Throughout her career, Serena Williams, 35, has had to navigate both sexism and racism, now the tennis champion is offering words of wisdom to the athletes coming up behind her and "all incredible women who strive for excellence."
For Porter Magazine's latest issue, the Compton-native underscores the importance of persevering in spite of doubters in an open letter. “I learned not to be afraid. I learned how important it is to fight for a dream and, most importantly, to dream big,” she writes. “My fight began when I was three and I haven’t taken a break since.”
Williams' older sister, Venus, broke down barriers in the fight for equal pay among women's tennis player. The younger Williams writes that she's still frustrated by the inequities. “I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts. I would never want my daughter to be paid less than my son for the same work. Nor would you.”
As we know, women have to break down many barriers on the road to success. One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw. People call me one of the “world’s greatest female athletes.” Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged. We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.
For everything I’ve achieved in my life, I am profoundly grateful to have experienced the highs and lows that come with success. It is my hope that my story, and yours, will inspire all young women out there to push for greatness and follow their dreams with steadfast resilience. We must continue to dream big, and in doing so, we empower the next generation of women to be just as bold in their pursuits.
Though Serena certainly didn't have the 2016 she would've liked, the woman who is, arguably, the greatest living athlete continues to shine and bring newcomers along with her. Read the letter in its entirety here.