Serena Williams — the Black girl magic expert and tennis pro — has made some bold choices on the court at the 2018 US Open, and critics have been … well … critical. But what if the tutu and catsuit were about more than just fashion? And so what if they weren’t?
What I love about expressing fabulosity is challenging the norms of what should be worn on my body. I receive verbal harassment and laughs as if my total purpose of dressing up was to cause a commotion. My fashion choices (along with creating music) are the colors I use to paint my world. And although people in this world try to bring me down for showcasing my truth proudly, I stay in the game. Another perfect example of this concept was embodied through Serena Williams’ uniforms designed by Nike and Virgil Abloh worn in the US Open this year.
Granted, I have never sat down and watched a full tennis match, but have seen multiple clips of Serena serving superhuman powers and looks on the court. And this year, Williams has reached an apex of style and power. When Serena wore her catsuit to the first match, she mentioned how she “felt like a warrior princess” in her Black Panther-inspired look, which was received with negative responses causing it to be banned because the uniform did not “respect the game”. But did they know she was wearing that suit for blood circulation? Were misogyny and racism behind that decision to ban the catsuit? This isn’t the first instance of Serena being “disrespectful” in the game.
In the early ’90s, Serena and her sister, Venus, received criticism for sporting beaded braids on the court, while other competitors (primarily white) wore ponytails. They continued to make bold choices with their hairstyles and uniforms — reinforcing the importance of presenting black style in their arena. Along with negative feedback for effervescent style choices, Serena Williams has been drug tested five times, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (versus her sister being tested twice). She has even taken to Twitter saying, “…and it’s that time of the day to get “randomly” drug tested and only test Serena. Out of all the players it’s been proven I’m the on getting tested the most. Discrimination? I think so.” But what’s so cool about Serena is that she still pursues this career. She stays with the mantra of doing whatever it takes to have a clean sport.
I really don’t know the full intentions (although they seem quite obvious) of the catsuit being banned, but Serena instead continues to answer with class and magic. The next couple of matches Serena was seen wearing tutus in black and light violet. Although the looks were more “gender appropriate”, Serena still made a statement by bringing more glitter to the game. As someone that walks this earth like a runway in the daytime, I felt an instant connection with the controversy around the catsuit. As fabulous people, our bodies are continuously policed and causing us to fear for our lives because our truth offends people who are scared to live theirs. Serena could continue responding with angry tweets and calling out the game for their blatant prejudice, but she has decided to twirl on her haters with style and extraordinary determination to be a strong voice for black girls and female athletes around the world.