By the tender age of 14, Venus Williams had already become a professional athlete, taking the world of tennis by storm. Fiercely determined and wielding an impressive physical prowess, she spent the next decade rising to the top-ranked position and winning numerous championships, including the US Open, Wimbledon, and doubles at the Australian Open and French Open, in addition to three Olympic Gold medals.
Currently, Williams holds 43 WTA Tour titles, which include seven singles Grand Slams. In July of 2008, she won her fifth Wimbledon Championship in a riveting match against her sister, Serena Williams. Williams now joins the ranks of only a handful of legendary women's singles tennis champions who have won five or more Wimbledon championships. In true champion form, Williams has been known to break records: during the 2007 French Open she made history with a record-breaking serve of 129 miles per hour, and she tied this record during the 2008 Wimbledon tournament, making this the fastest serve ever recorded in women's tennis history. In 2005, after an intense two-hour, 45-minute match against Lindsay Davenport, Williams took home her third Wimbledon championship. This match was to go down in history as the longest women's final in Wimbledon's 128-year history. This victory further validated her excellence and in November of 2005, Glamour magazine named her one of their "Women of the Year."
Not only is Williams a force in the tennis world, the fashion community has also taken notice of her grace and elegance. She has been photographed by some of the most world-renowned photographers for top fashion publications around the world. She has even been the subject of a coffee table book photographed by avant-garde photographer Koto Bolofo. Appropriately titled Venus, this exquisite book offers a unique perspective of the legendary athlete. Presented in the book are rare and striking images of Williams' physical beauty, as well as her life as an international tennis star. Photographer Koto Bolofo was granted unrivalled access to Venus Williams during her private moments as well as her public tournaments to create this beautiful book.
In September 2009, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Williams with the Americanism Award for publicly speaking up for tennis player Shahar Pe'er who was denied a visa from participating in the Dubai tennis tournament. In accepting her award, Williams spoke of the importance of treating all people equally and speaking out against injustice. A true believer of equal rights, she became the first to be named "UNESCO Promoter of Gender Equality," stating, "Through my partnership with UNESCO, my goal is to let women and girls throughout the world know that there are no glass ceilings, and to do my part to support programs that provide real opportunities for women to succeed in whatever they set their minds to."
Williams has parlayed her fine-tuned business acumen with her healthy competitive spirit to excel in several ventures. She has gained a comprehensive education on the business side of the sport as well, stating, "It's my business. It's what I do. I will prepare, I will set myself up to be the best, whether that best is best in the world or my personal best." It's a mindset that has served her well as she's reached adulthood and begun looking beyond tennis. July 5, 2010, her book, Come to Win: Venus and Friends on Life Lessons Beyond the Playing Field hit the bookshelves; it reached #5 on The New York Times Bestseller list.
In addition to her worldwide tennis competitions, the young entrepreneur is a uniquely creative designer. Moreover, she has become a certified decorator and owner of V Starr Interiors, a successful interior design firm based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The transformation from tennis force majeur to savvy businesswoman didn't happen overnight. It had been brewing all along, instilled in her early by her parents and embraced by the bright youngster. "Tennis doesn't define me," she states defiantly. "My parents taught me to be really well-rounded and to be more than just an athlete." So, while winning countless matches across the globe and becoming an icon for youth and women everywhere, she took note of changing styles for both interior design and fashion.
"In my late teens, I realized that I love design and it was something that I wanted to pursue," says Williams. True to her bold spirit, she simply enrolled in fashion design school while off-tour. She followed her dreams and recently earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and became a Certified Interior Decorator.
Her entrepreneurial spirit and design success does not end there. In November of 2007, she launched her clothing line EleVen, which was the largest clothing line ever launched by a female athlete.
With all her design interests, Williams devotes considerable energy to hands-on involvement in the design process, creating clothing that is youthful but decidedly non-trendy. "The key to it all is coming out and giving my input. I make sure that I stay on top of things so they're real sassy, with lots of color and more daring cuts. My personality is going into the design," she notes, "so it's also pushing the envelope because, when it comes to style or design, once things are in style, I absolutely don't want to wear them!"
Laughing delightfully at this proud admission of self-expression, she adds, "I don't like mainstream. I want to be ahead of the curve. I don't like to be the same as everybody." There's little chance of that happening: even while balancing dual careers, Williams seeks out study in other interests, learning piano, guitar, and bass during her rare time off. "I get bored really easily," she admits, "so I'm constantly finding new things. I should probably slow down… but I can't."