I recently had the privilege to sit down with tennis icon Venus Williams in an exclusive Q&A for Positively Positive to discuss triumphs, tribulations, creativity, and clothing.
Lara Shriftman: Tell us about the purpose behind EleVen.
Venus Williams: EleVen is better than a ten, and the name is a reminder to push the limits and go beyond what is expected. I’m pushing the boundaries of what is considered “traditional” tennis wear by incorporating graphic patterns and bold colors.
I’m inspired by ready-to-wear and there are many fashion elements in the collection, but I always pay a bit of homage to the classics. That’s just me, and the best I can do for this collection is to imbue it with as much of myself as I can.
I hide little secret, handwritten messages like “Bring It” in each piece of the collection, and I am intimately involved in every aspect of the collection from making mood boards, to casting models and designing custom patterns.
LS: Can you share with us a bit about your journey?
VW: I was born in Lynwood, California, but we moved to West Palm Beach, FL when I was ten so Serena and I could work with a trainer there. I was fourteen years old when I turned pro, so tennis has been the cornerstone of my journey as long as I can remember. But I also have so many other interests that I’m blessed to be able to pursue, like interior design and fashion design. I’m sure I’ll always keep finding new ways to express my creativity.
LS: What’s one of the greatest obstacles you have overcome?
VW: I was the first African-American to become the number one ranked tennis player in the world, and I’m proud of breaking that barrier.
LS: What challenge or adversity are you most grateful for?
VW: Back in 2005, when women and men players were not being paid equally through all rounds, I met with Wimbledon and WTA officials to try to enact a change in the rules and wrote a very public opinion piece about it in the Times. The weight of that glass ceiling ultimately provided the impetus that helped me do my part to change women’s second-class status in the game.
LS: Are there any challenges you are going through now?
VW: I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s, and I have since become vegan, which is a bit of a challenge sometimes because I really like meat. It takes discipline, and I’m not always strict about it, but I keep working on it.
LS: What are you most proud to have manifested in your life?
VW: That’s hard to say, but right now I’m really proud of myself for making it back on the courts.
LS: What’s your favorite way to unwind?
VW: Singing karaoke with friends.
LS: What are you most grateful for right now and why?
VW: My sister, Serena—always.
LS: When is the last time you have laughed at yourself?
VW: This morning. I never take myself too seriously.
LS: What do you think is the biggest key to manifesting, from someone who obviously has manifested a big dream?
VW: Never imposing limits.
LS: What are you manifesting in 2012?
VW: Making the summer Olympic team.
Lara Shriftman is co-founder of Harrison & Shriftman Public Relations and has been touted as a fashion/entertaining/PR “expert” in newspapers and magazines including Vanity Fair, Elle, Glamour, The Hollywood Reporter, Departures, The New York Times, The New York Post, Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and WWD. She has authored four books on entertaining, Fete Accompli, Fete Accompli Workbook, Party Confidential, and Party Confidential: New Etiquette for Fabulous Entertaining, and in 2007 launched a line of Party Confidential products on HSN. Lara is also a correspondent for EXTRA! with her own segment, Party Confidential.