Serena Williams covers the February 2019 issue of Allure, and in the accompanying feature—which debuted online today (January 10)—she talks about how she and her sister Venus impacted the tennis world.

 

“There weren’t a lot of role models for me to look up to [in the sport] and say, ‘Wow, I want to look like this!’” the tennis and fashion superstar told writer Ashley C. Ford. “Venus and I started out being successful, continued to be successful, and we were also unapologetically ourselves. We were not afraid to wear braids. We weren’t afraid to be Black in tennis. And that was different.”

Williams said that her mother helped them emotionally prepare for the racist and sexist treatment people have heaped on them:

I ask how her family prepared her to love herself in a world that could be so hostile to young Black girls. Especially the confident ones. She stops to turn and call for her Yorkshire terrier, Chip, who has come on the walk with us. When Williams turns back to me, she smiles and says, “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. That was something that was really important for her to teach us,” she continues. “I’m definitely teaching it to my daughter.” 

Find more of Williams’ photos and reflections, and video of her playing a xylophone, at Allure.com.