Excerpts from Serena Williams Vogue Interview “Pregnancy, Power, and Coming Back to Center Court”

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Runway Bride Williams, here, in a custom Atelier Versace dress. Photographed by Mario Testino, Vogue, September 2017

Runway Bride Williams, here, in a custom Atelier Versace dress. Photographed by Mario Testino, Vogue, September 2017

“I feel I can put myself into Serena’s mind,” says Donatella Versace, who designed the emerald-green chiffon dress Williams wore at this year’s Met gala. “She’s fierce, but there is a side that people don’t consider until they get to know her, that maybe people don’t expect. She has an enormous warmth and a vulnerability. With her style she loves to push it, to go to extremes high platforms, tight bodysuits. But I saw one of her collections, which showed another side. Very classic.”

“In tennis mode, she’s a beast, a lioness,” Ciara says. “But when she’s not in work mode well, let’s just say you want to be at her table. You’ll die laughing. She’s that girl, and I think it will serve her so well as a mom. That and the fact that she has a partner who complements her. Alexis is calm and cool.”

“I wish people could see her silly side,” says Kim Kardashian West, who has been a close friend of Williams’s for fifteen years. “She is obsessed with karaoke, which personally is my biggest fear in life. I remember a dinner in San Francisco before a DNC fund-raiser. Serena sang, Obama sang, Kanye sang. It was legendary. She gives herself those moments it’s how she recharges. Serena’s the girl you can call and say anything to. She’ll never judge you, and she’s never too busy for you. Oh, and she can keep any secret.” 

The actress Meghan Markle, another friend, says, “She will be an amazing mom. The very best, because she is so attuned to balancing strength and sensitivity. Plus, given that she is pretty epic at karaoke, I think she’ll put her signature Serena spin on singing lullabies for the baby. I can’t wait for that!”

Williams, whose old flames include the musicians Common and Drake, the basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, and the director Brett Ratner.

I use my brain, and that’s really why I win. Not only me, but women in general sometimes feel that power is a bad word. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to feel differently about it. Power is beauty. Strength is beauty. So now on the court I want people to think that I’m powerful. But I also want them to be shocked at how I play. I want people to expect something, then get something different.”

Serena Williams on Pregnancy, Power, and Coming Back to Center Court

She’s Serving Williams wears a Ralph Lauren Collection dress and Zoë Chicco earrings. Photographed by Mario Testino, Vogue, September 2017

Williams is in planning mode. A fifties-themed baby shower (she loves a theme party, or any excuse to get into costume, really) is in the works. There is the bachelorette party maybe the islands, maybe Las Vegas, maybe both and, one of these days, the wedding itself. But most of her energy is directed at preparing the nursery. 

“I’m nervous about childbirth,” Williams acknowledges. “I’m not a spring chicken. The one thing I really want is an epidural, which I know a lot of people are against, but I’ve had surgeries galore, and I don’t need to experience any more pain if I can avoid it. But the biggest thing is that I don’t really think I’m a baby person. Not yet. That’s something I have to work on. I’m so used to me-me-me, taking care of my health, my body, my career. I always ask, Am I going to be good enough?” She looks toward Ohanian, who is blending smoothies in the Vitamix. “I know he’ll be great.”

“It’s funny that you say that,” he answers, “because that’s exactly how I feel about you.”

Williams has already begun to prepare for next January, when she hopes to defend her Australian Open title. “It’s the most outrageous plan,” she says. “I just want to put that out there. That’s, like, three months after I give birth. I’m not walking anything back, but I’m just saying it’s pretty intense.”

Last month, Williams appeared in nude plenitude à la Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. “I was really nervous about that shoot,” she admits. “I’ve not been that exposed, and I was unsure up until a couple of days before. But I’m happy with how raw and real it is.” Williams has appeared on the cover of Vogue twice before, first in June 2012 for the London Olympics and again in April 2015, both times also shot by Leibovitz. “Being black and being on the cover was really important to me,” she explains. “The success of one woman should be the inspiration to another, and I’m always trying to inspire and motivate the black girls out there. I’m not a model. I’m not the girl next door. But I’m not hiding. Actually, I look like a lot of women out there. The American woman is many women, and I think it’s important to speak to American women at a time when they need encouragement. I’m not political, but I think everyone is worried, to a degree.”