Tennis Identity

Serena Williams lives out loud in new issue of Fader magazine

Serena Williams

Wearing vintage Nike, Serena Williams graces the cover of the American version of  The Fader magazine this month. Generally, tennis fans only see the ferocious competitive side of Williams. She’s won four consecutive Grand Slams twice, and tied the record with Steffi Graf at 186 weeks ranked #1, bringing fans to tennis like Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Drake, who cheer her from the stands.

Here, the interview reveals what goes on behind the scenes with the tennis champion. It’s quite a revealing article.

Serena Williams

On her advice for women speaking up about discrimination:

It doesn’t matter your background or where you’re coming from. You can speak to your neighbor, you can speak to your friend about how you feel about something. You can post on social media. I think it’s really important, first of all, to realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re living where I’m from, Compton, or if you’re living somewhere else — that’s what makes the world go round. Each person is just as important as the next. Each person has a voice.

On the public opinion of her body:

People have been talking about my body for a really long time. Good things, great things, negative things. People are entitled to have their opinions, but what matters most is how I feel about me, because that’s what’s going to permeate the room I’m sitting in. It’s going to make you feel that I have confidence in myself whether you like me or not, or you like the way I look or not, if I do. That’s the message I try to tell other women and in particular young girls. You have to love you, and if you don’t love you no one else will. And if you do love you, people will see that and they’ll love you too.

On the public opinion of her sexuality:

Yeah, you know, it was “she’s too strong,” and then “she’s too sexy,” and then “she’s too strong” again. So I’m like, Well, can you choose one? But either way, I don’t care which one they choose. I’m me and I’ve never changed who I am. I actually do dance a lot, so when that opportunity to appear in Lemonade came up and we were working with choreographers, just trying to figure out what to do, it was really kind of organic.

On her travels to Africa:

I think it changed me. It changed me to realize how strong I was and to realize that I, through my ancestors, am capable of doing anything. I’m really capable. They endured the toughest, and only the strongest survived. I realized that I was built from this incredible bloodline that many different types of people aren’t built from.

On how meeting Nelson Mandela helped her overcome criticism:

We’ve had conversations, but it wasn’t until years later and reading his biography that I really felt like I met this man. It took a minute to click, it didn’t just happen overnight. But I realized that everything that I’m about, the way that I was raised, and everything that I’ve been born to do is all about forgiveness and moving on, and I just felt like it was all about the right time to do it.

On how anger can translate to passion:

I do have a temper tantrum sometimes that I’ve definitely made an effort to calm down, only because I do want to be a role model and I don’t want to send the wrong message. But I also think it shows my passion. It helps me. If I don’t have that intensity or that anger, I’m not doing as well as I need to do to win. Sometimes I almost need to get angry to win, which is really, really weird but it works for me.

Serena Williams

Sign up for our weekly email

All photos via Photography by Jody Rogac.