n almost universal truth is that groups of teenaged girls gather at malls to shop for clothes. There are photo booths and music montages, and everyone enjoys themselves… almost everyone.
Ali recalls these trips to the mall with her friends. Her friends were all size small and could fit into the latest trends at Abercrombie. Ali was always the bigger one of her friends, so very self conscious that her legs were bigger and that she was taller than the rest. She’d hide the tags so that her friends wouldn’t see her grab the large or extra large off the racks, if those sizes were available at all.
Ali is an athlete. She was the one girl who could beat the boys at arm wrestling, and she participated in almost every school sport over the years. It made her definitely stand out from the ‘normal’ girls. “I would say I didn’t care, but deep down, it always kind of bothered me.”
These days, Ali is an Olympic weightlifter, rising in the ranks of USA champions. “Once I realized that my body is meant to be strong, I surrounded myself with people who appreciated that. It makes me feel a lot more confident.” She trains constantly with a team of women she admires -- “They’re awesome and they’re badass. They couldn’t care less what they look like. I’m so proud of them. It takes a long time for women to get to that point.”
Outside the gym, Ali is an athlete for Grrrl clothing, a brand started by Kortney Olson for women athletes of all shapes and sizes. Grrrl clothing has abandoned traditional sizing labels. Instead of small to large, customers choose an athlete matches their body type and measurements. “Whatever size you are, you’re the same size as 5% of women in the world. You’re not supposed to look like [what the media portrays].” When Ali models their clothing, she knows that she won’t be subjected to photo editing or cutting or trimming - the real Ali shines through.
Ali’s positivity comes from something her mother taught her -- her mother taught her to be considerate of others, to know that people are experiencing their own trials and troubles.
“You can’t control other people’s actions, you can only control your own reactions... It’s so much harder to stay miserable than it is to [brush it off] and smile through it.”
Ali looks for inner beauty when she meets people, and encourages women to find their strength.
“Anytime a little girl and her mom come up to me, I tell them, ‘Find what you love doing and do it.’ Don’t listen to what other people have to say about it… Not everybody is meant to do the same thing [with their lives]. If you want to be strong, be strong. If you want to make art, make art.”
“Girls, if you’re strong, don’t fight it. Your body is telling you what to do, what you’re meant to do. It’s easier these days for women to be strong and not be looked down upon. Strength training and weightlifting is awesome, and if you’re meant to do it, just do it.”
To see more of Ali and her journey please follow her @aliannludwig