You know Serena Williams. We all know Serena Williams. She’s been burning up the tennis world for 20 (!) years now. But it seems in the past year or so, she’s gotten even more…Serena Williams-y.
It’s not even her accomplishments on the court, which are ridiculous: Just this week, she became the winningest player in Grand Slam history when she clinched her 308th win in a major match to advance in this year’s U.S. Open.
It’s her cultural presence, too, that seems to have reached full bloom. She is a fashion icon, with her own clothing line and history of beauty collaborations. She was in Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” She’s not even 35.
We are truly living in the age of Serena.
A record breaker
On Labor Day, Williams picked up her 308th victory, pushing her past Roger Federer as the tennis pro with the most wins in major tournament play. It was the second time this year she found herself at the top of the numbers game. In July, she won Wimbledon, matching fellow great Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Open Era Grand Slam wins.
Oddly enough, a year that has brought so many historic moments for Williams has also brought significant losses: A disappointing Olympic campaign in Rio ended after Williams was knocked out in the third round of singles play and she and her sister Venus were eliminated in the first round of doubles.
Even in defeat, Williams, who was named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year, still held on to yet another record. As of this week, Williams has been ranked the No. 1 female tennis player in the world for 186 consecutive weeks. That’s more than three years straight. Even a few unexpected losses couldn’t tarnish such a streak.
A cultural icon
It’s fairly easy for an athlete to make a big impact on pop culture and social issues. Few have done it as seamlessly as Williams, who made headlines this year when she appeared in Beyonce’s seminal “Lemonade” video. (Williams and Beyonce are old friends. Beyonce and her husband Jay Z even showed up at the U.S. Open this weekend to watch her play.)
Though the “Lemonade” cameo clearly positioned her as a paragon of black female strength, anyone who follows her knows she’s been occupying that identity for years. Williams has had to fight off haters and online bullies, which in an age of heightened body positivity and social awareness, has made her an especially timely role model.
“No one can tell you who you are except for you,” she told Elle Magazine in August. “No one can tell you how beautiful you are except for you.”
In June, William’s extraordinary career was recounted in an EPIX documentary titled “Serena.” In it, Williams expounds at length on her thirst for greatness and her desire, as a businesswoman and icon, to affect change past her position as one of tennis’ greatest stars.
A fashion plate
September is shaping up to be an exciting month for the tennis star: She’s alive and well in the U.S. Open, and will, of all things, be a big draw at this year’s New York Fashion Week.
Yes, Williams has her own fashion line for HSN which debuted in 2015 and earned her a standing ovation at last year’s NYFW. She’s back this year, which practically makes her a fashion veteran. In many ways, she is: Williams has always been known for her on-the-court style, and she even collaborated with nail care giant OPI for several nail polish collections.
Oh, and she turns 35 on September 29. There will certainly be a lot to celebrate.