Ms. Ali affectionately known as May May, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and is the eldest child of boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s nine children. As a little girl, her father asked her what she thought her purpose in life was and she replied, “I want to help people.” Ms. Ali’s efforts to help people have manifested in a myriad of ways throughout her life.
She performed as a stand-up comedian for twelve years in venues across the country filling rooms with humor and insightful observations of social issues. As a regular performer at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, she worked alongside talents such as Jim Carey, Chris Rock, and Martin Lawrence. During that same time, she was also writing rap lyrics with plans of publishing her music.
In 1992, Ms. Ali’s rap album, “The Introduction,” was released by Scottie Brother’s Records. She viewed music as a way to inspire youth to strive for their dreams despite challenges and hardships. But when the rap industry began focusing on music filled with violence and female exploitation, she decided to find a more direct way of helping young people. Hence, she left show business and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. Degree in Social Work. While in college, Ms. Ali worked as a trained Mediator for Clark County Social Services, Neighborhood Justice Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ms. Ali has 15 years of experience in delinquency prevention and family development and has worked in many capacities in this field; from having direct practice experience with over 300 families to working as a Regional Manager for the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction & Youth Development in the City of Los Angeles. She is currently seeking private funding for the non-profit organization, DMTL, a gang prevention and youth development program that she co-founded with Nason Buchanan.
Ms. Ali is the author of a children’s picture book about her father titled, I Shook Up the World: The Incredible Life of Muhammad Ali. She is also a spokesperson for Team Parkinson and The Parkinson’s Unity Walk. Over the years, she has appeared on television networks such as, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, ESPN, BBC, AL Jazeera, BBC, FOX, BET, Centric, Lifetime, and the Hallmark Channel.
More recently, A&E Network heard about Ms. Ali’s gang prevention work in Los Angeles and invited her to participate in their new docuseries, 60 Days In that premiered in March 2016. On this show, she served 60 days in an Indiana jail as an undercover inmate with the mission of giving the County Sheriff recommendations on ways to reform the jail.
In 1998, with only a computer and $30, Ashoka Fellow, Reebok Human Rights Award–winner and leading child sex trafficking advocate Rachel Lloyd established Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) to support American girls and young women survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
Since its inception as a one-woman outreach program in 1998, GEMS has grown steadily, building its services and programs and garnering increased visibility and recognition under Ms. Lloyd’s leadership. Now the nation’s largest organization offering direct services to American victims of child sex trafficking, GEMS’ empowers girls and young women, ages 12–24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the sex industry and develop to their full potential.
Ms. Lloyd is a nationally recognized expert on the issue of child sex trafficking in the United States and played a key role in the successful passage of New York State’s groundbreaking Safe Harbor Act for Sexually Exploited Youth, the first law in the country to end the prosecution of child victims of sex trafficking. Her trailblazing advocacy is the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary Very Young Girls (Showtime, 2007) and her memoir Girls Like Us (Harper Collins, 2011).
Ms. Lloyd’s passion and achievements have made her a popular focus of national and international news coverage, with profiles and interviews on CNN Anderson Cooper 360, ABC News, NBC News, NPR, National Geographic Channel, Access Hollywood, and in the New York Times, New York Post, Washington Post, Variety, Essence Magazine, Glamour Magazine, New York Magazine, Village Voice, Marie Claire, and other leading outlets. Ms. Lloyd was named one of the “50 Women Who Change the World” by Ms Magazine, one of the “100 Women Who Shape New York” by the New York Daily News, “New Yorker of the Week” by NY1, and a “Notable New Yorker” by CBS TV.
An accomplished public speaker, Ms. Lloyd has spoken by invitation at the United Nations, New York University, Columbia University, Wheelock College, CUNY Honors College, Washburn University, the Brooklyn Museum, the Library of Congress and other top institutions; at film festivals including the Miami International Film Festival, Jackson Hole Film Festival, and True/False Film Festival; and at international and national conferences including the WMCA National Conference 2009, First International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth in Victoria, BC, the International Young People’s Participation Project in the Philippines, the National Children’s Advocacy Center Conference, Project Safe Childhood Conference, the National Conference on Juvenile Justice, and many more.
In addition to being awarded a 2009 Ashoka Fellowship, Ms. Lloyd has been honored and recognized with a Reebok Human Rights Award, Child Advocacy Award–The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the Community Service Award from the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Frederick Douglass Award from the North Star Fund, Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization for Women, the Community Service Award from Soroptimist International NY, Prime Movers Fellowship, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Award, Change.org’s Changemakers Network, Heroes for Youth Award–National Safe Place, and the Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Ms. Lloyd has a profoundly personal understanding of her work. A survivor of commercial sexual exploitation as a teen, Lloyd knows all too well the hidden, emotional scars such exploitation can leave on children and youth. “There have been experiences I would rather not have had and pain I wish I hadn’t felt–but every experience, every tear, every hardship has equipped me for the work I do now,” Ms. Lloyd says. “I get such deep satisfaction from knowing I’m fulfilling my purpose, that my life is counting for something. It puts all the past hurts into perspective.”
Ms. Lloyd received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Marymount Manhattan College and her Masters in Applied Urban Anthropology from the City College of New York.