Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Serena Williams reveals how race affects her experience with people


In a new interview, tennis ace Serena Williams has discussed how being a successful black woman has affected how the public perceive her.

In a cover interview for the September issue of Vogue, Williams discusses how she questioned being described as powerful at the beginning of her career – pointing out that she didn’t think she and sister Venus were hitting any harder than other players – and noting that strong personality traits are often viewed negatively when it comes to women.

“I think I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the idea of power,” she told the magazine. “In the beginning I didn’t like it when they said that my sister and I were power players. I thought, I don’t hit as hard as a Monica Seles […]

“Not only me, but women in general sometimes feel that power is a bad word. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to feel differently about it. Power is beauty. Strength is beauty.”

While now owning the idea of being powerful, Williams also said she feels her strength and determination have been misinterpreted by those who don’t know her, and that could be down to racial prejudice.

In April, she responded to racist comments from a male tennis player speculating about the colour of her unborn child’s skin, saying: “Yes, we have broken down so many barriers – however there are a plethora more to go [...] This or anything else will not stop me from pouring love, light and positivity into everything that I do.”

She told Vogue: “I feel like people think I’m mean. Really tough and really mean and really street. I believe that the other girls in the locker room will say, ‘Serena’s really nice.’ But Maria Sharapova, who might not talk to anybody, might be perceived by the public as nicer.

“Why is that? Because I’m black and so I look mean? That’s the society we live in. That’s life.”

She added: “They say African-Americans have to be twice as good, especially women. I’m perfectly OK with having to be twice as good.”

Read more: Serena Williams writes powerful essay calling for equal pay for black women

Williams has a stellar tennis career, breaking records with 23 Grand Slam titles. Now not playing as she prepares for her first baby (with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian) to arrive within weeks, she’s been rewatching her old matches to identify weaknesses – and says when she returns to the court, she’s going to give her all as she’s always done.

“If I lose, and I lose again, it’s like, she’s done. Especially since I’m not 20 years old. I’ll tell you this much: I won’t win less. Either I win, or I don’t play.”

Though she also said in the interview that finding out she was pregnant gave her a sense of “calm” and that she told herself she was now “allowed to lose, because you have something to look forward to”, she says she couldn’t imagine not wanting to return to the sport.

“I used to think I’d want to retire when I have kids, but no. I’m definitely coming back. Walking out there and hearing the crowd, it may seem like nothing. But there’s no better feeling in the world.”

Her strength and success have made her a role model for many an aspiring sportswoman, and Williams revealed that she suspects she’s having a baby girl because it appears to be showing the same resilient spirit: “Two weeks after we found out, I played the Australian Open. I told Alexis it has to be a girl because there I was playing in 100-degree weather, and that baby never gave me any trouble. Ride or die. Women are tough that way.”

Read the full interview here.

Image: Rex Features



This Hocus Pocus star’s pregnancy announcement is pure 90s perfection


Serena Williams calls for equal pay for black women in brilliant essay


Fara Williams on female football, homelessness and being a role model


The best A-list Instagrams from the weekend

Cara Delevingne’s fangirl moment and 90s supermodels reuniting

by Nicola Colyer
25 Sep 2017

Piers Morgan's comments about Meghan Markle have riled up the internet

A heavy dose of sexism with your morning telly

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Sep 2017

Julia Stiles talks women in Hollywood and her controversial baby name

Stylist.co.uk chats with the Riviera star

by Harriet Hall
25 Sep 2017

Chrissy Teigen’s reason for never divorcing John Legend is too good

Just when we thought we couldn’t love her more

by Susan Devaney
25 Sep 2017

NASA just paid tribute to Hidden Figures' Katherine Johnson

This is long overdue

by Susan Devaney
25 Sep 2017

Ellen DeGeneres has officially banned Donald Trump from her TV show

Her powerful statement sums up everything that’s wrong with the president

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Sep 2017

Jessica Ennis-Hill unveils baby girl’s incredibly trendy name

The gold medallist announced the news via an intimate Instagram photo

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Sep 2017

All the best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From a star-studded dinner party to Serena Williams’ sweet mother-daughter snap

by Nicola Colyer
22 Sep 2017

Justin Trudeau reveals his surprising feminist inspiration

Bromance brewing?

by Susan Devaney
21 Sep 2017

Some people only just realised that Rihanna’s real name isn’t Rihanna

Erm, did we not all know this already?

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Sep 2017