In 2015, Serena Williams has won Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the French Open, so it’s safe to say it’s been a pretty successful year for the tennis player. And this hasn’t gone unnoticed, as last week she picked up the award of Sportsperson on the Year 2015 from Sports Illustrated.
Not only was Serena the first woman in 32 years (32 years!) to be awarded the title from the magazine, she was the first black woman to ever have received the accolade.
The award ceremony took place in New York, and Williams was presented the award by none other than her sister and fellow tennis player, Venus Williams, who she competed with and beat during the US Open semi-finals this year too.
Her acceptance speech was not only inspiring, but reminded us all of how hard she’s worked to overcome obstacles and achieve the success she enjoys today, and what a truly worthy winner she is.
“I would really like to thanks Sports Illustrated for recognising me not just for sportswoman, but for sports person.
“I’ve had people look down on me. I’ve had people put me down because I didn’t look like them - I look stronger. I’ve had people look past me because of the colour of my skin. I’ve had people overlook me because I was a woman. I had critics say I will never win another grand slam when I was only at number seven and now here I stand today with 21 grand slam titles and I’m still going.
“For all the ladies out there, yes we can do it. My hope by winning this award [is that I] can inspire many, many, many more women... to stand right here on this podium and accept another ‘Sportsperson of the Year,’ so yes ladies it can be done.”
Watch the full speech here:
As well as her incredible career success in 2015, Williams has had an impactful year off the court, too.
The 34-year-old has been very present and vocal in her support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, reminding everyone of the need to speak up and work together against inequality.
In November she told Wired Magazine:
“I’m a Black woman, and I am in a sport that wasn’t really meant for Black people… So to those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. Don’t let those trolls stop you.... To other people, I say: When someone’s harassing someone else, speak up!”
She also – with the help one of her own childhood heroes J.K. Rowling – made a solid stand against body shamers in 2015. After J.K Rowling tweeted her support for Williams, and a troll responded by saying “ironic then that main reason for her success is that she is built like a man”, Rowling shut them down with a picture of Williams looking phenomenal in a red dress. And in an interview with Good Morning America, Williams said:
“I've been like this my whole life, and I embrace me and I love how I look. I love that I am a full woman, and I'm strong and I'm powerful and I'm beautiful at the same time. And there's nothing wrong with that…I just don't have time to be brought down. I have too many things to do, you know. I have Grand Slams to win. I have people to inspire. And that's what I'm here for.”