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Venus Williams on Sisterhood, Equal Pay and Embracing Single Life | GLAMOUR UK

Tennis icon, entrepreneur and activist Venus Williams talks to Abigail Blackburn about sisterhood, securing equal pay for women and embracing single life. When it comes to representing a different type of individuality, few women have created a Venus Williams-level global impact. Following her professional debut at 14 years old, it wasn’t just tennis fans who were blown away by the power of her game. Black girls worldwide, including teenage me growing up in Australia, were also inspired to see ourselves mirrored in such a talented, unapologetically African-American girl who was fearless about standing out from the crowd.

Released on 10/06/2022


I remember one thing my mom said.

She said, Don't let anyone ever tell you what to wear.

I don't think that I was always considered beautiful

but it didn't matter

because what mattered was what I thought of myself,

and also I got to let my racket do the talking.

Hi, this is Venus Williams

and this is my Glamor Unfiltered.

Definitely for years I wore a bunch of eyeliner

and now I've moved on to lashes as opposed to liner.

[Venus laughs]

But it was definitely like this eyeliner,

I figured it was like my suit when I walked on the court

and called it the eyeliner club.

Serena and I seemed to be the only ones in it,

but we were in it to win it.

I think that's probably like my favorite part of,

is like wearing makeup in a sporting job, that's really fun.

When you walk out knowing you look great,

you feel great, you're ready to play.

For us, it was always important to know where you are,

who you are, because you if you don't know

who you are in your history you'll have no idea

what you need to do to be ready for the world.

My parents definitely pushed history on us,

to know the history of the world,

history of African Americans.

I think especially in challenges that we face in the world

when you're different or a minority

and honestly each and every lesson was important

but I think the most important one,

was that for us not to see color that didn't matter

for my parents is like, You don't need to see color.

People might see your color

but that's not how you see the world.

So I think it's important for each and every parent

to teach their child that.

Yeah, at the time I didn't know that I was different

and now I realize how much very different I was.

But difference is what makes the world beautiful

and I think people really can see that now

in terms of what Serena and I have accomplished in the sport

and what that has meant and how it's elevated

even the world in that sense.

People necessarily didn't know my culture,

so when people saw that we were wearing braids and beads,

they may have thought that it was unique

but people from my own culture would've realized,

Oh wow, this is something that young girls do.

So I feel like I'm still educating people about my culture,

one at a time like,

this is normal like people of African descent

or with ethnic hair, we often do wear braids,

we often do wear beads

and those sorts of things have very deep meanings

actually from the origins.

What matters is that you don't lose yourself

as an individual and that you know who you are individually

and you also know what works for you

and that you don't have to be everyone.

I think that's something that a lot of young women

are facing right now is this pressure to look standardized.

And I've never gone for that.

I always wanted to look like me.

I always felt less comfortable if I was pushed

into something that was everyone else.

And I think that influence definitely comes from my family

and my parents, that pushed individuality,

confidence in yourself.

And playing sports I believe gives you that

because you sit there and you fail and you succeed

and then you see what it takes to actually be great.

And so then hopefully at that point

your standard of greatness and who you are as an individual

really becomes something that you relish and grab onto.

I don't think that I was always considered beautiful

but it didn't matter

because what mattered was what I thought of myself.

And also I got to let my racket do the talking.

I think that the standard of beauty right now

is more inclusive, so that's wonderful,

but at the same time there's tons of pressure.

I think the standard of beauty 20, 30 years ago

was like, be as thin as possible.

And now the standard of beauty is kind of shifted more

to like be as curvy as possible.

And now there's pressure to augment to yourself

to fit into the standard somehow.

And that's not realistic.

So either standard wasn't realistic

but I'm happy that it's more inclusive at this point.

And like I said, it's about knowing yourself.

You just gotta know you, be comfortable with you,

accept you, and if that means also augmenting

that's fine too as long as you accept yourself.

I've always worked in rest periods

and my parents taught us that too.

So they never wanted us to,

because on tour you could play every week literally.

So you would also go crazy and break your body.

That balance is important and burnout is real,

and you have to find your balance.

For me, it's the end of the day just like

I have my two hours of quiet,

nobody's there, no one's talking.

And I guess when you have kids you could still have that,

you put 'em to bed or something

and then you might have a husband or significant other.

I don't know how you quiet them, but

[Venus laughs]

I don't know how any of this works

outside of a single life

but I've got my little routines that work for me.

I've had a single life for a long time

and I think it's really easy to get stuck in a single life

and sometimes, at least for me

harder to get out of a single life.

So that's probably something I'm working on now.

I guess for other people,

like they were running to a relationship

which has never been my thing per se.

So we're all different.

This is how I work and function and I'm okay with it.

You can't hold on to either a relationship or to singleness

you have to be able to move with the time.

And even if you don't want to or aren't ready

you just gotta go with it.

I'm not ready to grow up.

[Venus laughs]

I've gotta grow up.

Yeah, for in my household, money was not emphasized.

I mean obviously you wanna be successful

but it wasn't like, you don't chase dollars.

So I grew up with that mentality of not

of money not being a God in that,

in this sense in this world it is a god.

People are chasing it.

And stabbing themselves over with many pains

and other people.

And so if we all could kind of see money

a little bit different,

probably would have a lot less issues in the world.

So that helps you to actually make decisions

that are good for you, healthy for you,

and have less pressure too.

So I didn't feel the pressure

at a young age to have to sign a contract because of money

and that was, is very freeing.

When I was growing up I just wanted to play tennis

and go win tournaments,

and then when I got there it was not equal

and you're like hold the presses, what's going on?

So being a part of achieving equal prize money

for women at the major tennis tournaments was fantastic.

And now of course is my dream

that women will not have to face that anywhere.

No young girl will have to come in

and realize that her male counterpart is being paid more

and hopefully these gaps will continue to close

but in order to close those gaps

we have to do work and we also have to create awareness.

'Cause most people don't wake up in the morning

and look in the mirror and say, gosh,

so and so's getting paid less than so and so.

So it's so important to change these mentalities

at every single level, whether it's the employee

or management, leadership, et cetera, on and on and on.

Yeah, Serena and I are very codependent.

We do the same thing that the other one does.

It's just happened again last week.

[Venus laughs]

It just goes on and on, its an endless cycle.

When we're 80 years old, and like, I wanna do her too.

But it's more of a motivation.

And when I see her doing great,

it's my success but it's also motivating for me

and lets me know I also can do that.

And that's how you have to look at other people's success.

It's something that builds you up,

something that motivates you.

I love seeing people do great.

I love seeing people do well.

I don't like to see anyone fail.

I like to see my opponents lose against me.

But other than that, I like to ride that energy

that other people bring with success.

I wanna be a part of that

and that's the attitude that I like to have.

And Serena's taught me so much

and there's so much you can learn just from,

from being around greatness.

And that's what she is, the greatest ever.

Oh my gosh, boundaries are so important in life.

If you don't have 'em, anything's gonna happen.

I remember one thing my mom said, she said,

don't let anyone ever tell you what to wear.

[Venus laughs]

I remember taking that to heart.

She's like, I used to wear my short skirts

and I still wear short skirts.

[Venus laughs]

And she says, how long you gonna wear short skirts?

And I'm like, until infinity and beyond.

Those kinds of lessons are so important

and I think we're learning that so much today, right,

with the mental health crisis that's around the world

that you do have to set healthy boundaries

and you have to do that work on yourself

to set boundaries so that way you aren't afraid.

And once you let go of that fear

then the whole world's open to you.

Faith is extremely important to me.

First of all, without faith then what do you have?

It can be scary.

Second is that for me, it gives me

guidelines to follow and it helps you not to be alone.

So you're not having to make all these decisions alone.

You're not having to wonder maybe what's right

and what's wrong.

It allows you to have that safety blanket

and actually keeps you safe.

We all make mistakes, I make lots of them

but I'm always trying to align back to center.

Definitely being healthy,

especially with what I do as an athlete.

If I'm not healthy, I can't do it.

So every day that I'm healthy these days

I'm very, very excited about it.

I'm like excited to wake up and go play.

Health keeps me connected to gratitude

because without it you have nothing.

Definitely having spiritual aspect to your life

makes you gracious and it's something you have to practice.

You don't practice it,

there's gonna be something that's in the background too.

There's lots of articles, lots of people

lots of blogs, lots of Twitters, there's a lot.

So you have to kind of shield yourself from that

so that way you can really meditate on what you think.

And also being proactive about your thinking.

And you can actually train your mind

to think the way you want to if you put in the time.

And also another one is just not caring.

I just don't care.

I just don't care what anyone thinks and I don't have time.

You're not gonna live my life.

You're not gonna breathe for me.

My heart's not gonna beat for you, and deuces.

It takes a long time to accept it.

Especially as an athlete, I create my realities.

So to have a reality pushed on you

is something that is not really acceptable.

So I think it takes time to like,

okay, yeah this is a thing.

And of course it was important

for me to fight for my best health.

Yeah, definitely.

I thought that I just didn't have to protect my skin

because I already had natural SPF.

And it wasn't until,

my mid thirties that I realized, gosh I'm wrong.

Now when I play,

even in the Florida heat when it's 90 degrees

and I think I might die,

I'm in long sleeves and pants, it's rough.

And I'm in sunscreen as,

as much as I can.

Through the profuse sweating that I do,

[Venus laughs]

and the reapplications.

But it's so important.

Your skin's your biggest organ

and you have got to take care of it by what you put in it.

I don't remember which one it was.

There was so many together,

but I wore like this Dolce & Gabbana dress

and it had like a silver body and I just felt like me.

I was so happy.

I was happy for a week.

I was so happy cause I was like, this is me.

This is absolutely me.

I was on cloud nine.

Setting your intentions is extremely important

and you have to put work behind it too.

So mind, body, action, it all works together.

That's so important.

I suppose it's called manifesting today.

Back in my, in the eighties it was called

having a plan and having some goals.

So, same thing I guess. Manifesting sounds a lot smoother.

I love a clap back.

[Venus claps]

That's so fun.

My mom, Oracene did not allow microaggressions in the home

and she would not allow us to have people

be that passive aggressive around.

So I never had to deal with that in my life.

And I have a very short fuse for it.

Some people like drama and that's their choice.

I think a lot of people have drama in their lives.

That's what they like. They like it.

So I stay out of it.

And my, with my friends

I give them maybe one advice and then, people know.

You don't have to say things more than once.

You don't have to beg anyone.

Not in the begging business.

I'm a real chill girl so, your choice.

Oh my legacy.

I think that it's not something I think about.

No, that sounds crazy or I don't know.

Do people wake up and think about legacies.

I'm in the right now,

I have a tournament coming up, I'm trying to play.

So it's like what am I gonna achieve in this moment.

I've always been so forward looking.

And I think a legacy isn't as important

as just enjoying your life.