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If anyone's deserving of GQ's Woman of the Year honor, it's 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams. So why is there controversy surrounding her cover? It all comes down to the fine print. Literally.
Fans are taking issue with the fact that the word "Woman" in "Woman of the Year" is in quotation marks. Alongside the image of the 37-year-old looking fierce in a black bodysuit accessorized by a gold chain-link Chanel belt, the word "man" (not in quotes) is slashed, and "Woman" is hand-written above it.
Announcing GQ's Men (and Woman) of the Year 2018: @michaelb4jordan, @henrygolding, @jonahhill, and @serenawilliams (featuring handwriting by @virgilabloh) https://t.co/EpG3lKCJ3r #GQMOTY pic.twitter.com/6MgczSxSpq— GQ Magazine (@GQMagazine) November 12, 2018
Nicknamed “The Champion” by the magazine, William’s cover is one of four that were released for GQ's annual Men (and Woman) of the Year franchise. The other covers star honorees are Michael B. Jordan, Jonah Hill and Henry Golding.
While fans on Twitter found the tennis icon’s image itself unproblematic, they took issue with the quotation marks, which were not present for the covers of past female honorees, like Gal Gadot.
However, fans may not have noticed that the handwriting for her cover was done by Louis Vuitton’s artistic designer, Virgil Abloh, who often uses quotation marks in his work and has designed the athlete’s athletic apparel in the past, including her “Logo” tutu dress that she wore to the US Open.
Because it was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena's US Open apparel that he designed)— Mick Rouse (@mickrouse) November 12, 2018
Mick Rouse, the research manager for GQ, explained the stylistic choice for William’s cover in a Twitter thread, writing, “it was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena’ US Open apparel that he designed).”
To be fair, without the context about Abloh’s signature style, it’s easy to understand why people thought the magazine was attacking William’s womanhood. The star has previously had to deal with being called a man due her muscular body and even addressed the hurtful comments on Reddit, writing “I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong … 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 baddass body and proud of it).”
Couldn't have said it better ourselves.