Tennis superstar and entrepreneur Venus Williams has always lived a family-focused life — and that’s one of the things she’s most excited for you to see in the upcoming biopic of her father starring Will Smith, King Richard. “It captures the togetherness of our family,” she tells me about the film, “because we’re very, very close.” Growing up, that meant heated Uno tournaments (and even more heated tennis matches) with younger sister Serena Williams and older sisters Isha, Lyndrea, and Yetunde Price (three of the Williams’ sisters’ eight total siblings). These days, Venus’ devotion to her family has looked like maintaining her strong relationship with Serena as they honor late sister Yetunde Price with the Yetunde Price Resource Center, a nonprofit the Williams sisters co-founded in 2016. In a new interview, Venus tells us more about how they were inspired to start this nonprofit, why the organization is partnering with longtime-favorite card game Uno, and a sweet on-set detail about King Richard that convinced her this movie would do her family’s story justice.
On Nov. 11, Uno will be hosting a tournament celebrating the card game’s 50th anniversary in which select fans will compete for a grand prize of $50,000 and the title of Uno World Champion. As a lifelong Uno fan, Venus Williams partnered with the company to record video messages for the players and has donated hundreds of Uno packs to the Yetunde Price Resource Center, her organization that helps victims of violence connect with resources and trauma-informed programs to help their healing process.
Williams’ personal tie to this work is right in the name: In 2003, her older sister Yetunde Price was tragically shot and killed, leaving behind a grieving family. “I was really fortunate in my childhood, I had my parents and I had older sisters to take care of me,” Williams says — and this organization is about ensuring that others who are affected by violence are given that same access to resources and care.
“Not everyone is that fortunate and not everyone knows what their options are,” Williams says. “We all need support, regardless of what stage we’re in.”
Read on for our full conversation with Venus Williams about the Yetunde Price Resource Center and more.
SheKnows: Tell me about your connection with Uno — how long have you been a fan?
Venus Williams: I’ve been an Uno fan my whole life, I’ve played Uno since — just as long as I can remember, it was one of the only games that we had. So, especially the three younger sisters, we played all the time, making each other Draw 4, trying to set it up so you get all the special cards. To this day, we always travel with Uno. And I love the artist series — I got a deck of the Basquiat cards.
SK: Who is the reigning UNO champ in your family?
VW: It’s very disputed. We kept score when we were younger, but those were — those need to be wiped clean. We need a new start as adults.
SK: What was the inspiration behind starting the Yetunde Price Resource Center? How did you decide to focus your efforts there?
The Resource Center is in honor of my sister and it’s a center that is about healing, about connections to community. We support healing and address all the things that come with healing, which is mental, physical, emotional, social as well as financial wellness. There are so many ways that we’ve been able to reach out and help the community, just bringing something positive. And it’s been a great experience for us and a healing experience for us as well.
SK: What have you been able to accomplish since opening in 2016?
VW: Oh, my God, we’ve been able to reach out to the community so much. At the moment, the center is undergoing construction so that we can enlarge the space to accommodate even more families and individuals in need. We’re also revamping our program to focus on personal and professional development and entrepreneurship. We’re transforming it [to go along] with the needs of the community.
The girls Demi [Singleton] and Saniyya [Sidney] who play me and Serena [in King Richard], they were holding hands on set. And that is just exactly what we do.
SK: Are you ever personally able to step in with this kind of community outreach?
VW: It’s been more challenging in the last couple of years because of the pandemic, but the good news is that we remained active during this pandemic. We were hosting group sessions and in-person grocery donations that helped to feed over 500 families every month.
SK: What are your goals for the center?
VW: To be able to really continue what we’re doing and continue to touch the community, to continue to help people in the healing process, which I think is so important these days. It’s really been brought to light and people do need healing. And also, to continue to expand in the community like we just talked about with the resources for self-care and self-betterment.
SK: I love what you’ve said about how your sister [Yetunde Price] inspired the focus of this center. What resources do you remember helping you as a child that you’re trying to replicate with this organization?
VW: I was really fortunate in my childhood, I had my parents and I had older sisters to take care of me. But not everyone is that fortunate and not everyone knows what their options are. So we want to be there for the community, for those who have support and those who don’t, because we all need support regardless of what stage we’re in.
SK: What are you most excited about in your life right now?
VW: I’m super excited about the UNO Championship coming up, it’s the first of its kind to celebrate the 50th anniversary, and I did not qualify. Well, there is no qualifying — but I’m super excited about that and we’ll see who becomes the first ever world champion. I’m also excited for the movie coming out, King Richard, about my dad, I think it’s going to be so inspiring to so many families to know that, as a family, you can pull together to achieve great things.
SK: You’ve seen the movie, right?
VW: I have! No spoilers. You’ll have to see it. You’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry, there are so many moments that are relatable.
SK: What does the movie capture best about your family?
VW: I think it captures the togetherness because we’re very very close. And it was so interesting how everyone who was cast — the girls Demi [Singleton] and Saniyya [Sidney] who play me and Serena, they were holding hands on set. And that is just exactly what we do. And how much they looked up to Will [Smith], which was very similar to how close we were to our dad. So, that chemistry was there. It just couldn’t have been more perfect.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Before you go, click here to see celebrities who are best friends with their siblings.