‘I’m black so I look mean?’ Serena Williams discusses race and pregnancy

‘I’m black so I look mean?’ Serena Williams discusses race and pregnancy

  • Former world No1 says she wants to return for Australian Open
  • 23-time grand slam champion says she has been judged due to race
Serena Williams won the Australian Open earlier this year
Serena Williams won the Australian Open earlier this year. Photograph: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

Serena Williams has spoken about pregnancy, race and body image in a wide-ranging interview with Vogue.     

Williams and her fiance, the Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, are due to welcome their first child at the end of the year, but she says she wants to return as early as January to defend her Australian Open title. “It’s the most outrageous plan,” she said. “I just want to put that out there. That’s, like, three months after I give birth. I’m not walking anything back, but I’m just saying it’s pretty intense.”   

The American is the holder of 23 major singles titles, and acknowledges that winning will be a tough task after nearly a year away from the professional circuit. “In this game you can go dark fast,” she said. “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.”

Williams has been the target of criticism about the way she plays the game throughout her career but says it is not something that bothers her. “Not only me, but women in general sometimes feel that power is a bad word,” said the 35-year-old. “As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to feel differently about it. Power is beauty. Strength is beauty. So now on the court I want people to think that I’m powerful. But I also want them to be shocked at how I play. I want people to expect something, then get something different.”

Williams also said that the way she is perceived by some tennis fans is shaped by her race. “I feel like people think I’m mean,” she said. “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. They say African Americans have to be twice as good, especially women. I’m perfectly OK with having to be twice as good.”

Williams has appeared on the cover of Vogue twice previously, and said it was a positive step for African American women. “Being black and being on the cover was really important to me,” she said. “The success of one woman should be the inspiration to another, and I’m always trying to inspire and motivate the black girls out there. I’m not a model. I’m not the girl next door. But I’m not hiding. Actually, I look like a lot of women out there. The American woman is many women, and I think it’s important to speak to American women at a time when they need encouragement. I’m not political, but I think everyone is worried, to a degree.”

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  • Teresa  On August 17, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Saying a black person looks mean is one of the countless micro-aggressions that racist women dish out without explaining. My Mom does it and she thinks she is not racist.

  • Albert  On August 17, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Don’t know what Serena is complaining about. The comments on TV about her by other sports stars are usually admirable. People like Mc Enroe and Chris Everest said she is the best ever. It’s the greatest thing to receive such compliments by those among the best in your field. She should ignore the silly comments. You could never please everyone.

  • Thinker  On August 19, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Albert, do you remember the crap the two sisters had to put up with in the early years of their careers. Respect her right to speak her mind.

    • Albert  On August 19, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      ” Respect her right to speak her mind.”
      Would you say the same thing about Gigi.
      What this wealthy black woman is complaining about is frivolous relative to what other talented black women have endure but fail and died poor. Dorothy Dandridge comes to mind, as an example. Sarena is a fighter, she has heart, she is a real champion. Why focus on the negative.

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