Serena Williams: From victim of body-shaming for having muscles to beauty icon

Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles with 4 consecutive Slams in a row, and despite that, she still faces many negative comments about her athletic figure from those who incorrectly label her muscles and sheer power as “manly.”

Serena Williams, Body Shaming and the White Gaze - PAPER Magazine

Reaction to Serena Williams and body image controversy - Sports Illustrated

The tennis star says she’s been body-shamed basically since a very young age. “I liked how I looked until I got in the public eye,” she recalls, “and then it became this different conversation. … Suddenly, I didn’t like who I was.”

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“People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. 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,” she added.

Serena Williams Workout | Muscle Prodigy Fitness

She was 15 when it all started, and it took her a while to figure out what to do with it — it wasn’t overnight. “As I got older,” she says, “I understood that this is me. I love who I am. I love how I look and my body. It created all these opportunities for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


Yet, she somehow figured out how to filter out the bad from the good at an early age, and now shares with us how she managed to do that.

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She started to purposefully tune people out when she was just 17. And at the time, it was basically newspapers and website articles. She even stopped reading headlines if they were about her. If she saw her name mentioned, she would just look away.

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Williams didn’t know why she did it — it was mostly an intuitive decision. Yet, nevertheless, it helped a lot. Of course, she could look at her pictures but that was pretty much of it — she didn’t want to ever have that negative energy in her life.

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Learning to love herself helped Williams feel comfortable. “You have to love you,” says Williams, “and if you don’t love you no one else will. And if you do love you, people will see that, and they’ll love you too.”

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In September 2017, Williams gave birth to her daughter and that made her write an open letter to her own mom. In this letter, she thanked her for giving her the courage to stand tall in the face of criticism and hate speech.

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She wrote that looking at her daughter, she saw she had her arms and legs, her exact same strong, muscular, powerful, sensational arms and body. She doesn’t know how she would react if her baby had to go through what she’s gone through since she was 15 years old. Yet, she says, “I hope to teach my baby how to endure all the hardships.”

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Anyway, she is proud she was able to show them all 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!” And that’s the attitude we can all learn from this spirited woman!

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