Serena Williams just opened up about her struggle with body positivity growing up

Serena Williams just opened up about her struggle with body positivity growing up

Serena Williams is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Whether she's smashing it on court and being crowned as the best female athlete in the world, or launching an eponymous clothing line built around motivational messaging and self-love, one thing is for sure: her star is only on the rise.

Now, the 36-year-old, who holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles among active players, has spoken to Harper's Bazaar about her body struggles growing up, and how she would compare herself to her sisters.

Williams, who was recently the cover star of Harper Bazaar UK's "power of women" issue, spoke candidly to the publication about the criticism she has faced over her appearance, and how she has dealt with it.

"It was hard for me. People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong," Serena disclosed. "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.’

The tennis star, who is the youngest of five daughters born to Oracene Price, has faced body-shaming and misogynist abuse since her early days in the sport. Back in 2014, the head of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, was fined $25,000 and suspended for a year by the WTA for referring to Serena and her sister Venus as the "Williams brothers", before asserting "It's scary when you really look at them". 

Although Serena vowed early on in her career to never read anything that was written about her, she was unable to completely withstand the societal pressure to lose weight. In 2004, one journalist revealed that in a list of goals that a 22-year-old Serena had written, one was to get down to a size four. The others were to win Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Italian Open.

"Oh God, I’ll never be a size 4! Why would I want to do that, and be that?" she said to Harper's Bazaar on that subject. "This is me, and this is my weapon and machine. 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."

Serena went on to assert that she was thrilled to have had a daughter. "I knew I was having a girl, because when I was playing tennis in the [Australian Open] tournament, I didn’t have one day of morning sickness, no symptoms," she recalled. "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.'"

Well, good on Serena for being so candid about an issue which is difficult to talk about publicly!