Serena tells Common: ‘I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body’

Common interviews Serena Williams for ESPN's "The Undefeated" (Photo Courtesy: ESPNY)
Common interviews Serena Williams for ESPN’s “The Undefeated” (Photo Courtesy: ESPN)

ESPN will present The Undefeated In-Depth: Serena with Common – an exclusive conversation between tennis champion and sports star Serena Williams and Oscar and Grammy Award-winning artist Common – on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 9 p.m. ET. The one-hour program taped October in Brooklyn, New York, and earlier this month in Compton, Calif., will feature Williams discussing her career as one of the world’s greatest athletes, the challenge of being an African American at the top of her sport, coming to terms with her body, her decision to speak up on social issues, and more.

“Serena with Common” is the third in a series of multimedia content initiatives by The Undefeated featuring up-close and personal conversations between African Americans who are accomplished in their chosen professions and recognized as impactful leaders across different fields. Serena Williams has 22 Grand Slam titles, tying her with Steffi Graff as winner of the most titles in the Open Era. Common, a recording artist, actor, producer and poet, is one of the leading entertainment voices of his generation.

The program will include vignettes by “The Undefeated” staffers:

  • Senior writer Clinton Yates, lead for All Day Blog and Podcast, on the 2001 Indian Wells incident where Serena and the Williams family were booed and heckled by fans, and her return to the tournament 14 years later;
  • Danyel Smith, culture lead, examines Serena Williams as a role model;
  • Managing editor Raina Kelley offers a case for Williams as the greatest athlete of all times (GOAT). will also publish a series of taped conversations hosted and executive produced by Common with singer, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte; New York Times columnist and political commentator Charles Blow; activist and #BlackLivesMatter leader DeRay McKesson; as well as artist and photographer Loma Simpson.

Select excerpts from Williams’ interview with Common:

  • On dealing with body image: “There was a time where I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body, because I felt like I was too strong. And then I had to take a second and think well, who says I’m too strong? This body has enabled me to be the greatest player I can be and I’m not going to scrutinize that. This is great. I mean, this is amazing”
  • On being the greatest athlete of all time: “I think if I were a man, I would have been in that conversation a long time ago. Like six, seven years ago”
  • On scrutiny she faced early in her career: “I just feel like I definitely was scrutinized because I was confident. I am black and I am confident. I would say I feel like I’m good. I feel like I can be number one – Oh no no, you can’t say that.”
  • On an athlete’s duty to social activism: “I don’t know if it’s their duty. I think it is inside each person individually on how they feel … I really believe if you believe in something, you’ll want to speak. You have to just be honest and true to yourself.”
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