IN THIS ISSUE, we explore the idea of legacy—what it means to build one or leave one behind and what it means to shepherd, be a part of, or reckon with one. It’s a concept that many of the subjects in these pages have had to confront, both privately and publicly, at various points in their lives including tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, who changed the face of the sport.
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 how King Richard depicts her father in a way that sports fathers are often not shown: “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. 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.”
On how Richard always put the girls’ mental and physical health first There was the infamous decision to pull Venus and Serena from junior competition so that they wouldn’t “fall to pieces” because of pressure, Richard said in 1991, and could instead focus on schoolwork. Many in tennis considered it an affront to the way things are done. In retrospect, those kinds of choices honored a truth that the rest of the world was slow to accept. Serena tells me about being reluctant to tell her father about injuries because he would insist she rest. “He’s always like, ‘Take your time. You’ll be okay. Don’t play.”
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.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, available on newsstands March 1.
Cover: On Serena: Norma Kamali One-piece | Cartier High Jewelry Earrings and Necklace. On Venus: Sara Cristina One-piece | Panthère De Cartier Earrings
Image 1: On Serena: Gucci Cape Gown | Cartier High Jewelry Earrings. On Venus: Valentino Gown | Valentino Garavani Sandals | Panthère De Cartier Earrings
Image 2: Rick Owens Bubble Jackets | We Love Colors Tights
Hair by Lacy Redway
Makeup by Susie Sobol
Nails by Naomi Gonzalez
Interview by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Styled by Samira Nasr
Photography by Renell Medrano
[Photo Credit: Renell Medrano/Harper’s Bazaar Magazine]
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