Serena Williams is a glamazon.
The superstar tennis player has given us major lewks before (her 2019 Met Gala camp dress, for example), but when I saw her on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, with “unretouched” splashed beside her, my jaw dropped.
There she was, rocking a bright gold sequined Stella McCartney dress with big wavy hair and a confident smile on one version of the cover, and on another, Williams flashed part of her buttocks and her muscular legs as she struck a pose in metallic gold Louboutins and let her gold Ralph Lauren cape flow behind her.
Her brown skin was glowing from head to toe. I thought if this is unretouched, why was anyone ever retouching her in the first place. The woman is essentially flawless.
It wasn’t just the stunning photos of an unretouched Williams that struck me though. It was the power in her stance. From professional blows to body insecurities and body shaming, Williams has dealt with a lot. So to see her striking this fierce pose on a major fashion mag’s cover, giving life as she showed off her curves, felt like a moment.
Williams has been open about body insecurities she’s dealt with in the past. Back in 2018, she told GQ she constantly compared herself to her sister Venus Williams. “I felt weird, like, my boobs were bigger than Venus’s, and my body was thicker,” she said. “I was curvier. I was like, “Why am I not Venus?”‘
“I was really struggling,” Williams continued, adding that a conversation with her late half-sister Yetunde, changed her perspective on her body. “She’s [Yetunde] like, “You know, everyone is different. You’re not Venus, and you’re never going to be Venus. You’re never going to be as thin as her, and that’s okay. And you’re never going to be as tall as her, and that’s okay. Nothing is wrong with that. You have a beautiful body on your own. You have a beautiful face”. And that’s when I first started being more comfortable with who I was.”
Still, Williams has dealt with body shaming throughout her career – which she touched on in a personal essay for Harper’s Bazaar. It was a part of a bigger message in the feature about why she will never regret using her voice to stand against injustice, and why all women should do the same.
“I’ll admit, it was a long while before I picked up a racket again. There is only so much one person can take,” Williams said, as she referred to her controversial 2018 US Open match with Naomi Osaka, which she lost, and received major backlash for after standing up to a chair umpire.
“As a teenager, I was booed by an entire stadium (I took the high road and even thanked those who didn’t want to see me win),” the sports star continued. “I’ve been called every name in the book. I’ve been shamed because of my body shape. I’ve been paid unequally because of my sex. I’ve been penalized a game in the final of a major because I expressed my opinion or grunted too loudly. I’ve been blatantly cheated against to the point where the Hawk-Eye rules were introduced so that something like that would not happen again. And these are only the things that are seen by the public. In short, it’s never been easy. But then I think of the next girl who is going to come along who looks like me, and I hope, “Maybe, just maybe, my voice will help her.”
While at first Williams felt “defeated” by the ordeal, she ended up feeling empowered after a conversation with Osaka, in which she apologized. “When Naomi’s response came through, tears rolled down my face,” she said. “People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two. No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”
And she did just that.
“This incident—though excruciating for us to endure—exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day,” Venus continued. “We are not allowed to have emotions, we are not allowed to be passionate. We are told to sit down and be quiet, which frankly is just not something I’m okay with. It’s shameful that our society penalizes women just for being themselves.”
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt a need to voice my opinion and be heard. Some may not like it, and to be honest, that’s their prerogative. I respect it. Growing up as the youngest of five girls, I learned that I had to fight for everything I wanted. And I won’t ever stop raising my voice against injustice.”