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Laila Ali And Shari Belafonte Talk About Shoe Challenges, Past And Present

It’s not easy for Laila Ali to find a pair of stylish, comfortable size 12s.

“I never have the most fabulous shoes because they never run in my size, but when they do, they run small — like Louboutins and all those brands — which I don’t really want to pay for anyway,” she told Footwear News on Sunday in Los Angeles at the Special Needs Network’s eighth annual Pink Pump Affair. “Shoes are like the thorn in my backside.”

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Laila Ali.
CREDIT: Rex

The former professional boxer and daughter of heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali was honored at the gala for her contributions to raising awareness on autism and special needs children.

Even for the occasion, her love-hate relationship with shoes continued. Clad in a pair of open-toe heels by Ivanka Trump, she added, “We’re not going to hold her daddy against her,” referring to the forthcoming republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “I bought these before the [primary].”

Meanwhile, Shari Belafonte says no to heels altogether.

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Shari Belafonte (L) and Pink Pump Affair founder Areva Martin.
CREDIT: Rex

The 61-year-old “General Hospital” actress, who rocked a pair of pink Converse sneakers at the event, told FN that she swore off the shoes when she turned 40.

“I’m done with heels — my closet is pretty much sneakers and work boots,” she added.

The daughter of singer-actor Harry Belafonte recalled having nearly started a fashion trend in the 1980s when she starred in the sitcom “Hotel” and wore mismatched shoes for a TV interview.

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Detail of Shari Belafonte’s Converse sneakers.
CREDIT: Rex

“I was going on the ‘Tonight Show,’ actually — Bill Cosby was the host that week, and I didn’t know which shoes to wear,” she explained, adding that she put on two different shoes and asked her husband to help her make a decision.

“I was so nervous I didn’t realize by the time I got out of the car I had on two different shoes, so I had to go on the show wearing two different shoes,” she said. “For about 10 years I became known as the ‘shoe girl.’ ”

Delighted by the attention, she says she truly lived up to her newfound reputation.

“Shoe stores loved me because I would go in and say, ‘What colors do they come in?’ Blue, pink, yellow, green — I’d take one of every kind.”

When Belafonte wasn’t digging into her own pocket for her shoe obsession, she found another way to support the habit: “I made friends with girl from Reebook who would put together shoes for celebrities and she would give me samples of things that would never hit the market. I was their size for sample shoes.”

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