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Serena Williams turns self image upside down

Serena Williams turns self image upside down

By Larry Fine
Reuters
Posted April 17 2003, 9:47 AM EDT



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NEW YORK - Serena Williams is on top of the tennis world, but the 21-year-old champion has a surprising view on how she would like her resume to read.

``I'm an actress, I'm a model and an athlete. I put athlete third on my list,'' says Williams. the world No. 1 women's tennis player and current holder of all four Grand Slam titles.

``I prefer actress, model, athlete.''

Williams is keeping an ultra-fast pace off the courts as well as on them these days, with acting projects, modeling shoots and fashion design business competing for room on her calendar.

Taking a brief break after beating former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez last week at the Family Circle Cup tournament in Charleston, S.C., Williams said in a telephone interview she was excited about an upcoming acting role.

Williams, who has appeared on the ABC television situation comedy series ``My Wife and Kids,'' said she was waiting for a movie script being written with a part specifically for her, but did not have a timetable for the project yet.

``I haven't talked with my Hollywood agent in a couple of days,'' she explained, chuckling at the sound of her life in the fast lane.

Williams has also charged into the pages of high fashion.

SWIMSUIT LAYOUTS

The full-bodied tennis champion had a special layout among all the leggy supermodels in the recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and is featured in the current issue of Vogue magazine, also modeling a swimsuit.

``I got a lot of positive feedback from the Sports Illustrated shoot. Actually it was all positive. People were astonished and amazed,'' she said. ``And modeling for Vogue was fun. Every week that I'm not on the court, I'm doing a photo shoot or modeling for a magazine cover. It's wild.''

Williams, like her sister Venus -- the world's No. 2 ranked women's tennis player -- is also serious about pursuing an interest in design.

While Venus is busy running a home interior design company, Serena is getting things in order for her own fashion design business.

``I've gotten more serious about designing in the past few weeks,'' said Serena. ``I'm in the process of securing a name, my own brand name, and I'm writing my business plan. I'm looking at designers that I can hire. I'm looking at shops I can sell to and I'm thinking about opening my own boutiques.''

Just contemplating all this seems exhausting, but Serena was not through.

``Oh yeah, I also do PR for Venus's home design company. I go out and get jobs for her,'' she said. ``I was talking to (comedian-turned-actor) Chris Tucker. He promised he'd let Venus do his house.''

RAISING MONEY FOR EDUCATION

Despite all the activity, Serena is setting aside time for a charity project to raise money to benefit black colleges.

Serena and Venus are both donating tennis outfits they will wear at Grand Slam events this season for auction, along with signed tennis equipment and tickets to the U.S. Open to benefit the Tom Joyner Foundation which offers scholarships to students at black colleges.

Serena is also offering a private tennis lesson for the highest bid received during the online auction that ends on April 25 at Web site http://www.doublemint.com. Bidding has already pushed the price to $4,500.

``We like to do a lot of things through the community and for education,'' Serena said about their involvement in the charity auction.

The four historically black colleges that will benefit from funds raised are the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Vorhees College in South Carolina, Elizabeth City State University in New Jersey and Tougaloo College in Mississippi.

Serena is donating an outfit she designed and will wear during this summer's Wimbledon championships, while Venus is putting up an outfit from this spring's French Open.

``I'm focusing solely on fashion right now,'' said Serena, who created a fashion stir last summer at the U.S. Open when she wore a skin tight ``catsuit'' outfit.

``That's what's exciting about the bidding on the tennis outfit, because I designed it.''

Serena would not give away any details about the outfit she is putting up for auction.

``It's not going to be a catsuit,'' she said. ``I know everybody will be disappointed. And it won't be what I wear in the finals. I keep that for my memorabilia.''

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