Serena, The Evolutionary

For the past few days I have been silently tossing around Serena Williams’ news in my head. For the past few days, a word she so intentionally used, evolution, to describe this transition has been stuck in my heart. It is a word that feels generous in a time when titles and What Happens Next, feel too often stuck in patriarchal binaries. It struck me that I was—like many Black women in their 30s—saying a goodbye of sorts to a childhood hero. Just as she reluctantly, pieced together a goodbye that felt right for her. And like Serena noted in her piece, needing to nearly-immediately evolve her as a role model, for my own daughter. 

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

I am thinking of the ways we need to say goodbye. How we say goodbye. The words we use to say goodbye. How we take care of others when we do. There’s more here, I plan to write about in this weekend’s essay in With Love, L, if you’re subscribed. Until then, here are a few photographs over the years of Serena Williams that encapsulate how she has always looked to me, although she has transitioned into this mega-mega-mega business woman, wife, creative, mother, superstar. 

Serena and Venus Williams in 1991.
Photo: Paul Harris/Online USA

Heather Hall/AFP/Getty Images
Serena Williams wearing her signature braids at the Everet Cup in 1999. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.” Serena Williams

To Photograph by Annie Leibovitz in Vogue, April 2003. 

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