Williams, the ground-breaking winner of seven Grand Slam singles titles in addition to Olympic gold, is also a successful interior designer.
To the public, thinking about Williams as a designer may seem strange, but for the 34-year-old, the career was no surprise.
When she was 17 or 18 Williams received a letter advertising a design and art school in Tampa, Florida, she said in the Washington Post.
“Oh, I want to go to design school!” she remembers telling her mom. She had grown up sewing and creating, even making the skirts for her first professional tournament, and wanted to cultivate her passion.
Her mother told her that though that school was too far, she and her sister Serena could enroll in an arts school in Fort Lauderdale. They both studied fashion design.
“Most people decide what they want to do later in life, and some people know really early,” she said of her tennis career. “For me, what I was doing was already decided. Thankfully, I liked it.”
But design was something different.
“This was like when you get to make your own choice about what you love,” Williams said.
Friday night, Williams will be showing off the work she has done to the renovated Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, an after-school program focusing on tennis, arts and academics for children in Washington, DC’s Ward 8.
“As a designer, you design and it’s beautiful and people feel great when they walk in — but how have you changed the world?” Williams said. “For us, this sort of project means so much to us because it’s going to impact so many lives.”
This isn’t Williams’ first foray into design. When she graduated college in 2007 with a degree in fashion design, she launched a sportswear line called EleVen.
Though she enjoyed designing, her itch for interiors still wasn’t quite scratched.
In 2002, she teamed up with someone who could oversee the business while she was on the road competing and founded V Starr Interiors, a small boutique firm in Jupiter, Fla.
Today, the firm has four female full-time professional designers and is now worth an estimated $60 million.