In a world where society places women against each other, there are a select few who are changing the narrative and moving mountains. One woman in particular, Yelda Ali, is shifting that conversation. Like us here at MISSBISH, Yelda is working to create a safe space to celebrate women and the badassery we are all born with. Ali's female empowerment organization, Camel Assembly, has brought love and light to its members; myself included. The New York-based entrepreneur has seen tremendous growth within her organization, which has now expanded to Los Angeles and Toronto. We caught up with the multi-talented goddess to chat about the origins of her organization, and what keeps her going.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live to build new foundations and grow communities based on a collective consciousness. I’ve been doing it forever and I’m perpetually connecting people. I think connectors get a bad rep for being managers of multiple weak relationships but for me, being a connector means I spend most of my days watering and nurturing the people in my life because they’re the most valuable piece. The biggest risks I’ve taken were some of the easiest decisions I’ve made in my life, and usually, the easy choice is harder. I follow organic, honest energy. I’m an incredibly private person (with a blog lol) who happens to be sociable and extroverted, so it’s a hard balance, steadily trying to share more of myself in hopes to spread and exude positivity.
Being from Toronto, can you tell us in what ways has the city molded you into who you are today?
I grew up in Mississauga (Sauga City reps up) and it’s one of the most multicultural cities you can imagine. I had access to all types of different cultures, food, and music first-hand. My education included Arabic-immersion, Mandarin-immersion, both public and Catholic schools. In my spare time, I was blasting Persian melodies, European freestyle and ragga, eating Caribbean food and hanging with Indians, Ethiopians and Pilipino’s. I was able to live comfortably as a minority and had opportunities to flourish. I attended the University of Toronto and then launched my career in television there; it was an incredible place to realize there are no ceilings when it comes to achieving your dreams. There’s been a lot of hype around Toronto in these past years but it’s always been worth the hype.
Can you describe the moment where you knew you wanted to DJ?
I never had a moment where I decided to be a DJ. I had always been the girl who wanted to discover music first and put people on and I also understood crowd psychology. Music was a great friend to me, a place I could go to deal with my emotions growing up. When I was going through a divorce in my mid-20’s, I was in NYC entirely alone and decided I needed a hobby or passion to indulge in. Djing became something I learned and would do in my UES studio as therapy. When people found out, they started booking me and it became an incredibly organic journey. So now I see it as getting paid to go to therapy, which is amazing.
As a frequent attendee, I love what you’re doing with Camel Assembly. Can you tell us what inspired you to create this platform made by women, for women?
There were many streams of inspiration for Camel Assembly. I wanted to connect with my girls at a more creative level, I wanted to give women a safe space to take care of one another, and I wanted to consistently provide them with a time and place where they can build their dreams and collaboratively lead change in the world. In that journey, I somehow created an incredibly organic and powerful support system but also a female talent network.
What is your ultimate goal with Camel Assembly?
My goal is for the Abundance Mentality, a foundation of Camel Assembly, to become a culture that we lead around the world together. That we instill this in young girls, that we apply it to direct and effect social change, that we incorporate it in education. A culture where women truly understand that when they shine light to another woman, it provides more light and doesn’t take light away. I think if we truly grasp that simple concept, we would more effectively band together and build the world we want to live in. I believe a lot of the change that needs to happen in the world right now is in the hands of women to lead. We’re in a very unbalanced society and it’s all we’ve known. I want Camel Assembly to be a big part of bringing that balance.
You have your hands dipped in different areas, such as music, social activism, and technology. How important is it for you to not put yourself in a box? Do you think humans often limit their own capabilities?
I, like most people, have spent my life being educated and trained to pick one thing, master it, and climb that ladder. I studied Political Science but it was very unnatural for me to pick one lane because I knew I could do so many things successfully. You don’t have to be an artist to realize that life is about creating. I decided one day, very consciously, that I’m going to climb a ladder that is leading on a wall of my values and passions, instead of a subject or industry. This, to me, was way more sustainable. Human beings can do it all, we can sing and design and build and lead movements. We can do anything we put our mind to, and it’s up to you how many things you want to put your mind to.
“Define your purpose or you’ll get lost in the shuffle. The media industry seems very glamorous; people enter it before they even know what they want to do with it. It’s massive and oversaturated, there are a lot of angles, and there’s no formula. Take the time to figure out what you’re doing here and what you want to build.”
With all of the turmoil happening in America and in the world, what advice can you give those who are suffering from a social activist perspective?
Technology has been a huge help in bringing these issues to everyone’s pockets. It’s allowed us to change narratives and put the power of storytelling into the hands of people, rather than the media. I would tell those suffering that things are getting better, not worse, and that this increasing access to information about what’s happening in the world makes us believe it’s getting worse. But this awareness is what makes people finally feel it and move to action. It’s why we’re seeing so much increased conversation. I remind myself of this, no matter how tragic the news of the day is, there’s so much good happening in humanity. There are always beautiful things happening, there are unfortunately always horrible things happening in the world – it’s the yin-yang. But what we can do personally, is look at the world as a good place where bad things happen sometimes, and consistently try to reduce the amount of bad things. This is the era where things change drastically. In tech, in trends, and also in social issues. Let’s get it.
What are your thoughts on the female DJ trend?
The DJ world is a male-heavy industry, yes - but there’s no such thing as a “female DJ trend”. There have always been killer female DJs, just like there have always been killer female doctors, firefighters, coders and the list of breaking stereotypes goes on. I remember interviewing Spinderella, Salt-n-Pepa's DJ, years ago and she was crushing the scene in the 80's alongside pioneers like Jam Master Jay - at the tender age of sixteen! It's just another space where women are the minority in a boys club, but it’s not a trend, let’s make that clear. We've been present and our presence is only increasing.
Name 3 of your favorite role models and why.
1. Malcolm X is someone I feel deeply connected to. He lived an unconscious, corrupt life in his early years, but once he entered his spiritual journey, he became a social activist. In that public journey, he was narrow-minded and angry with his messaging, so he was received as an abrasive and aggressive activist. (Been there.) Many people still have weird perceptions of him, which is hilarious to me. Not many people even know that before he was killed, Malcolm found consciousness and the defects in his approach. (Been there.) That's not the narrative mainstream media pushed. He was the perfect example of someone who was reborn over and over. Continued to better himself. A beautiful reminder of rebirth, his journey taught me to stand for something and be ready to die for it.
2. Rumi is a poet from my homeland, Afghanistan, and dude was more conscious in the 1200’s than many of us today. I’ve received a lot of peace throughout my life from his books. He shares the same language, religion and culture as me, so I feel that connection because his beliefs are aligned with my values. Farsi is a language based on proverbs and so much of that gets lost when translated to English (and then translated to Instagram quotes) so absorbing it all in mother-tongue was more hard-hitting than I can ever describe. He also was a Sufi, which means he worshipped God through music, and I’m definitely vibin' with that.
3. My mother, daughter of a human rights activist killed for his cause, founded her life giving charity. This woman’s spirit... man, there’s nothing comparable. She lives her life so artfully, it was impossible for me not to create. She doesn’t share her philanthropy publicly because she believes that’s a part of her private relationship with God. And since before I have been alive, she’s been feeding and supporting families around the world, praying for people every single day, which is such a real charity in itself, and it’s never ever recognition or ego driven. It’s sort of the approach I’ve taken now, where my social activism is only publicly shared if it’s helpful to the cause. Otherwise, it’s a lifestyle, not a media campaign.
Give us 3 tips for women who are aspiring to be media professionals.
1. Define your purpose or you’ll get lost in the shuffle. The media industry seems very glamorous; people enter it before they even know what they want to do with it. It’s massive and oversaturated, there are a lot of angles, and there’s no formula. Take the time to figure out what you’re doing here and what you want to build. I spent the first half of my career in media focused on finding jobs that matched my skill set, rather than finding jobs that matched my purpose.
2. I definitely spent years dressing and acting the part that I perceived was expected of me, but ultimately there was nothing that advanced my career more than being smart and working hard. If you’re not smart, get smart. Learn, teach yourself, Google it, be a sponge and absorb! The reality is that no one’s coming to save you, no one cares how much potential you have, no one believes in you more than you, so you better get on that DIY tip, stat!
3. I’ve been in positions throughout my career where, in that moment, I didn’t think it was serving purpose to me. In hindsight, every single one has had its own real purpose and I’ve learned repeatedly to trust the universe. Be present, crush life in the now, and focus less on 2030. Especially you young girls pinteresting your wedding. Pinterest how you plan to decorate your yacht.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
It’s a necessary and inspiring vehicle that highlights the many spaces where women continue to lead and make change, set standards and break records, while promoting creativity and wellbeing.
If you're interested in learning more about Camel Assembly, check out a special Elite Daily documentary here. Events are currently being held monthly in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
Photos by: Paulsta Wong