Images: Jody Ragac for FADER

As one of the best athletes of all time,  — Serena Williams knows firsthand about the criticism that comes with being the best. Opinions (because everyone seems to have one) on everything about her including her romantic life, her race, her womanhood, and even her femininity are often topics of ill-advised think pieces and tabloid fodder.  Luckily, none of the above are contributing factors to her athleticism and her ultimate success.  

The tennis superstar covers FADER magazine’s “America” issue and it's an apt comparison. While she’s consistently dominated as a top US player — despite a heartbreaking loss at this year's US Open — this cover is symbolic not just of progression in the sport she clearly dominates, but a note and a reminder of how greatness can manifest and exceed every expectation...and opinion.  See a few of our favorite excerpts below and read the interview in its entirety at FADER.

 

Do you feel like your story is universal, or was this path unique to you and who you are?

I think that my story is universal. I don’t think it’s limited to my country, I don’t think it’s limited to my color, I don’t think it’s limited to my sex. I think it’s universal because I was not born with anything more special than anyone else. I wasn’t born with an extra arm. I wasn’t born super tall. I’m here — a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of commitment. And I’ve had a lot of people that didn’t believe in me, so I had to develop a lot of self-belief. At the end of the day, I think it’s a story that everyone in all walks of life can relate to.

How did you deal with people commenting about your body when you were younger, and how do you deal with it now?

I’ve purposely tuned people out since I was 17. At the time, it was basically newspapers and maybe a website article. Maybe if the web was up back then. Since the day I won the U.S. Open, my very first Grand Slam, I never read articles about myself. If I saw my name mentioned, I’d look away. I looked at the pictures, but that’s pretty much it. I didn’t want to get too cocky, and at the same time I didn’t want to have that negative energy. I don’t know why I did it, but I did it. Ever since then I’ve been really low-key.

People have been talking about my body for a really long time. Good things, great things, negative things. People are entitled to have their opinions, but what matters most is how I feel about me, because that’s what’s going to permeate the room I’m sitting in. It’s going to make you feel that I have confidence in myself whether you like me or not, or you like the way I look or not, if I do. That’s the message I try to tell other women and in particular young girls. You have to love you, and if you don’t love you no one else will. And if you do love you, people will see that and they’ll love you too.

Do you have any advice for those women who may want to speak up about their experience but don’t have the same power and influence as you?

I think that’s where the mistake is made, thinking that someone is better or in a better position than anyone else. It doesn’t matter your background or where you’re coming from. You can speak to your neighbor, you can speak to your friend about how you feel about something. You can post on social media. I think it’s really important, first of all, to realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re living where I’m from, Compton, or if you’re living somewhere else — that’s what makes the world go round. Each person is just as important as the next. Each person has a voice.

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