Serena Williams is a lioness, covering the August 2019 issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK for ‘Serena Unretouched: The Naked Truth’. Miguel Enamorado styles the black goddess in unadulterated, head-to-toe glam for images by Alexi Lubomirski./ Hair by Vernon François; makeup by Tyron Machhausen
I saw these images minutes after Serena won her Wimbledon match against Alison Riske 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 Tuesday on Centre Court.
''It's a long, arduous road,'' Williams said. ''It's not easy.''
Indeed, the match was a challenging one for the GOAT, but she rose to the occasion, an inner action that Serena has found again and again in her career and life journey. Consider how she almost died after giving birth to Olympia, her daughter with husband, Reddit co-founder and executive chairman Alexis Ohanian.
Rejoicing that Serena had pulled out the win to advance to the Wimbledon semi-finals, it seemed fitting that her win came as I hit the post button for an article on the history of segregated swimming pools in America.
Not knowing Serena was about to appear before my eyes in a mega flash of golden glory, I thought about her return to Indian Wells in 2015, ending a 13-year boycott after she and Venus were booed in 2001, amid accusations by fans of race fixing. USA Today reflects on the horrible event.
The bright lights in Serena’s life are blazing these days, with the overt racism quieted down. In a personal essay — not an interview for Harper’s Bazaar UK— Olympia’s mom reflects on another crushing tennis moment, her US Open 2018 loss to Naomi Osaka in the championship match.
Naomi’s moment was marred by Serena’s verbal altercation between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who gave the 23-time Grand Slam champ three individual on-court violations. Totally infuriated, Serena attacked the Ramos actions as sexist, especially when male tennis stars regularly break their rackets in moments of fury.
While Serena did ask fans to stop booing at the moment when trophies were handed out, she was haunted by her own behavior and how it deflected from Naomi’s moment of glory and excitement.
“In the end, my opponent simply played better than me that day and ended up winning her first Grand Slam title,” Williams said in an emotional letter to Osaka written months later. “I thought back to my first Grand Slam. It’s the one you remember best; it’s supposed to be the most special. This debacle ruined something that should have been amazing and historic.”
“Not only was a game taken from me but a defining, triumphant moment was taken from another player, something she should remember as one of the happiest memories in her long and successful career,” she continued. “My heart broke.”
In her letter, Williams told Osaka, “I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry.”
“I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself,” the athlete said she wrote in the letter. “But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future.”
When Naomi Osaka responded to Serena’s heartfelt apology, Williams said that “tears rolled down” her cheeks.
” ‘People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two … No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing,’ ” Osaka wrote, according to Serena.
Read the entire Serena Williams essay at Harper’s Bazaar UK.