She’s an athlete, model, performer, brand ambassador, feminist and role model for sportspeople everywhere.
Serena Williams smashed her way to Wimbledon victory on Sunday by winning her 22nd Grand Slam title, bringing her into a tie for Open era record on Grand Slam singles titles.
But Serena hasn’t just been killing it on centre court.
Here’s a look at five times Serena Williams has been awesome, without even picking up a racket.
Still She Rises
It’s impossible to watch Serena recite Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise without feeling a surge of pride and emotion for the champion athlete.
Not only is Angelou Serena’s favourite poet, she is arguably the most famous black female poet and civil rights activist in history – writing about the struggles of African Americans within the United States.
Fighting to be ranked No#1 in the world is a battle for anyone, but as black women Serena and sister Venus faced additional challenges getting to the top.
It has been reported that their father removed the girls from playing in junior tennis tournaments because of the racist attitudes of some of the white parents involved.
Bad-ass women of colour unite: Queen Bey recruited our favourite tennis champ to appear in her music video for ‘Sorry’.
Why did Serena get the call? She told Associated Press:
“I have known the director since I was like nine years old. I know Beyonce pretty well, so they were like, ‘We would love for you to be in this particular song. It’s about strength and it’s about courage and that’s what we see you as.'”
The result was some fine twerking and Serena getting in formation in the Bey army.
Beyonce and Jay Z came down to watch Serena win at Wimbledon, but it doesn’t look like Beyonce really understood what was going on…
— ERIC. 😈 (@Ericccxjonathan) July 9, 2016
Smashing Stereotypes with Pirelli
Serena has starred in a slew of outstanding photo-shoots recently, showing off her incredibly muscular physique.
The Pirelli Calendar, an exclusive calendar sent out to customers of the tire company, has historically shown semi-nude photos of thin white models.
For 2016, photographer Annie Leibovitz captured a diverse range of women – including our Serena.
Here she is flying the flag for strong black women.
In July, the world mourned the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two innocent black men gunned down by police in recent weeks.
Philando was the 123rd unarmed black person to be shot by police in 2016.
In a retaliation attack, a sniper took out several police officers in Dallas days later.
Serena spoke out on Twitter, days before her Grand Slam win, of her disgust.
In London I have to wake up to this. He was black. Shot 4 times? When will something be done- no REALLY be done?!?! pic.twitter.com/OaLn60G6nm
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) July 7, 2016
She also threw a fist in the air upon her Wimbledon victory – a signal that mirrored that of Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ silent protest against racism at the Games in 1968.
It is unknown whether this was an intentionally symbolic move, but many of her followers took strength in the powerful image.
— Daya Interactive (@dayainteractive) July 11, 2016
Fighting Gender Barriers
As with all careers the world over, tennis suffers a gender pay gap between men and women’s championships.
Throughout the debate on whether women should be paid the same as men, Serena has spoken out on her rights to be considered equal in her sport.
“I would like to see people, the public and the press and other athletes in general just realise and respect women for who we are, what we are and what we do,” she said. “I’ve been working at this since I was three years old […] Basically my whole life I’ve been doing this and I haven’t had a life and I don’t think I deserve to be paid less because of my sex. Or anyone else for that matter, in any job.”
When asked if she considered herself one of the greatest female athletes of all time, she replied:
“I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.”
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