Serena Williams Says Her Daughter Gave Her a "Renewed Appreciation" for Her Body

"I only wish I had been thankful sooner."

Serena Williams of the USA celebrates with daughter Alexis Olympia after winning the final match against Jessica Pegula of USA at ASB Tennis Centre on January 12, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

As one of the greatest athletes to ever grace a tennis court, Serena Williams has long been a champion in not only her sport but also in her advocacy for body positivity.

Still, Williams has been candid about both the ups and the downs she's experienced in her body image. In a new interview with British Vogue, she shared that one specific milestone in her life that has nothing to do with her tennis career — becoming a mom to her 3-year-old daughter, Olympia — has given her a "renewed appreciation" for her body.

Growing up, Williams said she often didn't see people who looked like her, "who were thick," she told British Vogue. "There wasn't positive body image," she continued. "It was a different age." (She also opened up about the blatant racism she's faced throughout her career, and how that's affected her body image as well.)

Williams often compared herself to her sister, Venus, she added. "When I was growing up, what was celebrated was different," Serena told British Vogue. "Venus looked more like what is really acceptable: she has incredibly long legs, she's really, really thin." (

While "increased visibility and representation in the media" later in life helped improve Williams' body image, she told British Vogue that, ultimately, the experience of becoming a mom led her to truly appreciate her body for more than just what it can do on the tennis court.

"How amazing that my body has been able to give me the career that I've had, and I'm really thankful for it. I only wish I had been thankful sooner," she told British Vogue. "It just all comes full circle when I look at my daughter."

There's no doubt that Williams inspires millions around the world who've struggled with self-acceptance body image. But the tennis star has faced plenty of criticism in her own journey toward body appreciation.

"It was hard for me," she shared in an interview with Harper's Bazaar UK in 2018. "People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I'm strong."

There was even a time when one of Williams' goals — aside from winning the Italian and French Opens and Wimbledon — was to be a size 4, she recounted in her interview with Harper's Bazaar UK. Over time, though, Williams came to realize and accept the fact that that's simply not the mold she wants to fit into. "I'll never be a size 4," she told the outlet — and that's okay, she continued. "This is me, and this is my weapon and machine," she said, gesturing to her bicep. "But I love that I said that [I wanted to be a size 4], because I can understand. I can show Olympia that I struggled, but now I'm happy with who I am and what I am and what I look like. Olympia was born and she had my arms, and instead of being sad and fearful about what people would say about her, I was just so happy."

Still, the message Williams hopes will resonate with others — particularly young women — is that you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to appreciate your body.

"I want people to be proud of who they are," she told People in 2016. "Too many times young women are told that they're not good enough or they don't look good enough, or they shouldn't do this, or they shouldn't look like that. Really there's no one who should judge that except for you, and in general, that's the message that I want people to see."

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