Nadia is the second of her Pakistani-American family to be born in the United States, and she grew up in New Jersey . She felt isolated by her family's conservatism, although she did not wear a hijab .  She was raised as a Muslim. In a July 2016 interview with the Refinery29 , she stated that still identified herself as a "practicing Muslim",  and that in between her work, she still prays two or three times a day. 
She moved out to San Francisco and set up a business threading eyebrows, until, in 2013, she was encouraged by a friend to perform at a strip club . Influenced by making $500 in one night, she continued as a stripper and then as an escort. 
She was encouraged to wear a hijab in pornography due to sexual taboo and to increase her opportunities.  One of her films, titled Women of the Middle East , involved domestic violence turning into sex when the man becomes aroused. Its advertising blurb reads: "They may look suppressed, but given an opportunity to express themselves freely, their wild, untamable natural sexuality is released. This may just be what was in bin Laden ’s porn collection, experience it for yourself."  She blames culture, rather than religion, for patriarchy in Pakistan and has said she wanted to make solo and lesbian scenes to "show the world that Middle Eastern girls of Pakistani descent really do get horny."  Ali has said that she has been "banned" from Pakistan for performing in pornography in a hijab and also that she has received on-line threats of beheading . 
She left the pornographic industry in 2016 after making twenty scenes, as she found the idea of her 21st film, of a man resembling Donald Trump having sex with a Muslim woman, to be degrading.  Her bookings to perform in Florida after the 2016 Pulse Orlando shooting were canceled for fear of backlash.  Calling adult entertainment a "stepping stone" to bigger things, she told Refinery29 that she wanted to move into the beauty business.