Like I said, if nobody’s out there affirming you, it’s best to do it yourself, even at the risk of looking like a diva or an egoist (which no one seems to mind at all from — in fact, it’s expected of — Anna Kournikova et al). Muhammad Ali made a career of such affirmation, unapologetically preening and calling himself “pretty” so many times, the world finally (if grudgingly) believed him. He also happened to be the best at what he did, which bolstered his claims of beauty in the eyes of a society that was loath to admit bigmouthed blacks were superior in any respect, let alone two.
Serena’s hardly a bigmouth, but she’s a big presence that’s hard to minimize and, as such, she curries resentment — resentment that goes well beyond her high sartorial profile — without having to say anything. But her clothes say plenty, namely that she isgood, and that with her tanks and minis she refutes the notion that she’s a tennis machine first and a woman not at all. She certainly believes it, so it may be only a matter of time until the rest of us fall in line.
In the meantime, not to change the subject or anything, but I couldn’t help but notice that Serena’s fashion sense, which dictates that you should be able to wear anything anywhere, is right in step with the designer fall collections this year. Paging through the heftiest W magazine I’ve seen in my lifetime, I was struck at how freely fur got mixed with denim, crystal with cotton, diamonds with bathing suits, and so on. There really are no rules of dress anymore, so why should Serena follow them? Especially since she’s on a world stage that has increasingly fewer boundaries — actors are politicians, white kids are impresarios of hip-hop, and everybody’s a celebrity for the hell of it. In such an atmosphere, Serena’s assertions of self are more than reasonable. “I always considered myself an entertainer,” she remarked last month to The New York Times. “I remember always thinking of myself as a broader picture, as opposed to just your normal athlete.” Now that’s what I call claiming your space.