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Venus & Serena Williams Open Up About the Power & Pressure of Being Role Models For Black Families

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If there was one word we could think of to best describe Venus and Serena Williams’ influence these past few decades, it would have to be dominance. The two sisters have been the reigning queens of the tennis court for years, not only because of their athletic abilities — including a combined 48 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles and four Olympic gold medals each — but also because of how they use their respective platforms, ensuring the legacy they’re building won’t be restricted by the white lines of the tennis court. The Williams sisters opened up about being role models, reflecting on the power of King Richard, and more in a new profile.

“I think that our family is just unique to ourselves,” Venus shared in a joint profile with her sister for Harper’s Bazaar‘s Legacy Issue. “Obviously we’re an African American family, and it’s important for people to see African American families in that dynamic … to have role modeling,” she further explained. In 2021, audiences had a front-row seat to what Serena and Venus’ upbringing looked like with the biopic King Richard. The film followed a young Venus (played by Saniyya Sydney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) as their father, Richard Williams (Will Smith), trained the two to become the tennis champions they are today.

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Serena Williams, Venus Williams for Harper’s Bazaar’s Legacy Issue Renell Medrano.

Looking back at how the film depicts their family, Venus and Serena recognized how their dynamic is so valuable for audiences to see. But Venus still reiterates, “our family was super unique.” The film, which earned a whopping six Oscar nominations, also posits what Venus and Serena’s legacy will look like — and how foundational their father’s work and influence was to molding their respective trajectories.

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“That’s something I don’t think about nor do I want,” Serena said of her own legacy. “I don’t want to think about what I’m leaving. I just think about who I am every single day behind closed doors and behind cameras. And that’s what I focus on.” Today, the two sisters are still doing the work and planning to pave the way for the next generation.

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Venus Williams, Serena Williams for Harper’s Bazaar’s Legacy Issue Renell Medrano.

They’re both currently active tennis players, running fashion labels, an interior design company, investing in organizations and future sports teams, and so much more. The Williams sisters aren’t done yet — actually, they’re far from it.

But even now, they’re still impacted by the work that’s happening around them. “I’m so inspired by other changemakers too,” Venus shared with Harper’s Bazaar. “I absolutely love design. I love mentoring. I love passing on what I know.” Knowledge and experience are at the cornerstone of the sisters’ and athletes’ continued influence. Working for pay parity in their sport, and making an impact to change the lily-white look of tennis and its dominant players have been just two of the sisters’ combined accomplishments.

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Venus Williams, Serena Williams for Harper’s Bazaar’s Legacy Issue Renell Medrano.

Still, looking ahead to the future is on their mind, and Venus already has some ideas of what the sisters will do once they’ve each struck their final winner on the tennis court. “Serena and I say we’re going to become bodybuilders after tennis. It might be extreme. It might not happen exactly like that, but you never know,” she said in jest.

Since the time they were teenagers, Venus and Serena were placed under the microscope, scrutinized constantly for their athletic prowess, off-court endeavors, and even the fashionable kits they wore on the court. Being exceptional and meeting the standards of their peers, fans, and themselves has never been easy. “From such a young age, all we’ve done is work,” Venus observed, musing on the prerogative the sisters will find themselves in the next chapter of their lives. “So I think for Serena and I to explore that freedom is surreal. We’ve never been free.”

Before you go, click here to read more inspiring quotes from influential Black women.

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