'It's your thing, do what you wanna do.' What he was really speaking to was honoring yourself as an individual. That's all he did. He was really true to himself and his beliefs. But I think to not take any action, to leave this place some day and not make a contribution, that's the issue. Because no contribution is too small.

"Things have not been so great, but that should not discourage us from continuing to do what little part we can or from seeing the beauty in the lives we are helping. 

Why throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect?"

ON HEALTH AND WELLNESS

To me, wellness means eating and moving in a way that makes me feel happy, whole, and healthy. I think that having a routine, and products that support that effort, are really integral to a successful life.

I'm somebody who has struggled with weight my entire life. I was on the TODAY show at 9 years old for weight loss. It's a big deal when your body is not in alignment with your intentions. For me, having this alignment is key.

 Nutritional supplements used by Khaliah Ali Wertheimer, daughter of Muhammah Ali 

KHALIAH'S ROUTINE

My day starts with drinking one of two brands of mushroom cacao mix that everybody teases me about. I'm like, 'You guys, you don't understand.' I use either the Om Hot Chocolate with Lion's Mane or the Mushroom Cacao Mix with Reishi from Four Sigmatic. I simply put those in hot water. I don't use a nut milk; I find it's too heavy for me.

If, for some reason, it feels like too much, I'll use the Gaia Herbs Liver Cleanse in the morning or if I'm traveling, I like to get my hands on hot lemon water. I like to give my digestive system a break when I get up.

Later in the morning, I usually do either a pure green juice with no fruit, preferably Erewhon's Just the Greens. I am obsessed with Erewhon and I drive people crazy when I travel to California because the plane has not even touched the ground and I'm already plotting what I'm getting. I know I'm blessed to be able to go to this store, but this kind of food is my pleasure point in life.

If not Just the Greens, I do a Kimberly Snyder Glowing Green Smoothie which is my all-time favorite. I'm kind of obsessed with and love all things green and products that make you feel better throughout your day to help you achieve long-term health. I was vegan for a fair majority of my life, I'm a certified plant-based chef, and I received a certificate from Cornell in plant-based eating. That means the world to me.

After that, I usually take my first dose of probiotics before having something for breakfast. It depends, but sometimes I use Sakara's. I also use their products throughout the day, like their Green Bar or Vitamin C Bar.

I also take my vitamin regimen at that time. I take a different variety of brands, not one in particular. I do a multi, calcium for bone density, and iron for deficiency. I also take Vitamin D. I've never been deficient, but I stay on top of it.

If I'm very busy, I might pack a protein shake for the afternoon. I use Garden of Life Protein or my health food store does one with pure ground pumpkin and hemp. It's called Oasis [in Philadelphia]. It's a raw food cafe and she blends it right there on the spot. If I'm splurging, then I'm getting into Oatly, which is so delicious, but if I'm trying to be lean, then I'll go with Almond Breeze.

At night, I usually tend to drink a hot tea from Gaia with kava kava or lemon balm. That does the trick. It soothes me, calms me down, and sends me along my way.

 

DEALER'S CHOICE QUESTION: WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE EVER BEEN GIVEN AND THE CIRCUMSTANCE IN WHICH YOU WERE GIVEN IT?

I'm going to go with the most recent. It's from a woman by the name of Lynda Lowery. She was the youngest person in the famous Selma march across the bridge and, incidentally, she was the elderly person whom Obama famously pushed across the same bridge in a wheelchair.

I found myself speaking to Lynda one night and she was telling me her life story. You can't believe the things this woman has overcome. I asked her, 'Lynda, how did you do it? How did you survive the abuse?' She said, 'When I was 15 years old, I looked in the mirror one day and I said to myself, 'You know what? I love myself. I love you.' And she said, 'The more I looked ay myself and said that, the more difficult it was for people to hurt me. I said it and said it until I truly believed it and it created a loving barrier around me that nothing could penetrate.'

I was just floored by this and it made me reflect on my father because at the end of the day, truly, no one said they loved themselves more than that man. Let's just be real. But as funny as it appeared at the time, it was really important that he did that. It was integral to his success. I'm sure I'm going to have to constantly remind myself to love myself until the day I die, but I now know that message and it's a powerful tool. I can always ask: am I really being loving to myself

 

RECOMMENDED ORGANIZATIONS

I would really encourage people to look within their own communities first and find a grassroots organization to get involved with.

[editor's note: below are a few organizations that Khaliah is involved with and contributes to]

  • National Public Housing Museum [reinforcing the message that housing is a constitutional right]

  • The Juvenile Law Center [fighting and winning cases in front of the Supreme Court to help children who are tried as as adults and incarcerated in adult prisons]

  • Help USA [working to ensure those without safe homes are provided to them]

  • Street Soccer USA [providing an athletic resource for children, as well as tutoring and nutrition]

  • CREEJ [working to promote environmental justice and reform]

  • Malaika Foundation [building high-quality schools based in the Congo]

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Hell is a half-filled auditorium.

// Robert Frost