WASHINGTON, March 5, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Serena Williams didn’t necessarily begin her tennis career thinking she was going to be breaking down barriers, but she has done just that. Over the years, as Williams has become more conscious of the impact she’s had on both sport and society, she’s found herself with a platform and an opportunity to make a difference. Now, at age 36, Williams embraces being a leader who can pave the way for the next generation of female athletes.
On Sunday night, during the 90th Academy Awards telecast, Nike celebrated the life of Serena Williams. In a 30-second spot, which featured a montage of footage of Williams on the tennis court throughout her storied career, the Nike ad included a voiceover by the 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion, who made a powerful statement about womanhood, race and motherhood.
I’ve never been the right kind of woman.
Oversized and overconfident,
Too mean if I don’t smile.
Too black for my tennis whites.
Too motivated for motherhood.
But I’m proving time and time again …
There’s no wrong way to be a woman.
Against a dark backdrop, the spot concluded with the words “Until we all win” next to a Nike logo.
The ad was created by Wieden + Kennedy of Portland, Oregon.
A two-page Nike print ad featuring Williams, also created by Wieden + Kennedy, appeared in Sunday’s New York Times. It said:
You told a little girl she was too black for her tennis whites.
And she grew up to be Serena Williams.
In a statement, Nike said, “As we approach International Women’s Day, Nike wanted to recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of women everywhere and share our belief in gender equality, in this case, delivered by Serena Williams, the greatest athlete of all time.”
Nike, it seems, has always maintained a good pulse on cultural relevancy. On Sunday night, it leveraged an opportunity to elevate Williams’s stature as athlete, who breaks down barriers and inspires women, before not only a large and captive prime-time audience watching the Oscars telecast in the U.S., but also a worldwide audience, too.
“I’m still looking to the future, to breaking down additional barriers, like gender equity and pay equality,” said Williams, in a statement released by Nike. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and I’m going to keep on going and working at it, and I encourage others to use their voice and their platforms to do the same.”
Becoming a mother has definitely been a game changer for Williams, and she said her fight for change and gender equality is something she’s doing on behalf of her six-month-old daughter, Alexis. “I want my daughter to be truthful and honest, strong and powerful; to realize that she can impact those around her,” said Williams. “I want her to grow up knowing a woman’s voice is extremely powerful. As females, we need to continue to be loud and make sure we are heard.”
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.