Have you ever felt like you can’t be yourself around others or that you never fit in? Serena Williams knows all about these feelings and shared her struggles in a recent Nike ad.
“I’ve never been the right kind of woman – oversized and overconfident,” Williams says at the beginning of a Nike ad.
She continues with the list of things that people have said are wrong with her: looking too mean if she doesn’t smile, having skin too black for her white tennis uniform, being too motivated for motherhood, etc.
By now, however, she has become comfortable with herself and realized that each woman is unique.
“But I’m proving time and time again, there’s no wrong way to be a woman,” she says at the end of the ad.
“Until We All Win” then shines in capital, golden letters. “We” conveys a sense of solidarity among women around the world.
Back in August, Williams told the Guardian that she feels like people think she’s mean because she doesn’t smile often enough. However, that’s completely normal during an athletic competition – who actually smiles when they’re intensely focused, mentally exhausted sweating, standing under the hot sun and running around the court? Although some may not find it difficult, most tennis players do.
Williams actually answered this question back in 2015. The reporter asked her why she wasn’t smiling when she won, and this is how she replied:
“It’s 11:30. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here. I just want to be in bed right now. I have to wake up early to practice,” she said.
Smiling is reserved for the awards ceremonies and photo opportunities. Although others say people are angry if they don’t smile, Williams proves women don’t have to be smiling dolls and can remain tough in any competition.
People have also previously body shamed Williams and even have gone as far as to say she looks like a man.Yolanda L. Jackson, the Women’s Sport Foundation senior director of athlete marketing, said the focus on the William sisters’ body image started when they wore beads in their hair and has always been a topic for criticism. This criticism usually results from envy of her successes.
“Serena especially has been targeted because she’s the greatest tennis player of all time. That very fact makes her prime for attacks. The more she achieves, the more people will try to find something wrong with her.”
Back in September, she wrote an open letter to her mother where she confessed her struggles with body image and described her current confidence level.
“I am proud we were able to show them what some women look like. We don’t all look the same. We are curvy, strong, muscular, tall, small, just to name a few, and all the same: we are women and proud!” Williams said.
The tennis star has also previously fought for equality in sports. In July, she released a personal essay in Fortune, where she discussed the 37 cent pay gap between black women and men.
On International Women’s Day, she announced her return to tennis and explained how the “S” pin she created stands for strength and sureness – two words that other women may resonate with.
Williams reminds both athletes and non-athletes that despite her accomplishments, she has experienced criticism throughout her life. Williams has endured hard days when she felt like giving up, but she always tried to remind herself of her own worth instead of accepting the labels others place on her.
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