Sports Star Dishes On Her Life-Changing Encounter With Meghan Markle

Featherweight boxer Ramla Ali is set to make history once again. The 32-year-old from Somalia will compete against the Dominican Republic's Crystal Garcia Nova in the first female boxing match to take place in Saudi Arabia, according to CNN. Speaking to the outlet, Ali expressed how she felt "proud to give my community and my people hope and give African girls another reason to take up sport and strive for anything they want to."

When Ali was a little girl, she fled Somalia with her family after her older brother was killed during the Somali Civil War, as Sky Sports reported. However, he wasn't fighting in the war — he was killed by a grenade that landed in their garden while they were playing outside. As a result, Ali and her family escaped to the United Kingdom as refugees. Growing up in East London, Ali eventually found a love for boxing. "For me boxing was my friend," she told Sky Sports. "It was the person who never let me down, it was the person I could turn to when I was upset and crying."

Meghan Markle chose Ramla Ali to be part of her September 2019 Vogue Guest Edit

As the first Muslim woman to become a British boxing champion (via the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies), Ali made further history in 2021 when she was the first Somali woman to compete in the Olympics (per BBC Sport). While she didn't win her match, Ali became an influential role model for female boxing and for young girls aspirin to take part in the sport, too.

Ali soon caught the attention of British royalty because of her talent. In 2019, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, guest edited the September cover of Vogue. Featuring "trailblazing female changemakers," as the magazine notes, the duchess got in touch with the Somalian boxer to include her in the magazine. However, when Markle initially called Ali, the athlete ignored it as she didn't recognize the number. "It went once, twice, so the third time I thought 'I'm going to pick it up because it could be my mum and she might need a bag of sugar or something," Ali told BBC Sport.

Ramla Ali has nothing but praise for Meghan Markle

Three years have passed since Ramla Ali was featured in Meghan Markle's guest-edited edition of Vogue, and she has nothing but praise to speak of the Duchess of Sussex. In a piece published by Newsweek, Ali wrote that being picked by the duchess for her Vogue project "will go down as one of the greatest moments in my life." While she has not met Markle since then, she hopes to cross paths once more as she's "such a fan of both her and Prince Harry's work."

Ali isn't just the Duchess of Sussex's "favorite boxer" (via BBC Sport). She is fully aware of her impact on aspiring young girls. "I think people seem to be inspired by me because I'm not untouchable," she wrote in Newsweek. "My experience are lived . . . I chose to continue to pursue sport because it's who I am . . . I want to give my life purpose through both inspiration and what I can do for others."