Venus Williams says she and sister Serena have “never been free” in a new joint magazine interview.
The legendary sportswomen – and sisters – have modelled for US publication Harper’s Bazaar and spoken about their career and what’s next for them in the accompanying interview.
“From such a young age, all we’ve done is work. So I think for Serena and I to explore that freedom is surreal. We’ve never been free,” says Venus, 41, who made her professional tennis debut in 1994.
“We never planned to just only play tennis and just only be tennis players. We planned to do more,” Serena, who made her own debut the following year, adds.
Serena shared the magazine cover of her and her sister on Instagram, with the caption, "A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life."
The pair – who have amassed a remarkable 48 Grand Slam titles between them, in addition to a number of business ventures – used the interview to comment on their father’s support and their health.
Venus was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome in 2011.
But prior to that, she says the family has always been “focused on health”. Upon her diagnosis, the entire family joined her in following a plant-based diet.
While they don't celebrate holidays at all due to being raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, Serena says they always figure out ways to "get the Fellowship together", in reference to what her sister Lyn calls their family meet-ups.
They also enjoy getting together in other ways, that support the family's focus on health. "I'm an unbelievable planner," says Venus. "I usually plan the health retreats."
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Speaking on when Venus began to rise, and the media began to attempt to define Serena, the younger sister, as the lesser player, Venus says, "Usually in one family there’s one good player and then the other one is not that great. And I think people told Serena she wouldn’t be great."
But nevertheless, she showed much admiration of her sister. "The fearlessness with which she approached the game was something I’ve always really admired. She doesn’t accept second. She explicitly told me herself that she plays for first place,” adds Venus.
Venus also shared an image of her and her sister from 'The Legacy Issue', writing, "Such a special honor to be on the cover of @harpersbazaarus March Legacy issue with @serenawilliams."
Meanwhile, Serena points to Venus as carrying the mantle for their family when she she first started competing professionally in 1994. But they both had a huge impact in more ways that one.
Interviewer and writer Tressie McMillan Cottom points out, "The visual impact of seeing these two now-women on the court is a big part of their story. It is not a narrative the Williamses have cultivated, but they also have not rejected it.
"And Venus may have carried the mantle, but Serena’s legacy has carried a particular burden of what being so undeniably Black has meant."
Cottom attributes this to a variety of reasons. "Despite Venus being first and absolutely dominant in her own right, Serena’s dominance is now bigger than the sport she plays.
"She is mentioned in the same breath as male tennis greats but also in the same short list of global athlete celebrities when GOAT status is up for debate: LeBron. Jordan. Tiger."