When Venus Williams’ legacy is discussed, much will be made about her on court prowess, dominance and way paving for the athletes behind her. She is already one of the winningest tennis players to ever play the game and one of the most iconic sports figures of all-time. Alongside her sister, Serena, she has built an incredible and unmatched number of accolades that will be matched by few. However, what she has managed to do off of the court is even more impressive. Not only has she found time to earn two degrees, run three businesses and advocate for equal pay for female tennis players, she is also redefining what a successful Black woman “should” have in order to be fulfilled.
In a recent cover story with Cosmopolitan, the 21 time Grand Slam champion, opened up about creating, and loving, a life that is solely her own. "I have a lot of friends who don’t believe me when I say that I like my life and I don’t want to change it for any reason. I’m not desperate and they don’t believe me. They say things like, 'You’re going to miss your window.' I’m like, 'Please, relax. You might feel this way, but I don’t. I promise you I don’t.’"
The pressure so many women face to start a family in order to fully come into their life’s purpose is not only outdated but unfair. As the world continues to change and women continue to take on positions of leadership, power and relish in our autonomy, fear-mongering about the need to venture into marriage and motherhood needs to stop. But Williams, more than anyone else, knows the importance of defining yourself for yourself. Both she and Serena have been the targets of extreme racism and critique throughout their careers. A fact that has taught her a very valuable lesson. "As you grow up and mature, you realize you don’t have to be in any situation you find disrespectful. You can let people know what you find disrespectful," she says. "It doesn’t have to be yelling or screaming. I’m not a combative person. I’m never going to let any situation change that, because I want to look back and know that I stayed true to who I am. So come. Come for me if you want to, but you won’t come again.”
Heard you, Queen!
Though she is, no doubt, a trailblazer in her own right, Venus humbly nods her hat to the younger tennis stars who have taken up the mantle of speaking out on the issues that truly matter. "I admire everyone who stands up for what is right, which isn’t easy," she tells Cosmopolitan. "It takes strength, courage, and vulnerability. I love to see this next generation of players be willing and open to do that regardless of the cost to them.”
It’s unclear how much more tennis the 41-year-old will play in the future but we know we’ll be seeing more of Venus Williams for years to come.