When Serena Williams was crowned SI's 2015 Sportsperson of the Year, she subsequently became the first woman in 32 years and the first black woman ever to win the award outright. And in her inspiring acceptance speech, she didn't hesitate to address the body-shaming and criticism she's faced throughout her career.
"I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them — I look stronger,” she explained. “I’ve had people look past me because [of] the color of my skin, I’ve had people overlook me because I was a woman, I’ve had critics say I [would] never win another Grand Slam when I was only at number seven — and here I stand today with 21 Grand Slam titles, and I’m still going.”
Now, in a grand gesture for the ages, Serena has FINALLY made her way back to the pages of SI Swimsuit. The tennis superstar shuts down the critics once and for all, proving that strong is, and always has been, sexy.
We caught up with the winningest woman in Open history to talk everything from role models to her training regimen leading up to her liberating Swimsuit shoot:
SWIM DAILY: We know you have your own fashion line. Have you ever considered designing swimwear?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, it's definitely crossed my mind. I think it would be relatively easy to do, but it's such a competitive market that you would have to work really hard to stand out and be different and creative. I'd rather keep my focus on RTW for now.
SWIM DAILY: What type of swimsuit are you most comfortable in?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It doesn't really matter to me. I always feel really sexy in a two-piece but one-pieces are definitely having a moment right now.
SWIM DAILY: Do you sense a trend in the modeling world toward more women that fir your body type instead of the traditional idea of what a model should be?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think there's definitely a huge trend in that right now. I think the media as a whole is finally starting to embrace and celebrate all different body types, and women are more confident about being themselves because of it.
SWIM DAILY: You posed for SI Swimsuit once nearly 10 years ago. Why did you want to do it again?
SERENA WILLIAMS: My friend Caroline [Wozniacki] and I were thinking of doing the shoot together. It didn't work our that way, but she and the editor MJ [Day] talked me into coming back!
SWIM DAILY: Compare posing to SI to playing in front of thousands of people at the US Open. What is more nerve racking?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Each situation brings its own set of challenges, but I honestly think SI is more nerve racking just because it's so iconic.
SWIM DAILY: Who are your role models?
SERENA WILLIAMS: My mom is my biggest role model, as well as my sister. Honestly, I would consider any woman that has the confidence to really be themselves a role model.
SWIM DAILY: How was your shoot? Are there any particular shots you're looking forward to seeing?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The shoot was amazing, but it was also pretty hard. I had to be really focused because I had to make sure all my body angles were right and my hands were in the right place and little details like that. I'm looking forward to seeing all of them because we found a really great shot for every look we did!
SWIM DAILY: Did you train for the SI Swimsuit issue any different than you'd train for a big match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely! I cut back a lot on carbs and did a lotttt more cardio! I always try to watch what I eat and I typically eat relatively healthy, but I knew I had to get really serious for this.
See all of Serena's sexy SI Swimsuit 2017 photos!