serena off white

For the Love of Serena

A love letter to Serena Williams and a rant to haters.

*Cue Brown Sugar vibes*

So when did I fall in love with Serena?

serena williams first win, venus williams
Photo Credit: Eurosport

The year was 2001, Serena Williams, who two years prior had become the second African-American woman to win a Grand Slam Title, was competing against her older sister, Venus, in the US Open finals. My siblings and I were in the living room watching the huge press coverage and my siblings and I took bets on which sibling would win. Honestly, either one winning was amazing, but as the oldest of four children, I had to root for the older Venus., However, there was just something about Serena that drew my attention.  Venus would win that match, but that was beginning of my fandom.

There are very few people I would say I go completely crazy over if I met. Serena is that person. And why not? The woman has an extensive Wikipedia page devoted solely to her tennis achievements. Factor in her business ventures, raw and hilarious honesty as a mother and wife and you have the QUEEN I stan for.

serena williams us open, usopen outfits, off white and serena williams
Photo Credit: People Magazine

My admiration is of course more than her accolades. I admire the Serena effect. Her unapologetic, self-aware, dare you to doubt her, essence. The type of person that causes you to gasp in awe, appreciation, and fear all in the same breath. As a young teenager who struggled horribly with self-confidence. A girl who hadn’t yet learned of the beauty and power of her ‘man legs’ and muscular physique. Serena passively taught me to accept my body because I finally saw someone who I can relate to. She was herself; braids, outfits, speed, attitude and all. I was blessed to look to her as an inspiring model of ‘Strong is Beautiful’.

If her accomplishments and positive example weren’t inspiration enough, her failures and weaknesses were instructive to me as well. No one is perfect, but the way she has grown while navigating public and private challenges has been a lesson to me in resilience, self-awareness, and self-love.

serena brand, serena williams fan

Just like most people, Serena is always evolving. She admits that, at times, racist and sexist comments about her physique, her ability to be competitive after illness had gotten to her head. She had business ventures that failed and had to make changes in coaching and how she managed upsets on the court. Again her honest self-awareness of her imperfections is what I like the most. The post-Olympia Serena might be my favorite. Motherhood isn’t Hollywood glam and mommy grind. Its raw, authentic and serene (no pun intended). Those past missteps and lessons and her current challenge of balancing motherhood and her careers have created somewhat of an armor against ongoing challenges. If we thought Serena was confident before….watch out because motherhood has brought out a new level of the ‘Serena effect’

Now to the haters…

As the great poet, Maya Angelou wrote

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Serena has abided by the sometimes archaic tennis rules. She showed ‘respect’ when she was insulted and given snide commentary about her body, after a serious illness, and recently after pregnancy. She has been respectable to shady commentators and the extra drug testing. The extra scrutiny is one thing. In fact, some may say that is the burden of greatness, but what you are NOT going to do is come out of your mouth and say she disrespects the sport simply by her attire. Is it the confidence in which she twirls in tutus, dresses, or catsuits that upsets you?
female tennis, wta changes, billie jean king tweet
Does policing a women’s body bring respect to the sport or do you mean that brings you a false sense of control and power. Where is the respect for the fact that the future of tennis in the US and dare I say the world is not only female but black? If you are to name the stars of US tennis four names quickly come to mind. Serena, Venus, Sloane, Madison. Ask a regular passerby to name five current US male stars. I’ll wait. Internationally, sales and fervor for meets increase whenever Serena or Venus is on the ticket. Why is it that you Mr. French Open spokesman felt comfortable using the fact that Serena played her first post-pregnancy major at Roland Garands, but feel what, offended that she performed well while being fully covered in a medically advised catsuit a type of suit that tennis has actually seen before?
In the name of respect, show some for yourself and women and show some for the GOAT, the Queen, my inspiration, Serena Jameka Williams.
When did I fall in love with Serena? It was 2001…and the face of sports has never been the same since.

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