There are certain things about being the greatest of all time that simply can't be taught. But for Serena Williams, who is recognized as one of the greatest athletes of all time, there are a handful of important lessons that she actively tries to instill in her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. In a new cover story in Allure, written by Ashley C. Ford, Williams opened up about the life lessons she recalls her mother teaching her and her sister, Venus Williams.
"I think my mom instilled in us to be confident women, to really believe in ourselves, be proud of our heritage, our hair, and our bodies," she told Allure. "That was something that was really important for her to teach us. I’m definitely teaching it to my daughter." At just 1-year-old, Williams said she already sees similarities between Olympia's physique and her own at that age. "My arms are ripped," she said, describing a photo of her two-year-old body. "If you look at my daughter, she has a very similar body type."
After Williams gave birth to Olympia, she experienced nightmarish health complications — a pulmonary embolism followed by hematoma — that landed her bedridden for weeks. The harrowing experience inspired her to become an outspoken advocate for maternal healthcare. "[Maternal healthcare] means your life," she told Refinery29. "Without it, you might not live, maybe your baby lives without a mom, or maybe your baby doesn’t live. It's something that needs to be discussed, talked about, changed, and helped."
Then, when Williams made her official return to tennis last summer, she was faced with more adversity. At the French Open, she wore a black catsuit (in part to help circulation following her life-threatening blood clots), which led to the French Tennis Federation changing the dress code in order to "respect the game and the place," the French Tennis Federation president said. At the US Open in September, Williams received a series of controversial code violations and ultimately a game penalty, costing her the title. "The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman," Williams said following the match. "They’re gonna be allowed to do that because of today."
So, given everything Williams has been through recently, it's not surprising that she wants Olympia to understand what it really means to be strong — beyond just having ripped arms. "I want her to know that being strong is never easy. Not in this world we are living in," she told Allure. "Standing up for yourself is not going to be easy, but it’s always eventually respected. Those are the people who’ve made a difference in this world, people that stand up for what’s right."