“HOW CAN I LESSEN THE GAP BETWEEN WHO I WANT TO BE AND HOW I AM TODAY?”
After a divorce in her early 20s, Yelda Ali was looking for a new passion. She found it in the form of connecting throngs of pulsing crowds to music that seemed to energize as well as heal. Now a successful DJ who has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Ali is flexing her muscle as a connector again on her empowerment platform, Camel Assembly—an international collective of creative female leaders who unite their passions to create social change. She also takes time to connect her own higher purpose through tough (and inspiring) self-work. Chatting with this creative champion, we learned about the books that helped shape who she is, the music she’s got on loop, the difference between happiness and joy, and how she accesses her third eye each day.
Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
I came into the world at the end of a long and traumatic human smuggling journey. My parents are refugees from Afghanistan and my mom was pregnant with me on this journey. I'd like to say they are the original Jay-Z & Beyoncé from the On The Run Tour. I was fortunate to, firstly, be alive and then find safety, education, and opportunities in the West—specifically Mississauga in Toronto. My upbringing was incredibly sheltered but also peppered with poetry, rebellion, and a multicultural perspective. I grew up listening to everything from the Gipsy Kings, Tupac, and Aaron Neville to Afghan folk music, Sufi melodies, and Bollywood bangers.
What is Camel Assembly? Any proud moments to share?
Camel Assembly has been the most serendipitous journey I've taken yet. I was craving an intentional, creative space that also felt safe and connected. The fact that the women we were bringing together were powerful wasn’t the point; we were creating a culture of abundance and natural collaboration and the result has been global.
It’s a community of creative, conscious leaders. The proudest moments have been the most sacred and private. But seeing people consistently and selflessly show up for one another is incredibly powerful, and I am very proud to be connected to these types of humans. The vision revolves around providing every woman with a consistent space, where your title, earnings or social follower amount don't dictate if you're welcome.
You're passionate about practicing self-work and reaching a higher spiritual vibration.
I don't think we validate spiritual health as much as we should. I have experienced that once your third eye opens, you're in the vortex. There is no going back. I'm constantly questioning what I believe, why I believe it, and shifting paradigms for myself mentally. What kind of human, leader, daughter, sister, mother, partner do I want to be? How can I lessen the gap between who I want to be and how I am today? How do I live in this physical realm and play the game, while not getting sucked into unconscious behavior? You've got to be devoted to the journey, killing the ego over and over, all of that endless work. I've relied on everything from therapy and art to shaving my head and exploring the masks I wear—and why.
Do you have books or teachings that you've found helpful in that expansion?
The Alchemist by Paulo taught me about magic.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle taught me about how to live in the present.
Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown taught me about both vulnerability and shame.
How has this self-work extended to your relationship with your body?
I've always been thin so it took me a very long time to learn that skinny doesn't mean healthy, and I'd have to honor my vessel like anyone else. Since learning how to listen to my body, I've naturally turned vegetarian, cut out most sugar, and honor simple things like stretching. I'm learning about self-love with every unconscious and bad habit I kick.
You began DJing in your 20s, out of your New York City apartment. How does music fuel you?
It wakes me up, shows me love, and helps my brain think differently. It helps me let go of comparison, inspires me to believe, and puts me in a hypnotic flow.
Who are you listening to these days?
I get obsessive when I find artists I like. This year, I've had Moha, Shoreline Mafia, and Brockhampton on repeat.
How do you prep for a show? Do you have any grounding rituals?
It's pretty polarizing. First, I spend a bunch of time alone and in silence, manifesting the energy I want to feel and how I want to connect. I take thinking and visualizing in silence very seriously, it's a discipline and my creativity relies on it.
Immediately after I get my energy right, I'm blasting music as loud as possible, dancing, and getting hyped. My sisters, no matter which city I'm in, are a hallmark and right there with contagiously positive energy.
What does the idea of happiness mean to you?
I’m not fussed on happiness as I am on joy. I think the hedonist treadmill can be dangerous but I am constantly seeking joyful, purposeful, connected moments.
How has manifestation played a role in your life?
Manifesting is inevitable. What I’ve learned is how important mind control is, to think positively and intend very, very specifically. Believe in every detail of a vision, and give no energy to negative scenes.
The pillars for Camel Assembly resonated with us here at Sakara. It's what we believe in so strongly. Can you expand on the Be Healthy idea and how food has affected the relationship you have with yourself? How you teach this to others?
Camel Assembly has taught me how to listen, and in doing so—very naturally, I began to listen to myself. What that ended up manifesting into was becoming vegetarian. Our bodies speak to us daily, we aren’t listening enough.
What's the message you'd like women to take away from Camel?
Focus on your health—physical, emotional, mental and sexual. Keep learning. Act now, pull the trigger, give back and give more. Own and share your stories.
What is the mark you would like to leave behind on this world, your legacy?
Not worried about all of that anymore. The legacy is in the everyday. How do you show up, give love, and treat people? How much do you believe, give back, and believe? I’m a part of that journey.