"This is me, this is my weapon and my machine."
Serena Williams, with her powerful body and greatest-of-all-time tennis prowess, has long been the subject of misogynistic abuse and body-shaming.
For example, in 2014, the head of the Russian Tennis Federation was suspended for a year and fined $25,000 for calling Serena and elder sister Venus ‘the Williams brothers’ and saying: “It’s scary when you really look at them.”
In a new interview with Harpers Bazaar, she remembers the impact all this had on her:
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.
She recalls an interview she did when she was 22, in which she shared a few goals she had for herself: Win the Italian and French Opens and Wimbledon, and get down to a US size four (UK size six).
"I knew I was having a girl, because when I was playing tennis in the Australian Open, 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.'" Serena Williams talks sisterhood, self-acceptance and staying strong in the July issue – out today (📷by @richardphibbs and styled by @mirandaalmond. Serena wears @versace top and leggings and @chanelofficial jewellery) #harpersbazaar #serenawilliams #julyissue
“Oh god, I’ll never be a size four,” she says now. “Why would I want to do that, and be that? This is me, and this is my weapon and machine.” Plus, she wants to be a good influence for her baby daughter, Olympia.
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… 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.
Speaking about her daughter, she says she’s not pushing her into tennis, or any profession really: “I want to let her do whatever she wants to do, as long as it’s positive. Always try to be an addition to society, not a subtraction.”