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Tennis superstar Serena Williams welcomed her first child with fiance Alexis Ohanian Sept. 1, and if the open letter she posted to Reddit Tuesday evening is any indicator, she’s already looking at parenthood through new eyes.
The four-time gold medalist posted a photo of her newborn daughter (who will go by her middle name, Olympia, if the baby’s new Instagram handle is any indicator) next to a photo of herself on the tennis court, and reflected on what it was like to grow up as an athlete in the public eye.
“I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong,” Williams wrote. “It has been said that that I use drugs… It has been said I don’t belong in Women’s sports — that I belong in Men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do.”
As a public figure now faced with bringing up her own kid in the public eye, Williams seems astounded that her mother was able to weather her young daughters’ careers in the ’90s. “Mom, I’m not sure how you did not go off on every single reporter, person, announcer and quite frankly, hater, who was too ignorant to understand the power of a black woman,” she wrote. “…Thank you for being the role model I needed to endure all the hardships that I now regard as a challenges–ones that I enjoy. I hope to teach my baby Alexis Olympia the same, and have the same fortitude you have had.”
Here is her full letter:
You are one of the strongest women I know. I was looking at my daughter (OMG, yes, I have a daughter 😳) and she has my arms and legs! My exact same strong, muscular, powerful, sensational arms and body. I don’t know how I would react if she has to go through what I’ve gone through since I was a 15 year old and even to this day.
I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong. It has been said that that I use drugs (No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage). It has been said I don’t belong in Women’s sports — that I belong in Men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it).
But mom, I’m not sure how you did not go off on every single reporter, person, announcer and quite frankly, hater, who was too ignorant to understand the power of a black woman.
I am proud we were able to show them what some women look like. We don’t all look the same. We are curvy, strong, muscular, tall, small, just to name a few, and all the same: we are women and proud!
You are so classy, I only wish I could take your lead. I am trying, though, and God is not done with me yet. I have a LONG way to go, but thank you.
Thank you for being the role model I needed to endure all the hardships that I now regard as a challenges–ones that I enjoy. I hope to teach my baby Alexis Olympia the same, and have the same fortitude you have had.
Promise me, Mom, that you will continue to help. I’m not sure if I am as meek and strong as you are yet. I hope to get there one day. I love you dearly.
Your youngest of five,
Shoutout to moms.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.