Have a seat, Serena Williams, or should we say, have a seat, mom.
So no doubt, you guys are like me. You saw the release of Serena in that great yellow bathing suit last week and when I saw it, all I could think of was, "Gosh, why couldn't she have waited til we sat onstage for TED?" I was very selfish, I know. So I asked you about that picture, and you said nobody was supposed to see that picture. What do you mean?
Well, actually, it was an accident. I was on vacation, just taking some time for myself, and I have this thing where I've been checking my status and taking pictures every week to see how far along I'm going --
And sharing it with friends, maybe?
No, actually I have just been saving it, and I didn't really tell a lot of people, to be quite honest, and I'd been saving it, and you know how social media is, you press the wrong button and... And there it was.
So 30 minutes later—my phone doesn't ring that much—and 30 minutes later, I missed like four calls, and I'm like, that's weird, and then I picked it up and I was like, oh no. But it was a good moment. I was gonna wait literally just five or six more days—that's OK.
I know, because it was weird, Serena, because it only said 20 weeks, so it's not like there was a whole lot of information on it.
Exactly, so that's what I've been doing all this time. I've been just tracking it. 18, 19—every week I'd just take a picture and save it, and I've been so good about it, and this was the one time that I slipped.
There you go. Well, congratulations.
Yes, thank you.
It really is OK. When you heard the news, were you excited? Were you afraid? Were you worried? That you were pregnant, I mean.
So I heard it two days before the beginning of the Australian Open, which is one of the biggest grand slams.
You found out two days before?
Yeah, so it was two days before, and I knew. I was nervous. I wasn't quite sure what to think, but I just knew that at that moment it was really important for me to just focus right there at the Australian Open, and I was definitely not sure what to do. I was like, can I play? I know it's very dangerous, maybe, sometimes in the first 12 weeks or so, so I had a lot of questions.
But not only did you play, Ms. Williams, you won.
Yeah. May I just say, 23 grand slams to you.
Well, I was looking for another handicap, so...no.
Did you play differently that game, knowing you were pregnant?
I did. It wasn't very easy. You hear all these stories about people when they're pregnant, they get sick and they get tired.
Have you had morning sickness?
No, I've been so fortunate and so I haven't. But they get really tired and they get really stressed out, and I had to really take all that energy, put it in a paper bag, so to say, and throw it away, because I really felt like I didn't have time to deal with any extra emotions, any extra anything, because pregnant or not, no one knew, and I was supposed to win that tournament as I am every tournament that I show up. I am expected to win, and if I don't win, it's actually much bigger news.
Yeah, when you don't win, that's a big story.
Yes, so for me, I had to really take anything negative and any emotions that I was feeling at that point and kind of just bottle them up and really figure out what the next step for me to do was.
You have a lot of support. You have a lot of love. Even when I was coming here, people stopped me at the airport. I was saying to the flight attendant, the pilot, "Guess where I'm going?" They said, "Oh my God, we're so glad she's pregnant." But then you always have these cranky Yankees. On the way over here, somebody was telling me about Ilie Nastase, who said some very unkind, inappropriate, dare I say racial things. You have responded to him. What did you say? I'm not even going to dignify what he said, but you responded. Why did you respond?
Well, I think there are very inappropriate comments, and not only that, I've been really supportive of my peers and the people that I've worked with. I've been a pro for almost 20 years, and so for me, it's really important to hold women up, and it's something that these young women, they'll come to the locker room, they'll want to take pictures with me, and for me, it's just like, I want to be able to be a good leader and a good example for them. So not only --
Not only did he have rude things to say about me and my peers, I felt it was important for us to stand up for each other and to stand up for myself. And at that point it was really important for me to say, like, I'm not afraid, I'm not going anywhere, but this is inappropriate, and there's time and there's a place for everything. And that really wasn't the time and the place.
We cut the part where you said you're not going anywhere, because you'll be 36 in September. Baby's coming, 36. And your coach said age is always important, but in tennis it's very important, but he has no doubt that you're coming back. Have you thought, am I coming back? Will I take some time off? I know the women on the tour are saying, "How long does it take to have a baby? Two years will she be gone?" What are you thinking?
Well, I'm always trying to defy the odds, you know, so for me everything is really mental. I definitely plan on coming back. I'm not done yet. I'm really inspired by my sister. She's a year older than me, and that's something that—if she's still playing, I know I can play.
And there's so many—Roger Federer, he's a little bit older than me and he's still winning everything, so I'm like, I know I can do that too. So that's been so inspiring to me, especially recently, and I know that it's something I want to do. And my story is definitely not over yet. I was talking to my coach about it, and we were talking about how this is just a new part of my life, and my baby's going to be in the stands and hopefully cheering for me, not crying too much.
No, you wrote a beautiful letter to your baby yesterday that you said—from the oldest mommy to the youngest one, to the oldest, to the youngest, I can't wait for you to get here. A lot of people feel that. I saw you about a year ago, because I think about your life, Serena. You've had three life-changing things in a six-month time: pregnant, huge win, fell in love. And when I saw you last year, I was saying, "How's your love life? Da da da." You said, "I met a guy. He's a nerdy, kinda geeky guy. You won't know who he is." I said, "What's his name?" I remember talking to you about that, yes. And you said, "Alexis Ohanian." I said, "I know him!" He's awesome. But I would never put you with a nerdy geek, and you said, you neither.
I'm going to be honest with you, I didn't either, but it's been the best thing for me.
The best thing why? Does that look like a nerdy geek? Look at the shirt.
No, he's a very nice guy.
You can tell he's into technology.
He's a very, very nice guy. I like him very much. So how did he succeed when others have failed? How was he the one that you knew, this is the one for me?
Well, I'm not going to say that, but...
Say it, Serena, say it!
But you know what I mean.
He is very loving and he's very kind, and my mom says he's very considerate, and when she said that to me, I was like, you know, he really is, and it's the little things that really make a huge difference in life.
Something simple. My fashion company, we have a show every year, so in our show last year, I was running around like crazy, because I do everything for the show, and everything for it, so I was running around like crazy, and he, it was a simple gesture of this shirt that he had, and he just wanted to make sure that I had the same one, and it was—it's a weird story. It was better in person, I promise.
Was it a wonderful proposal? Or was it a Beyonce song? "If you like it then you ought to put a ring on it"? Were you feeling pressure to get married? Did you know it was coming?
Yeah, I actually never felt pressure to get married and I can't say I'm the marrying type of person. I really love my life. I love my freedom. I heard that kind of changes. But I love everything that I do, and I love my career, and I always felt like I didn't want anything to interfere with that. I've actually been so career-oriented and in fact, when he proposed, I was almost angry. Not almost. I was angry, because it was right in the middle of my training season, and I said, "I gotta win the Australian Open. I can't fly to Rome." Because he wanted to take me to Rome, and I said, "I can't. I gotta win." But that's how focused I was.
This is a girl that says, "No, I can't go to Rome." OK.
But I was really focused on reaching my goals and I knew at that point there was one player that I wanted to pass. I wanted to pass Steffi Graf's record, and that really meant a lot to me, and when I put my mind to something, I really am determined to reach it no matter what.
You know, you said that for you—I've heard you say that winning is addictive to you.
What do you mean?
I feel like winning for me is super addictive. I feel like once you experience it, you always want to get that feeling again, and when I won my first championship, I was only 17 years old, but I never forgot that feeling, and I feel like every time I win one, I want to reach that feeling of your first championship. There's really no feeling in the world like that. And it's like, all these years of training and being a little kid and playing, and then winning is a wonderful experience. So for me I've always felt like I loved that feeling, and obviously I don't like the feeling of losing. I feel like --
No, in fact, people close to you say you're a very bad loser.
I'm not the best loser.
That you're very, very, very bad. Listen, no athlete, no champion likes to lose. I get that. But they say when it comes to losing, you are very, very, very bad at it.
I'm number one at losing too, so you know, that's all I can say.
I'm always curious about the dynamic between you and Venus, because everybody that knows you and has followed the story knows that you two are very close, and you always bring your A game in whatever you do, but I often wonder, when you're playing her, do you bring your A- game because you want to do something for her or do you bring your A++ game because you want to crush her. Is it harder for you playing her or easier?
Well, playing Venus is like playing myself, because we grew up playing each other, we grew up practicing together. And it was something that has been difficult, because she's my toughest opponent. She's tall, she's fast, she hits hard like me, she serves like me. It's really like playing a wall.
She knows you.
She knows where I'm hitting the ball before I hit it, so it's something that is not very easy, but it's really about, when I go out there, I really have to shut down my mind and I have to say to myself, "You know what? I'm just playing a great player, but today I have to be better. I don't care who it is, if it's my sister or it's my friend, today is the day I have to show up and I have to be better and I have to want it more than anyone else at this moment anywhere on this world."
So never on the court do you fall back for Venus? Because, you know, it was always Venus and Serena.
And now baby sister has surpassed older sister. Do you feel guilt about that? Do you feel joy in that? Is that a difficult position for you?
I don't feel anything in there. In my life, it still and forever is always going to be Venus and Serena. She's really love of my life, she's my best friend, she's my soul mate. I mean... There's pictures of her pushing me, really low-quality pictures or else I would have shared them, of her pushing me in a stroller on a tennis court, and she always took care of me. I used to spend all of my allowance money on the ice cream truck and stuff, and she would take her money and give it to me at school and make sure I had something to eat and she would go without, and that's the kind of person she actually is since I've always known her. So we always have this incredible respect for each other and this incredible love, and I think it's important for people to realize you can be successful but you can still have a wonderful relationship. On the court we are mortal enemies, but the second we shake hands, we are best friends again. And if I lose, it might be a day later for me, but for Venus --
There's never a time on the court where you hit the ball and say, "That's for seventh grade when you did the blah blah blah"? You never have any moment like that?
I feel like she should have those moments, because she's never done anything bad to me, but I'm the youngest. I'm the younger sister.
Serena, she's never done anything bad to you? Really? I have three sisters. I can think of some stuff I've done bad.
Unless she brainwashed me to forget them.
No, but the love you have for her I know is very pure. I know that.
I know that.
We were always brought up to be super close, and we are incredibly close. Not only her. I have three other sisters as well, and we were always so close.
So before a big match, the two of you don't get together and say, look, we're going to go out there and—there's nothing?
Well, it's funny. Before the Australian Open, we were in the locker room together, and I always pick on her, so I pulled out my camera while she was changing. I started taking pictures of her, which is totally inappropriate, but she was so mad at me. She's like, "Serena, stop!" And I was just laughing at her. But that's the kind of relationship that we have, and like I said, the second we step on the court, it was like, we were definitely mortal enemies, but the second we stepped off, and moments before, we're just—It is what it is, because at the end of the day, she'll always be my sister. I'm not going to play Australia in—Well, who knows, I've been playing forever, but I don't think I'll be playing in 50 years, say? Let's be safe and say 50 years.
I don't know, Serena. There's never been anybody like you. When you think about it, never been anybody who has intersected gender and race the way you have, the dominance that you have and the scrutiny that you have. And when you were growing up, did you say, "I want to be like that"? Because now little girls are looking at you saying, "I want to be like that." Who was the "I want to be like that" for you?
Well, it's interesting, and I'm glad you brought that up. For me, when I grew up, I always wanted to be the best, and I said, if you want to be the best, you've got to emulate the best. So when I started to go on tour when I was really young, I would see Steffi Graf, I would see Monica Seles, and I would even see Pete Sampras, and I would see what they did, and I noticed that Steffi and Monica didn't really talk to a lot of the other players, and they kind of were on their own, and they were just so focused and I would see Pete Sampras, the technique that he did, and I was like, "I want to do that." So I did that, and I felt that to be the best, and if you want to be the best, you have to hang around people and you have to look at people that are the best, because you're not going to be the best if you're looking at someone that's not at the top level.
People say nobody works as hard as you.
I'm a very hard worker. GK: That's what I heard.
People say, "Oh, she's talented, she's athletic." Actually, I wasn't. I was really small for my age. I grew up when I got older, and I had to work really hard, and I think one of the reasons why I fight so hard and I work so hard is because I was really, really, really small.
Yeah. You are no longer small.
No, I'm fully grown now. But I was small when I was really young for whatever reason. I think Venus maybe ate all the Wheaties.
You know, the other thing people talk about is your body. Your body brings men and women to their knees. And I mean in a good way. A lot has been made about your body. It's a work of art, it's masculine, it's glorious, there's never been anything like it. Did you have body issues when you were growing up? Have you always been comfortable with your body?
It's interesting, because when you're a teenage female growing up in the public eye, it is a lot of scrutiny that you face, and as any female that's a teenager, I definitely was not comfortable in my body. I didn't like it. I didn't understand why I had muscles. And I stopped lifting weights. I was like, I'm not going to do this. But then after I won the US Open, I realized that my body helped me reach goals that I wanted to reach, and I wanted to be happy with it, and I was so appreciative of it. I'm always healthy. I'm really fortunate and super blessed, and I felt like not only am I happy with my body, but I want other people and other young girls that have experienced what I've experienced to be happy with themselves. So whatever people say—masculine, whatever, too much, too little—I'm OK with it as long as I love myself.
I know you learn a lot from winning, but what have you learned from losing?
I hate to lose, but I think losing has brought me here today. The only reason I am who I am is because of my losses, and some of them are extremely painful, but I wouldn't take any of them away, because every time I lose, it takes a really long time for me to lose again because I learn so much from it. And I encourage everyone that I talk to—I'm like, listen, if you lose or if something happens—not in sports—in business or in school—learn from it. Don't live in the past, live in the present, and don't make the same mistakes in the future. That's something that I always try to live by.
Now you're planning a wedding and I want to know, is it a destination wedding in the Catskills or Poconos or are you going to do it in Florida? What are you thinking? Big or small?
We're thinking medium size. We don't want to do too big, but then we're like, OK, we can't say no to this person, this person. So we're thinking medium size and we're just thinking—my personality is a lot of fun. Hopefully you can see that today. I'm not too serious.
And you like to dance. And the next chapter for Serena Williams is what?
Oh, next for me. Obviously I'm going to have a baby and I'm going to stay fit and kind of come back and play tennis and keep working on my fashion line. That'll be really fun.
Do you know if it's a boy or girl?
I don't. I have a feeling of one or the other. It's a 50-50 chance, but I have a feeling.
Gayle is a unisex name. Whatever you and Alexis decide, we are cheering you on!
You're welcome. We are cheering you on, Serena Williams. Thank you so much.