Grand Slam all-stars Venus and Serena graced the cover of Harper’s BAZAAR’s March issue, and they looked gorgeous! Sporting long flowing Black chiffon dresses, Venus showed off her brawny physique in a one-shoulder ensemble while Serena stunned with an elegantly beautiful cape that trailed down from her shoulders to the ground. The publication’s March issue is all about exploring legacy, and while the story of Venus and Serena has been told many times, now they get to tell their own story to fans, and it’s one heck of a story at that.
During their interview, the sisters talked about everything from their supportive family and career to the criticism they faced about how their father was portrayed in King Richard.
“A lot of people get this different story of sports fathers—especially tennis fathers, who are really overbearing. And that wasn’t necessarily my dad,” said Serena, noting how the biopic defied the public’s perception about their father. “Everyone’s like, ‘Well, how do you play tennis for so long?’ It’s because we weren’t raised in an environment where it was something that we abhorred.”
In fact, Richard Williams always encouraged the girls to put their mental health first before anything. The tennis coach was hammered with the opposition after he decided to pull Venus and Serena from a junior competition so that they wouldn’t “fall to pieces” from the pressure. Their father encouraged them to focus on schoolwork instead, a move that now looking back, the sisters thank their father for.
“He’s always like, ‘Take your time. You’ll be okay. Don’t play,” said Serena.
The star then shared an important piece of advice that Mr. Williams gave to her and Venus early in their career.
‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’
Thankfully, they never quit!
Check out a few highlights from the Williams sister’s Harper’s BAZAAR cover story below. The full issue officially hits stands on Mar. 1.
Venus and Serena on how King Richard broadened the scope of how the world sees them:
“I don’t think people even thought about what happened before we turned pro,” Venus tells me. “This isn’t a movie about tennis,” Serena adds. “This is a movie about family.”
Venus on how the sisters were archetypes to the Black American experience, but at the same time how their lives were very different than the average family:
“I think that our family is just unique to ourselves. Obviously, we’re an African American family, and it’s important for people to see African American families in that dynamic…to have role modeling.” Still, she stresses again, “our family was super unique.”
Serena on how she sees the film King Richard:
“I am a dreamer, and I love Marvel. I think King Richard is like Iron Man and that there still are other stories around it. The next, obviously, would be the Venus story, and then there’s always the story about our other three sisters, and then there’s like a mom, and then there’s the Serena story. When I look at it, I see it just encompassing this whole superhero kind of thing.”
Serena on imagining life beyond tennis:
“We never planned to just only play tennis and just only be tennis players,” she says. “We planned to do more.”
On how a health diagnosis for Venus fused the family even closer:
We’ve always been focused on health,” Venus says. “When I started to have issues with my health”—she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, in 2011—“my whole family, from my dad down, all joined into living a more plant-based lifestyle. The support is always there.” Serena adds, “We don’t celebrate holidays at all”—they were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses—“but we definitely like to just always figure out ways to … what does Lyn call it?” she asks Venus, referring to their sister. “The Fellowship,” Venus says. “Yeah, the Fellowship. Lyn says, ‘Let’s get the Fellowship together.’ ”
Serena on Yetunde, the oldest Williams sister who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Compton in 2003, and her bittersweet portrayal in the film:
When Serena showed the movie to her four-year-old daughter, Olympia, she says, “We made sure to take out the stuff that was not kid-friendly,” but she was surprised that “it was really more about her saying to me, ‘Tunde.’ She never met my eldest sister. She says she understands that Tunde isn’t around. That was interesting for me in a sad way, but she at least knows her a little bit better.”
Venus on how the media’s version of the sisters threatened to define Serena as a lesser player:
“Usually in one family there’s one good player and then the other one is not that great. And I think people told Serena she wouldn’t be great. The fearlessness with which she approached the game was something I’ve always really admired. She doesn’t accept second. She explicitly told me herself that she plays for first place.”
Serena on how she just doesn’t consider the importance of legacy in her day-to-day life:
“That’s something I don’t think about nor do I want. I don’t want to think about what I’m leaving. I just think about who I am every single day behind closed doors and behind cameras. And that’s what I focus on.”
Venus on what her and Serena’s next chapter might look like:
“Serena and I say we’re going to become bodybuilders after tennis. It might be extreme. It might not happen exactly like that, but you never know.” Then she sobers. “From such a young age, all we’ve done is work. So I think for Serena and I to explore that freedom is surreal. We’ve never been free.”