But as with many female celebrities on magazine covers, after the excitement, comes the inevitable backlash. For Williams and SI, fans are worried about her famously tennis-toned thighs. Did the magazine Photoshop her into a slimmer, more "acceptable" build?
@serenawilliams Yaaaaasssss hontea! You are slaying on this cover! Your thighs look slimmer? Hope they didn't photoshop your thunder.— EbonieJohnsonCooper (@EJCThatsMe) December 14, 2015
As Cosmopolitan reports, Sports Illustrated denies any Photoshopping aside from the typical retouching done in "normal magazine production." SI Assistant Managing Editor Stephen Cannella adamantly denied the charge to Cosmopolitan.
"The fact is that we didn't do anything to change the integrity of the photo, change Serena's likeness, or change her body in any way," he said. "Every magazine's photos are worked on, but the idea that we made her thighs or any other part of her smaller is silly."
According to Cannella, Williams herself had a large role in conceiving the cover shoot, "everything from what she wore to her pose. It was something she was actively involved in." If anything, he said, he's thrilled the audience is talking about the cover and "studying every tiny little detail... we love that kind of attention."
Williams' camp has not yet commented on the controversy. If Instagram is any clue, she's savoring the moment of being SI's Sportsperson of the Year.
Williams captioned a 'gram of her shoot with the inspiring words, "This year was spectacular for me. For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, my dedication, and my sheer determination gives me hope to continue on and to do better. As I always say, it takes a village it's not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team. I am beyond honored. 2016? #letsdoit."
This year was spectacular for me. For @SportsIllustrated to recognize my hard work, my dedication, and my sheer determination gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village it's not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team. I am beyond honored. I love you guys! 2016? #letsdoit
That isn't doing anything to convince fans who swear her thighs are slimmer.
I'm really upset at the photoshop on Serena's thighs. Girl is thicker than a lil' bit, & they made her skinny. Nah.— Dani. (@thatsDaniforyou) December 14, 2015
Wait...why aren't Serena's thighs scrumdiddlyumptious in that picture? It's looking funny in the light— Jacuzzi Thunderkiss (@HibachiSavage) December 14, 2015
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