In the more than 20 years since she turned pro, Serena Williams has faced a consistent stream of body shaming from those who (incorrectly, problematically) label her muscles and sheer power as “manly.” While those misogynistic comments used to affect Williams, in her cover interview for the July 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar U.K., she explains the much healthier, more empowering mindset she’s adopted to ignore the haters and keep doing what it takes to win 23 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals—and counting.
“It was hard for me,” Williams said. “People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. I was different to Venus: she was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular — and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different.” When asked by Bazaar about a 2004 report that on the tennis pro’s list of goals at the time, getting down to a size four was right under winning a handful of major tournaments, Williams replied, “Oh God, I’ll never be a size four! Why would I want to do that, and be that?”
“This is me, and this is my weapon and machine,” Williams continued, pointing to her biceps. “But I love that I said that, because I can understand. I can show Olympia that I struggled, but now I’m happy with who I am and what I am and what I look like,” she went on, referencing her nine-month-old daughter with husband Alexis Ohanian. “Olympia was born and she had my arms, and instead of being sad and fearful about what people would say about her, I was just so happy.”
And Williams knew from the beginning that Olympia would be just as strong as her mother, since, after all, Williams won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant (and has since mounted the trophy in Olympia’s nursery because “it’s her win”). “I knew I was having a girl, because when I was playing tennis in the tournament, I didn’t have one day of morning sickness, no symptoms. Australia is really hot, some days can be over 40 degrees, which is insane, but she never complained. I said to Alexis, ‘This is a girl. Only a woman can be this strong,'” said Williams, who confirmed that sentiment earlier this week, when she won her first Grand Slam match since giving birth at the French Open—in a “supermama” catsuit, no less.
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