There’s no denying that Serena Williams is the G.O.A.T. (“greatest of all time”—for those of you not up-to-date with your Urban Dictionary acronyms.) In her 20-plus years as a professional tennis player, the 36-year-old has won countless championships, four Olympic gold medals, and transitioned seamlessly into a fashion icon. Yet body-shamers still try to come for her and the muscles that made her a world-known athlete.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar U.K., Williams opened up about being body-shamed for her muscles and people, including her competitors, assuming that she was “born a guy” because of her body. Williams, who identifies as “the most girlie out of all [five of her] sisters,” also compared her body and how she’s seen to her older sister and doubles partner, Venus Williams, who is leaner and taller than her.
“It was hard for me,” Williams said. “People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. I was different to Venus: she was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular – and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different.”
In 2004, when she was 22-years-old, Williams wrote a list of goals for herself. According to a journalist, the list included winning the Italian and French opens, Wimbledon, and slimming down to a size 4. Looking back, Williams is dumbfounded that she wanted to be so thin. However, she doesn’t regret wanting to be a size 4. She considers it a learning lesson for her daughter, Olympia, that even her mom dealt with body insecurities.
“Oh God, I’ll never be a size 4! Why would I want to do that, and be that?” Williams said. “This is me, and this is my weapon and machine. But I love that I said that, because I can understand. I can show Olympia that I struggled, but now I’m happy with who I am and what I am and what I look like… Olympia was born and she had my arms, and instead of being sad and fearful about what people would say about her, I was just so happy.”
Williams is one of the greatest tennis players to ever play the sport. Like she said, her muscles and strength are what made her so great at what she does: winning. Body-shamers need to take the hike because they are not bringing her down.