Serena Williams wrote a heartfelt letter to her mother Oracene Price that she shared on Reddit, about her newborn daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. and body image.
The tennis star also thanked her mom for loving and protecting her through the years and brought up some of the body shaming she’s endured since being a teen.
“You are one of the strongest women I know,” wrote Williams. I was looking at my daughter, and she has my arms and legs. My exact same strong, muscular, powerful, sensational arms and body. I don’t know how I would react if she has to go through what I’ve gone through since I was a 15-year-old and even to this day.”
“I’ve been called man, because I appeared outwardly strong,” she continued. “It has been said that I use drugs. It has been said I don’t belong in women’s sports, that I belong in men’s because I look stronger than many other women do.”
Williams’ words about being body shamed are far from an exaggeration, whether those comments have come from tennis fans, the sports media in general or the waiting area of a men’s barbershop.
In fact, Williams’ longtime rival Maria Sharapova recently made some remarks about her physique, which some considered at the very least insensitive and at most racist.
“First of all, her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realize watching TV,” wrote Sharapova about Williams in her memoir. “She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. It’s the whole thing. Her presence, her confidence, her personality.”
While Williams’ has certainly displayed some of that confidence in the letter to her mom, the journey to get there wasn’t a short one, which she’s talked about in the past.
In June of last year, the new mom spoke to EPIX and talked about feeling at home in her own skin.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t really comfortable with my body, I just wasn’t,” Williams explained. “It took me a while to find the strength and the courage to embrace … And to feel like I love my physique.”
She also said the same thing while speaking with her ex Common on ESPN’s “The Undefeated In Depth.”
“There was a time where I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body, because I felt like I was too strong,” said the 23-time grand slam winner. “And then I had to take a second and think, who says I’m too strong? This body has enabled me to be the greatest player I can be, and I’m not going to scrutinize that.”
In another part of the letter to her mom, Williams stated that she hopes her daughter won’t receive the same type of criticism for her body, and she’s baffled as to how mama Price held it together for so long.
“I’m not sure how you did not go off on every single reporter, person, announcer and quite frankly, hater, who was too ignorant to understand the power of a black woman,” she wrote.