The Serena Williams Interview: The Tennis Star Serves Truths About Style, Parenting and Work-Life Balance

Holding court with E! News, Serena Williams opened up about the importance of boundaries, how she's raising daughter Olympia and the super sentimental reason she brought her jewelry line to Zales.

By Sarah Grossbart Nov 16, 2021 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Serena Williams' Style Hero Is...

Serena Williams does not fantasize about daughter Olympia following in her Nike-clad footsteps. 

Yes, the tennis phenom signed her now-4-year-old up for lessons during the pandemic and, yes, she joked that she would be carefully monitoring the coach's technique. And, yes, it was adorable to see them side-by-side on the court in their matching tennis purples. 

But, "we did it for social distance," Williams insisted to E! News in an exclusive interview, the activity an ideal and safe way for a toddler to burn off some excess energy in the middle of a pandemic. "I have no interest in her playing full-time. Unless she does. So, it's not like that at all." 

Should Olympia express an interest in perfecting her serve, Williams would of course be her No. 1 cheerleader. But until then, no need to place such enormous pressure on such tiny shoulders. "It's just playing for fun and staying active in a COVID world when we didn't know what to do," Williams explained of her and husband Alexis Ohanian's line of thinking. "So that's kinda the only reason I started her doing that."

Serena Williams Through the Years

Besides, it's not as if the fashion-loving, Stuart Weitzman-modeling preschooler needs a racquet in her hand to emulate Mom. 

"She only wears dresses and she loves to wear heels, so it's kind of fun," Williams said of watching Olympia develop her own finely honed sense of style. "Because when I was younger, I used to love wearing princess dresses as well."

So to watch Olympia pick up her other lifelong passion, Williams having spent her childhood experimenting with ways to express herself through her outfits, setting the stage for her eventual fashion and jewelry lines, "Oh man, it's so kind of cool, you know?" the entrepreneur marveled. "To see, like, my personality is kind of interesting."

John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock

That persona, in case anyone is unaware after watching the world's greatest athlete muscle her way to 23 Grand Slam singles titles and four Olympic gold medals—while leaving her mark in the worlds of fashion (with S by Serena), entertainment (she and sister Venus Williams serve as executive producers on the upcoming, already-generating-Oscar-buzz biopic of their early lives, King Richard) and venture capital—is someone that's equal parts sexy and great, unstoppable and, of course, a damn queen. 

It's the same messaging stamped all over Serena Williams Jewelry, which is now exclusively available at Zales, the athlete recently partnering with the leading fine jewelry brand to carry her line of dainty, yet, strong, modern pieces. 

"I definitely like people to feel empowered and special when they wear them," Williams said of the thought that goes into creating each gem. "And then also, like, hidden messages. Whether it's 'sexy' or whether it's 'winner', you know, it's a broad space there to just have that moment of where you're feeling on that day. And I like that."

Among her favorites, of course, are those emblazoned with the phrase most associated with the star. "Just having 'unstoppable' is something that we really like in our collection and we kind of lean on," she explained, "because it's really something that people can just gravitate to no matter what you're going through, you just have to have an unstoppable attitude."

For Williams, it was "a no-brainer" to double with the brand that's helped her shine through numerous matches. 

"I was like, I want to wear bling on the court, but I wanted it to be really quality, yet, being able to endure me hitting balls at 130 miles per hour," she explained of turning to Zales to complete her tournament look. "And so I actually bought a lot of my jewelry there and won championships. For me, I just have this natural connection to Zales. Because they've been a part of my life and they had no idea."

While she stressed, "I'm not superstitious," it's hard to ignore a continued connection between the jewelry and the other precious metal she'd earn while wearing it. "Imagine several Grand Slams," she noted. "It's, like, crazy."


And if that's not enough of a selling point, consider that Williams' goal with each of the 60-plus diamond-studded 10K gold and sterling silver rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets currently on offer is to make the wearer feel as strong as she does when she sails another 130 mile per hour ball over the net. 

Because while victories are fun, and she's sure collected a lot of them, "life is so much more than winning," Williams insisted. "So, that's what our jewelry is about. It's about feeling good about yourself every day and reminding yourself. And small reminders, that you can gift or you can purchase, that you look at everyday and say, 'Okay, I'm a winner,' or, 'I've got this.'"

Rob Prange/Shutterstock

Williams' strength comes in knowing her riches are so much more than her vast collection of trophies and accolades. 

It's why she eloquently praised seven-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles for what she's "done outside of the gym," writing in a recent Time essay, "By living her truth so loudly and by championing mental health, she is setting new standards of beauty, strength and resilience, breaking down today's image-obsessed stereotypes and encouraging others to do the same."

And it's why she's teaching Olympia the value of philanthropy and compassion for others. "For me it's really about having the humility and also just being the best person that she can be," Williams explained. "And having spiritual values means a lot to me. So that's what's most important. It's not about what you have materially, it's just what you have in your heart and your soul."

And it's why she acknowledges the importance of living a full, balanced life, never stressing it or pushing it, rather just exuding it in how she lives.

While her husband, Reddit cofounder Ohanian, acknowledged that he once had a "warped view of the path to excellence and the path to greatness being a direct result of just pure work," his past six-plus years with the athlete (the two celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary Nov. 16) helped disabuse him of that notion. 

"One thing that I'm still working on is balancing that with time off, time away, time to reset and recharge," Ohanian explained in a May appearance on CBS This Morning. "Something [Williams] is really good at is shutting it off and focusing on family time and personal time." 

Serena Williams' Baby Girl Alexis Olympia's Cutest Photos

Williams swears it's not some drum she's been beating, it's just the way she operates. 

"It's just very authentic," she told E! of her messaging that, basically, life moves fast and you can miss it if you don't stop to look around every once in a while. "It's just been how I did my career and how, without even saying a word, people took that into my career."

Over the years she's learned how valuable it is to set aside time for herself and her loved ones in what could easily be a jam-packed schedule. "Work-life balance is important and boundaries are important," she continued. "And I've been able to install those boundaries and work-life balance. Not well. But I'm still trying. I'm definitely getting more balance than I used to be."

As for Williams' willingness to lift the veil on a life that others tend to assume is just as orderly and efficient as she operates on the court, well, that's at the core of who she is as well. 

Even with an increased focus on carving out time for her personal life, it's not a perfect system. And so when she, say, missed Olympia's first steps because she was busy readying for Wimbledon, it stings just as much as the parent who learns that particular milestone happened at daycare. 

"Working and being a mom is not easy," Williams wrote in one candid 2020 Instagram post. "I am often exhausted, stressed, and then I go play a professional tennis match. We keep going. I am so proud and inspired by the women who do it day in and day out."

For her, making statements like that is "just normalizing it," she said of the ever-present working parent struggle. "It's not easy. And it's never been easy. And people think, 'Oh, it must be easy for these celebrities,' and it's not like that at all. It's definitely hard and normalizing that, that what you feel and the tough time that you're going through is normal, I think is a really good message to talk about."

Jay L Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

Come Nov. 19 she'll be sharing more of her story with King Richard, the Will Smith vehicle that aims to detail how her father Richard Williams believed he had the next two tennis wunderkinds in his daughters and strived relentlessly to propel his vision into being.  

Williams shared that she's excited for fans to see "just how amazing my father was," she said. "And the kind of person he really was and I think that really shows through the story."

Serena Williams & Alexis Ohanian's Cutest Moments

Though, of course, her story, the one that began on those cracked, weed-covered courts in her native California, is far from over. 

Williams is brimming with plans for future jewelry collections—"We love the direction that it's going, like, dainty but strong words and a strong message and modern"—and just everything life has to offer. 

Asked what was left for her to conquer, she acknowledged how impossible it'd be to distill that down to a soundbite. But make no mistake, she said, "I have a lot of goals. Definitely a lot." 


Chief among them is leaving behind a little something special for her fashion-savvy mini me. 

When creating her Serena Williams Jewelry pieces, Olympia is never far from the star's thoughts. "I think about, first of all, what statement would I want her to think about and have and so that's where some of the inspirations for my statements come," she said of her empowered, self-love messaging. "And then, also, just in terms of what does she want and what is she going to inherit. You know, because I'm like, 'One day, you'll have Mommy's jewelry.' And that's kinda cool." 

In dreaming up her modern designs, "I'll think about pieces that are going to really last a long time," Williams continued, "and just be something that you can look at in 10 years, in 20 years or however long and just say, 'Wow, this is really cool. And this was my mom's and this is what she did.' And say, 'My mom was so ahead of her time.' So I love that."

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If you want a reminder to be your authentic self, check out some of the pieces from the tennis star's Zales collection below.

Serena Williams Jewelry Diamond Accent 'UNSTOPPABLE' Circle Drop Pendant in Sterling Silver

This circle pendant necklace has the word "UNSTOPPABLE" inscribed with a diamond accent on the letter "O."

Serena Williams Jewelry Diamond Accent Solitaire 'UNSTOPPABLE' Band in Sterling Silver

This band makes a powerful statement. The sterling silver ring is inscribed with the word "UNSTOPPABLE." You can wear it on its own or stack it along with other rings you already have. 

Serena Williams Jewelry 1/10 CT. T.W. Diamond Circle Outline 'UNSTOPPABLE' Bracelet in Sterling Silver

This sterling silver bracelet is inspirational with the word "UNSTOPPABLE" inscribed with diamond dots in place of the letter "O."

Serena Williams Jewelry Diamond Accent Solitaire 'UNSTOPPABLE' Circle Stud Earrings in 10K Gold

These gold earrings are smart, casual look that you can wear every day.