June 10, 2011 01:00 PM

Alison Dyer

When Laila Ali and her husband, former NFL star Curtis Conway, decided to have a second child together, she thought she wanted another boy so that her son C.J., 2½, would have a little brother to play with.

“Before I got pregnant with Sydney I started paying attention to girls with their moms and I thought, ‘Oh, I want a girl,'” confesses the former boxer (she followed in the footsteps of her father, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali) and Dancing With the Stars contestant. “They are like a little mini me.”

Ali welcomed Sydney J. — the middle initial is in honor of Conway’s late grandmother Jurldine — on April 4, and already mother and daughter have established a girls only ritual.

“Because I get up so much with her, we are sleeping in a separate room,” Ali, 33, explains. “My favorite time is the evening when C.J. goes to sleep and I have her in the room and it’s quiet. We have our quiet moment together.”

And while Dad can take the lead and teach C.J. all the important things about becoming a man, Ali is excited to teach her 9-week-old “how to cook and how to be a lady” and “how to be strong but still be feminine and confident.”

Alison Dyer

For the nursery, which Ali calls “vibrant and fun” but “not too baby-ish,” the couple worked with Little Crown Interiors on the design.

The room features a pink ‘Hope’ crib from Newport Cottages (proceeds go towards breast cancer research), bedding by Carousel Designs, a glider and ottoman from SPI Baby and the nursery’s centerpiece — a black and white canvas print from Art.com of a photograph of Ali and her famous father taken when she herself was an infant.

“It’s like a light shining down on her from my dad,” Ali explains.

Alison Dyer

For more on Laila Ali, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now, and follow her postpartum weight loss journey through her PEOPLE.com video blog.

— Monica Rizzo

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