My Serena Williams Essence Cover Story: Talking Tennis, Curves & Loving Yourself Completely

I’m used to having butterflies when I interview celebrities, especially those I adore. But I had the flight of the Monarchs rumbling in my stomach when it came time to meet up with Serena Williams, the No. 1 female tennis player in the world, who is more than a tad notorious for not being a fan of reporters.

Here’s what I expected: a mean girl with bulging muscles and an even bigger attitude, ready to give one word answers that would make my job incredibly difficult. Here’s what I got: an intelligent beauty with an incredible body and a downhome spirit, ready, willing and able to answer any question I lobbed at her with every bit the thought and grace I needed to write this, Serena’s debut solo cover story in our magazine of record.

Serena was, in a word, delightful.

I met her first at a sprawling movie studio in Florida, where Serena spent hours changing from outfit to outfit, shoe to shoe, and turning it all the way on for a cover photo shoot that stretched to six hours. Afterward, we drove back to the sprawling Palm Beach Gardens mansion she shares with her sister, Venus, to chat way into the night. She served me a big bowl of southern-styled 15-bean and smoked turkey stew—a dish prepared by her own hand. (Serena can burn, okay? Her stew was delish!) Poured me a glass of red wine. And then got busy, talking about everything from her brush with death after a pulmonary embolism to the sisterly advice that got her back on her tennis game to the legend of the Venus Hottentot to the finer points of how to make the perfect batch of fried chicken.

Nothing, it seemed, was off-limits. I particularly enjoyed our discussion about young black girls, self-esteem and what it takes to not only keep all her curves looking good, but to be confident in them, no matter whether bodacious derrieres are the look du jour or a fashion fad whose time has faded. And when I got home to my girlpies, I reintroduced them to the hero that is Serena Williams so that they could be proud of her—for her athleticism, her strength, her intelligence and business acumen and, most certainly, for her beauty. [Side note: Serena’s body is effing insane. There is absolutely no other way to describe it.]

I encourage you to pick up a copy of the July 2013 issue of Essence magazine, which Serena not only covers but guest edits—on stands tomorrow, June 7, 2013. You can get a peek at Serena’s cover shoot on Enjoy!


1. Shameless Self-Promotion: Check Out My Profile of Angela Bassett in Essence
2. Loving My Milkshake & My Pearls: A Celebration Of My Physical Self
3. And Now, the Part Where My Daughter Starts Hating Her Bootylicious Butt
4. {Digging In the MBB Crates} Shining: What I Love About Me

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. As a woman with an ample derriere who has struggled with body images for lifetimes it seems, I LOVE SERENA….But not just because of what she looks like…I love what she represents…fierceness at all levels…Go Denene!

  2. This is awesome! Two of my favorite chicks (brown or otherwise) whose game I admire greatly–Serena and Denene!

  3. I definitely think that Ms. Williams is an excellent role model foe the brown babies of this generation. I will be showing my daughter some of her matches so that she can see an example of a positive Black woman!!!

  4. My dad NEVER reads Essence. Yet he read your article:) Good job!

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