For tennis icon Serena Williams, speaking out is a necessary endeavor—especially for someone who has as big of a platform as she does.
Chatting with British Vogue for its November cover story, Williams opened up about why she pushes to make space for women of color and challenges the status quo.
“Tennis is a small play in the whole scheme of things,” she said. “In this society, women are not taught or expected to be that future leader or future CEO. The narrative has to change. And maybe it doesn’t get better in time for me, but someone in my position can show women and people of colour that we have a voice, because Lord knows I use mine. I love sticking up for people and supporting women. Being the voice that millions of people don’t have.”
She also reflected on the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, following the police killing of George Floyd in late May.
“Now, we as Black people have a voice—and technology has been a huge part of that,” she said. “We see things that have been hidden for years; the things that we as people have to go through. This has been happening for years. People just couldn’t pull out their phones and video it before … At the end of May, I had so many people who were white writing to me saying, ‘I’m sorry for everything you’ve had to go through.’ I think for a minute they started—not to understand, because I don’t think you can understand—but they started to see. I was like: well, you didn’t see any of this before? I’ve been talking about this my whole career. It’s been one thing after another.”
Of feeling seen through media representation, Williams added that body positivity hasn’t always come easy to her. “When I was growing up, what was celebrated was different,” she said, adding that her sister, Venus, was better able to fit into conventional media standards of beauty. “Venus looked more like what is really acceptable: she has incredibly long legs, she’s really, really thin. I didn’t see people on TV that looked like me, who were thick. There wasn’t positive body image. It was a different age.”
Now, however, the tennis player is grateful for her body. “How amazing that my body has been able to give me the career that I’ve had, and I’m really thankful for it. I only wish I had been thankful sooner,” she said. “It just all comes full circle when I look at my daughter.”
As one of the most (if not the most) celebrated tennis players in a field largely dominated by white men, Williams has long been an advocate for making space for other women who look like her on the court.
She also told the magazine that she fully embraces the person she is. “I’ve never been a person that has been like, ‘I want to be a different colour’ or ‘I want my skin tone to be lighter,’” she said. “I like who I am, I like how I look, and I love representing the beautiful dark women out there. For me, it’s perfect. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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