Venus Williams has won 75 championship tennis titles throughout her decades-long career. She runs several successful businesses, including her activewear brand EleVen by Venus Williams, interior design firm V Starr, and plant-based protein company Happy Viking. And she recently executive produced King Richard—a biopic about her father and coach, Richard Williams—alongside her sister Serena. Quite frankly, I’m convinced there’s nothing she cannot do. Yet, there’s much more to Venus than trophies, business acumen, and great taste.
Nearly 30 years into her career, Williams is still working on her relationship with her body. Even as an Olympian, she knows how intimidating the gym can be. According to recent data, over two-thirds of women feel anxious about getting back in the gym after a life event. To help, Williams is working to spread confidence by partnering with Stitch Fix to end “gymtimidation.” Below, she opens up about working with the brand, appreciating her body, and handling the pressure of perfection.
How do you set goals while being kind to yourself?
That’s such a great question. I think it’s important to realize life is a process and goals are a process. Sometimes we don’t reach those goals. We have to reflect and think, What happened in this process that didn’t succeed? That helps you take things less personally because we’re hard on ourselves. That can be a good thing, but you know, it has to be measured. You’re on the journey of life and must realize ups and downs are a part of it.
In 2003, you told Oprah if you’re not wearing something you feel confident in, you don’t play as well. How did those feelings inform this partnership for you?
My partnership with Stitch Fix is about feeling good about yourself and figuring out how to do that more often. I love Stitch Fix, and I was so excited when I got the call to be a part of this campaign. Navigating those ups and downs in life is something I’ve experienced personally. We are kicking off 2022 by saying goodbye to “gymtimidation.” It’s the anxiety we get when looking at others or starting a new routine when we’ve had a break and are getting back in it, regardless of our athletic level. It’s that lack of confidence. We want to say goodbye to that, and I want to share my experiences to help women feel their best.
Tell me about your relationship with your body. What would you say to somebody who isn’t as confident?
We have to focus on what our bodies can do for us, especially as women. There’s so much focus on whether our bodies fit the standard of what society says [it should]. That’s always changing. Nowadays, people want to look a certain way, wear certain things, or whatever it is. We have to let go of those norms and refocus on what our bodies are doing for us. My job is to focus on what my body is doing for me and how it’s performing, and I’m one of those people who wants to be perfect.
When my inner monologue is like, No body fat! More muscles! I’m like, Relax and try to appreciate what you have. It’s great to aim for something. It’s also important to appreciate what your body can do for you. The body is amazing.
You mentioned the pressure to be perfect. You look great, you play great, and you design great. What would you like to get better at?
My goals are to work on eating [healthy] foods, so my body stays in balance. When we rush, we forget to do stuff like take our vitamins or drink enough water. Once you have the basics down, you can add other stuff.
You mentioned people try to pigeonhole you into just doing one thing instead of having multiple interests. You’ve reaped the benefits of pushing against that box.
Yeah, that came from my parents. They wanted us to be more than athletes. They wanted us to explore, get our education, and they pushed entrepreneurship. It’s definitely given me a lot of opportunities to do more outside of the games. It’s broadened my horizons.
What would you say to kids who are struggling with their bodies?
To the kids struggling with their bodies, I would say don’t compare yourself to anyone. Just be you and find out what you want and what is important to you. You get to be an individual. You don’t have to be everyone else. It doesn’t seem like that at the moment, but you really do want to be yourself as you grow up and get older.
As a kid, part of that journey is figuring out how to be an adult. What kind of adult do you want to be? Who are your role models? Having an opportunity to have role models, whether they’re close or people you saw on TV, can help you with that journey.
Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
I live for fashion. It’s my happy place. That’s why I started my activewear brand, EleVen. My biggest fashion inspiration was Virgil Abloh. So that was super heavy when he passed. Thom Browne has really been doing amazing things.
You’ve been astronomically successful for a long time. What does success look like for you in 2022, given it’s such a unique environment?
Oh, I’ve got goals. If you don’t have goals anymore, it means you retired—I’m not retired yet. I love what I do. I love the teams I work with. Right now, I have the opportunity to pick and choose my projects. I get to work on things I’m passionate about; that’s obviously icing on the cake.