Serena and Venus Williams are known all over the world for their stellar tennis skills. These two sisters are the most famous names in tennis. Between them, they have eight Olympic medals, numerous championship titles, and a whole lot of drive.
These two do more than just play tennis, though. They’ve branched out into other arenas including fashion, business, activism, and modeling. Recently, Serena opened up about a tragedy that occurred in these sisters’ shared past. Keep reading to learn more about the events, both good and bad, that made these women who they are today.
Venus And Serena Williams: The Beginning
Venus Ebony Starr Williams was born on June 17th, 1980. She was born in Lynwood, California, to parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price. Serena was born one year later on September 26th, 1981.
When Venus was seven years old, her parents started to notice that she had a particular talent for tennis. A professional local tennis player saw her with a racket and knew that she was special. Serena also knew her way around a tennis court at a young age.
Early Training And Coaching
Venus and Serena were so good at tennis that when Venus was ten and Serena was nine, the whole family moved to Florida so that the girls could go to Rick Macci’s tennis academy
The girls’ father didn’t always agree with Macci, but he respected his expertise and liked that “he treated his daughters like kids, allowed them to be little girls.” Richard, Venus and Serena’s father was also a tennis player, and he later pulled his daughters out of Macci’s academy and started coaching them himself.
Other Members Of The Family
Venus and Serena aren’t the only two Williams sisters. These two actually have at least ten half-siblings. Their mother had three daughters from a previous relationship, and Richard had six children with his ex-wife, Betty Johnson.
Venus and Serena are the only children that Richard and Oracene had together. In 2002, Richard and Oracene got divorced, and Richard had a son with his third wife, Lakeisha (who is one year older than Venus) in 2012.
Serena’s Fashion Controversy
Serena Williams has always showcased her own unique sense of fashion and sportswear on the tennis court. In 2002, she wore a black catsuit to the US Open and people were talking about it for weeks.
In 2004, she wore denim skirts and knee-high boots. Some commentators have been critical of Serena’s fashion choices, and some have even called her out for disrespecting the game of tennis with her clothes. Serena responded by being the best tennis player the world has ever seen.
A Family Tragedy
Venus and Serena’s half-sister, Yetunde Price, was shot and killed while she was sitting in her car in her hometown of Compton, California. The incident happened in 2003 when Tetunde was just 31 years old.
Yetunda was Oracene’s eldest daughter. She was also the mother of three of her own children. She was determined to pay her own way and raise her children with the money she made owning a hair salon.
The Events Leading Up To The Murder
Sadly, Yetunde was a victim of gang violence. She didn’t know it, but on the night of her death, she was parked outside of a trap house. Two members of the Southside Compton Crips gang opened fire on her car because they thought they were defending the house. Yetunde was with her boyfriend at the time.
Her boyfriend didn’t immediately realize that Yetunde had been hit, so he sped away to a relative’s house where he called 911. He soon realized that Yetunde had been shot in the head, and by the time they got to the hospital, it was too late.
Serena Recently Opened Up About Her Sister’s Death
This year, Serena appeared on activist Naomi Wadler’s web series and spoke about her reaction to her sister’s death. Naomi Wadler is just 12 years old and she’s already taking steps to make the world a better and less violent place.
Serena spoke to Wadler about the recent prevalence of gun violence (and discussions about gun violence) in the media: “People are talking about it now because it’s happening more widespread. But it’s been affecting our community for years.”
The Importance Of Conversation
Williams applauded Naomi for her willingness to stand against gun violence in such a public way at such a young age. Naomi is young, but Serena was also young when she was thrust into the public eye. She has since been able to use her fame to spread awareness about many social issues.
Serena added, “I think we need to get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations. Situations are never really gonna get better if you always avoid it, you have to take it head-on.”
Turning Tragedy Into Drive
Both Serena and Venus mourned the loss of their sister. Even though her death devastated their entire family, Venus and Serena persisted in their careers and continued to improve their game in honor of Yetunde. Yetunde prided herself on being an independent woman. She had sisters who had money, but she wanted to carry her own weight in the world.
Even though Serena and Venus appeared to be strong on the court, they were facing their own personal battles. Serena told Naomi, “I went through depression. I never even talked about it to my mom. No one knew I was in therapy, but I was. I was so close to my sister.”
Venus Williams Was In A Car Accident
Venus Williams was involved in a car crash that ended up killing a 78 year old man back in 2017. Another car hit her SUV while she was driving through an intersection. At first, police determined that she was at fault for the accident, but after reviewing surveillance footage, they concluded that she hadn’t caused the crash.
A third driver who had made an illegal turn in front of Williams’ car had actually caused the series of events to unfold.
They Boycotted The Indian Wells Masters
Back in 2001, Venus Williams pulled out of the Indian Wells Masters tournament just four minutes before she was scheduled to play against her sister. The spectators at the match didn’t like that very much and the next day, Venus and her father wore booed as they arrived at the court.
Richard accused the crowd at the event of being racist, stating, “The white people at Indian Wells, what they’ve been wanting to say all along to us finally came out: ‘N*****, stay away from here, we don’t want you here.'”
Serena’s Activism Is Inspiring
As Serena Williams’ career has progressed, she has become more conscious about the way she uses her platform. She often takes to social media to advocate for causes that are important to her. Serena is a strong supporter of Black Lives Matter, and she’s quick to call out racism when she sees it.
Serena was listed among the 35 “most remarkable and beautiful black women” in the world in Essence magazine, and she’s also been recognized as an activist by the NAACP.
Venus Has Branched Out Into Business
Venus Williams isn’t just a star tennis player, she’s also an entrepreneur. She’s the CEO of an interior design firm called V Starr that’s based in Jupiter, Florida. Venus also has her own fashion line. She teamed up with Steve & Barry’s to release EleVen, an activewear line that is consciously modeled by athletes rather than traditional models.
Venus said, “I love fashion and the idea that I am using my design education to actually create clothing and footwear that I will wear on and off the tennis court is a dream come true for me. The vision has been to create a collection that will allow women to enjoy an active lifestyle while remaining fashionable at the same time. I’m thrilled with everything we’ve created to launch EleVen.”
The Williams’ Sisters Are Part-Owners Of The Miami Dolphins
In August 2009, Venus and Serena decided to become part-owners of the Miami Dolphins. With this investment, they became the first African-American women to secure ownership of an NFL team.
Stephen M. Ross, the majority owner of the Dolphins, commented, “We are thrilled to have Venus and Serena join the Dolphins as limited partners. They are among the most admired athletes in the world and have become global ambassadors for the game of tennis. Their addition to our ownership group further reflects our commitment to connect with aggressively and embrace the great diversity that makes South Florida a multicultural gem.”
Serena Broke Advertising Barriers
In 2009, Serena Williams became the first still-competing professional athlete to appear in a tampon commercial when she starred in a Tampax Pearl advertising campaign. In the commercial, she hits a series of tennis balls thrown at her by “Mother Nature” who was played by Catherine Lloyd Burns.
A brand manager for Tampax commented, “A lot of celebrities are not open to working with our brand, and we’re thrilled that Serena is.” Serena has always been about female empowerment.
Venus Is Dealing With An Autoimmune Disease
In 2011, Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren syndrome, a long-term autoimmune disease that affects the body’s moisture-producing glands. That year, Venus was forced to withdraw from the US open so she could properly address her symptoms.
After she was diagnosed, Venus cut meat, dairy, and eggs out of her diet. She also cut down on the amount of sugar she was eating. Her new eating habits helped calm Sjögren syndrome flare-ups. This disorder also causes fatigue which is something Venus has struggled with for years.
Venus Williams’ Dating History
From 2007 until 2010, Venus Williams dated professional golfer Hank Kuehne. Kuehne already had a son with his ex-wife when he and Venus started dating. Right after his relationship with Venus ended, Kuehne began dating his now-wife, Andy.
Venus is now dating Nicholas Hammond who is an heir to publisher Walter Annenberg’s fortune. Nicholas is twelve years younger than Venus. Maybe Nicholas is really mature for his age. Nicholas was Venus’ date to Serena’s wedding.
Speaking Of Serena’s Wedding…
Serena Williams is married to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The pair got married on November 16th, 2017 in New Orleans. On April 19th, 2017, Serena took to Snapchat to announce that she was expecting.
Her daughter, Olympia Ohanian, was born in September 2017. Serena had to undergo an emergency c-section and she almost died on the operating table due to a pulmonary embolism. Thankfully, both mom and baby made it out of surgery alive, and Serena eventually recovered and got back on the tennis court.
Serena Was In Beyoncé’s Music Video
Beyoncé and Serena Williams are really close friends. Beyoncé was at Serena’s wedding in New Orleans, and she has been a strong supporter of her fellow superstar. Beyoncé asked Serena to be in the music video for her song “Sorry” which appeared on her hit visual album, Lemonade.
Williams said that the director of the video told her, “We would love for you to be in this particular song. It’s about strength and it’s about courage and that’s what we see you as.”
These Ladies Live For Charity
The amount of good these two sisters have done in the world is absolutely staggering. Serena started her own foundation that provides university scholarships for American students in need of financial aid. Her foundation has also helped build schools in Kenya and Jamaica.
In 2003, Serena was awarded a Celebrity Role Model Award from Avon Foundation for work in breast cancer. In the early 2000s, Venus and Serena would play tennis and visit schools in black neighborhoods to raise money for various charities, and now, they work with domestic abuse organizations, AIDS foundations, hospitals, and give so much back to their community.