https://www.essence.com/feature/serena-williams-essence-magazine-cover-story-september-2019/She’s one of the best athletes of all time, and her place in history has been cemented. What’s next for the wife, mom, entrepreneur, activist and fashion designer? Everything.
With one hand on her hip and the other cradling her chin, Serena Williams, dressed in a nondescript white tee and black leggings, has come in from the humidity and is standing in a photo studio near her south Florida home.
She’s surveying a rack of black-and-white statement pieces from Tom Ford to Caroline Herrera for her ESSENCE cover shoot. Like her 122 mph serves, her eyes dart back and forth from one design to another. “Ohhh, who’s that by?” asks Williams, and then without missing a beat: “Do you have anything from our collection?” She offers a slight smile, buoyed by the self-assurance that has won her 23 Grand Slam titles (her goal is 25). She’s clearly happy knowing her designs stack up against some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, not only in style but in purpose.
After investing in start-up companies for five years through Serena Ventures, the tennis champion decided she’d invest in her passion for fashion, design and empowering women by launching an independent ready-to-wear line, S by Serena. She explains that her clothes “represent women everywhere—indomitable mothers, daughters and sisters; resilient businesswomen and entrepreneurs; outsiders and underdogs; little girls with crazy dreams and unflinching women of color.”
On September 10, Williams’s New York Fashion Week presentation will culminate in a 24-hour shopping party. In the midst of planning her show, the wife and mom spoke with ESSENCE to talk about how she defines style, what she looks for in a good investment and why she’ll always speak up for herself and others
ESSENCE: Let’s jump right into fashion. I’m curious about the pieces you were connecting with at the photoshoot—for example, the Monique Lhuiller cape. What’s the first thing you look for in a piece you’ll wear or that you’ll design for your S by Serena collection?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Wow. I love fashion, obviously. It has to connect to me, first of all. I like things that are unusual, but also a little classic. It depends: It could be a crazy pop of color, and it’ll totally get me excited. Or it could be something fresh I haven’t seen before. Honestly, I can go in any direction. Just depends on how I feel.
ESSENCE: Do you find your fashion has changed since you became a mom? I’ll be honest. After I had my daughter I had to tell myself to stop wearing yoga pants.
WILLIAMS: The thing is, during my pregnancy, I always made sure I was dressed up, or I wore heels and it would kill me. But I would just wear the heels and then I would take them off at the restaurant or wherever we would go. Then I’d put them back on. I had to be fabulous. There’s even a picture of the day before I had the baby. We went out to eat and I had on my blue outfit and I was like, I’m going to try to be stylish this whole pregnancy. I tried, but afterward, it was a little bit of a letdown, definitely more so than during. We deserve a letdown, but we also deserve an upgrade.
ESSENCE: I’ve read that when you were building your fashion company, you decided to invest in yourself as an entrepreneur. What has been the joy in doing that?
WILLIAMS: Knowing that you only fail if you fail to try. My biggest joy is that I know that I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do, that I always dreamed of doing. I went to fashion school back in the early 2000s. This didn’t just pop up for me. It’s something I’ve literally been doing and designing for my whole life. I’d never had an opportunity to have a meaningful partnership where I could be more creative and have a more global reach. But I decided that since I couldn’t find that partner, I just needed to do it on my own. Because when you invest in yourself, it helps your confidence, and you’ll know forever that whether you make it or not, you stepped up to the plate. And that’s what I’ve done my whole career. Not everyone believed in me in the beginning, but I stepped up to the plate, and it’s been working out. We have wonderful feedback, and we’re learning, and we’re growing. That’s key.
ESSENCE: You’ve already broken so many barriers in tennis—whether it’s earning your 23rd Grand Slam, winning the Australian Open while you were pregnant, coming back to the game and winning after a difficult childbirth. Also, you’re running a fashion brand; you’re an entrepreneur. You really represent freedom. But what does freedom mean to you?
WILLIAMS: Freedom means standing up and not being afraid to say, “I’m here” or “Hear my voice” or “This isn’t what I agreed to” or “This isn’t fair and that isn’t right.” That’s freedom for me. I’ve done it my whole career. It’s knowing where I’ve come from, knowing my history. In particular, the sport that I’m in. When I first started, there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me. So it was really important to always help other people feel as if this is something they could also be a part of. This is something they could be into. It’s about speaking up and just saying, “You know what? You belong here, too.” This is freedom.
For the full interview, pick up ESSENCE’s September Global Fashion Issue on newsstands August 16.
Paternity Leave Was Crucial After the Birth of My Child, and Every Father Deserves It (Read the rest of my op-ed in the NYT, but here's a teaser)
Serena and I were lucky enough to have help at home and many other advantages working in our favor. But even with all of that privilege, including my ability to focus solely on my family and not worry about keeping my job, it was still incredibly difficult. Nothing could have dragged me away from my wife and daughter in those hours, days and weeks — and I’m grateful that I was never forced to choose between my family and my job...
All people deserve fulfilling work and close family ties. No dad should feel forced to wholly prioritize work over family at a time as important as the arrival of a new baby — a time that is not only critical in the beginning, but has far-reaching impact years down the line. Getting dads (and in turn, families) off on the right foot begins at birth, and it can’t just be up to individual businesses to ensure that happens. We need a federal bill that mandates quality paid family leave for everyone — birth parents, adoptive parents and caregivers alike.
Until that happens, dads, let me be your air cover. I took my full 16 weeks and I’m still ambitious and care about my career. Talk to your bosses and tell them I sent you.
Serena Williams talks about the signs of financial abuse in new PSA
Does your partner use your credit card without telling you? Does your spouse block you from getting a job or going back to school?
Such actions may signal you are a victim of financial abuse, and tennis star Serena Williams wants you to know the signs.
“It’s a weapon that keeps people trapped in abusive relationships,'' Williams told USA TODAY, speaking of her role as ambassador for the Allstate Foundation's Purple Purse program, which focuses on the issue. "One in four women will experience domestic violence, and this is to help woman and communities throughout America find a way (out of) abuse through financial education and empowerment. That’s my big message.’’
Williams is starring in a public service announcement for the Purple Purse program called "Signs.'' In the video, she walks through a maze as her voice over notes some of the behaviors that can signal financial abuse – like your partner wanting to review receipts for everything you buy or taking your paycheck, then spending it however they choose.
Such actions are present in 99% of domestic violence cases, according to Ellen Lisak, Purple Purse's senior program officer.
"We think this is still an issue that needs a lot of education and a lot of awareness,'' she says, adding that research conducted last year by the program found nearly half of Americans weren't familiar with the issue of financial abuse and its warning signs.
"I think a lot of us, whether we admit it or not, know people in our lives who’ve been though domestic abuse,'' says Williams. "I have a friend, a really, really close friend of mine who'd been involved in a really unfortunate situation... it’s difficult for them, but it’s also difficult for the people around you who love you and care about you.’'
Williams says there are lessons that she wants to eventually pass along to her daughter, Alexis.
"One message I want to teach her is to always have the confidence to stay financially independent,’’ Williams says. “It’s okay to be stable on your own, and (say) 'we can do a lot of things together as well.' ’’
For those who are facing abuse, there are ways to seek help.
"If someone thinks they or someone they know is in an abusive situation they can always call the National Domestic Violence hotline for immediate help,'' Lisak says. And "if you think someone you know is being abused...approach them without judgment or criticism. Let them know that you're there for them.''
This man is loved by the only person that counts. Serena. Are you mad :weirdo:Stupid shirt, stupid attitude.
No need to make fun of the opponent of his wife, that’s childish. Imagine if Serena had lost ?
This man wants to be loved so much by her fans?♀ It works...