Yet through it all, Williams has rarely been a fan favorite. It wasn’t until she’d won her 17th or 18th Grand Slam that the public really started to root for her, argues Jill Smoller, a partner at William Morris Endeavor, and Williams’s agent.
Now, though, the tennis superstar has finally secured her place as a superhero in the public imagination–even as she struggles to get her playing career back on track, to be a mother, a businesswoman, and a positive model for success. Speaking at Game On: Winning in Sports, Technology, and Business in San Jose on Monday, Smoller laid out some of Williams’s biggest challenges, and shared her thoughts on how she thinks the woman who’s often known simply as “Serena” has persevered over her long stellar career, and in her life off the court.Sponsored:
Part of what makes Williams’s story so compelling, Smoller notes, is that the athlete spent years in the crosshairs of many of the world’s most challenging issues, including racism and sexism.
For years, Williams was seen as one of the biggest badasses in sports–an overwhelming physical phenomenon whose male counterpart might be LeBron James. But perhaps because of her years of triumph over her tennis rivals, she wasn’t seen as sympathetic. “People have to feel like you’re invested and you really care about what you’re doing out there,” Smoller says. Fans “want to know that somebody gives a shit out there, and that they care . . . They want to know that you’re bleeding out on the court.”
These days, people see Serena Williams in a different light, and that may be because of how, Smoller says, Williams is trying to use her platform to effect positive change–whether that’s continuing to play tennis so that her daughter can eventually see her in action, or working to be a positive voice for change.
What’s so impressive is that Williams has maintained her place atop the tennis world and as a major public presence. And that’s something she’s had to earn by being clear what it is she wants to do, and who she wants to be. “What they don’t teach you when you’re younger,” Smoller says, “is that it’s so much harder to stay there than it is to get there. And if you don’t have a purpose bigger than what you start with, it’s impossible.”
Source : https://www.fastcompany.com/90211715/if-badass-serena-williams-can-get-off-the-mat-so-can-you