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Serena Williams’ Influence on Body Image

Serena Williams
At the 2012 London Olympics, Gabby Douglas became the first American gymnast to win Olympic gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions. But these history achievements were somewhat overshadowed by the cyber hate she received regarding her appearance. Both her hair and muscles were the target of ridicule for Gabby, who was just 16 at the time. She had a hard time dealing with the hurtful commentary, “It was very tough. Sometimes I would be in the bathroom, bawling my eyes out, wanting to quit.”

Even after the Olympics ended Gabby struggled to be confident with her body type. It wasn’t until she saw how Serena Williams handled herself in the face of similar vitriol that she became confident in herself. Her mother said watching Serena was, “Liberating for my daughter to see.”

Serena Williams has had the unique experience of being a plus size black woman dominating a sport filled with skinny white women. Earlier in her career she and her family received more attention for their skin colour than athletic ability. While the racist comments may be hushed she still often receives ignorant comments concerning her plus size physique.

The 22-time Major champion has learned that the onus isn’t on her to change herself but on the person doing the criticising, “This is my blood. I live for this and have for the last 32 years. When I step out on that court, you’re going to get all of me.”

In 2015, during her acceptance of the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Award she took a moment to address the subject of body confidence and acceptance. “I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them – I look stronger.”

Serena is aware of the influence that she possesses. To cap off her acceptance speech she talked about how her win was a win for women everywhere, “For all the ladies out there, yes we can do it. My hope is by winning this award is that I can inspire many, many, many more women….”

In an individual sport where female athletes wear revealing clothing every time they play in front of thousands of people, having doubts about one’s body image is not an option.

Serena’s positivity and acceptance of her body has sparked her to even start a clothing line that caters to women of every body style. When dealing with those that don’t accept your body type, channel your inner Serena and give them the forehand.

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