Fatima Ali knew she was an inspiration to fans everywhere — but she struggled with her legacy before she lost her battle with bone cancer.
In Us Weekly’s exclusive clip from the documentary Her Name Is Chef, which is available on Apple, Amazon and other Video on Demand and streaming platforms on Tuesday, April 27, the Top Chef alum is candid about being known as “inspiration.”
“I know all these things have happened and I know I’ve done them,” she told her brother Mohammad from her hospital bed. “But I don’t know, it’s just, like, it doesn’t feel like it’s still my life, you know? I watched these clips and like I said, I know who that is, that’s me, but I don’t know what that feels like. … I know what it felt like to be in that moment, but it still … it just doesn’t feel real.”
She added that people “say the craziest things” to her.
Ali explained: “[And] I don’t feel like what they’re saying. They’re like, ‘You’re such an inspiration,’ and all these really, really nice things and in my head, I’m just like, ‘That doesn’t make any [sense]. I’m just me.’ … I just said and did whatever I thought, you know, being in the moment, being myself. I just feel like even more of a fraud.”
Fatima Ali on ‘Top Chef.’ Paul Trantow/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
Ali died in January 2019 at the age of 29 shortly after she revealed her health was declining amid her battle with cancer. She previously announced she was cancer-free in February 2018 after a battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a terminal cancer of the bone and soft tissue. Her illness returned in October 2018.
“The cancer cells my doctors believed had vanished are back with a vengeance in my left hip and femur bone,” she wrote in an easy for Bon Appétit’s Healthyish at the time. “My oncologist has told me that I have a year to live, with or without the new chemotherapy regimen. I was looking forward to being 30, flirty and thriving. Guess I have to step it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose.”
Ali’s legacy is a theme throughout the film. Chefs Elizabeth Falkner, Hillary Sterling, Esther Choi, Juliet Masters and Caroline Schiff are also included in Her Name Is Chef, which is directed by Peter Ferriero.