It’s that time of the year again, when the biggest stars in tennis take the courts of the U.S. Open. But the sport’s most popular player is notably missing from the action, and possibly going into labor as we speak.
Serena Williams, who publicly announced her pregnancy back in April, is absent from the tournament for the first time in her lengthy career, instead embracing her time on maternity leave. The 35-year-old couldn’t have timed the milestone more perfectly. And though there would be no bigger win than for Williams to have her baby during the Open, fans of the tennis superstar will be sure to miss her incredible maternity style once the day arrives.
Yahoo Style spoke exclusively with Kesha McLeod, Williams’s stylist and the creator of KMCME, who has worked with the athlete for more than eight years now. Through their work together, McLeod admits to knowing the ins and outs of her client’s body — so much so that she noticed a change perhaps even before the athlete did herself.
“I’m a woman, and I know how women go through body changes. I think it was just that her breasts were not going down,” McLeod shares about when she first began to think that Williams might be pregnant. “Her bra sizes are very consistent, so I remember having to reach out to Berlei to get a different bra size, and then it just stayed above what it initially was. That made me ask and question, and figure it out without asking her directly until she told me.”
Williams talked about her own experience with her bodily changes in an interview with Vanity Fair, where she also mentioned that her breasts had grown. Although she was still active and playing her sport, she told the magazine that “she felt a little different physically.”
“She wasn’t gaining weight because she had been playing,” McLeod explains. “There’s usually two weeks where she fluctuates, especially when she’s in and out of tournaments because you tend to gain five to 10 pounds when you’re off. But she wasn’t out, she was still in, so it was very weird that her breasts were still really big.”
The fluctuation that McLeod talks about is common for all of the athletes that she works with, including the men. While it seems that women may be more susceptible to changes in their weight, the stylist points out that her male athletes go through intentional body changes on a more regular basis.
“Women, we can just wake up and be five pounds heavier. Guys, their changes come from what they do during their workout, what their chef cooked the night before, what they’re allergic to and different diets,” she says. “Andre Iguodala always fluctuates in his weight because he changes his diet just depending on how he’s playing — if he wants to be faster, or if he’s playing a different position. Not so much that the public would see it, but I would see it because of how I see him and how I work with him. Certain waists in jeans don’t fit or certain belts never fit. It was always a different thing that him and I always had to have fittings when finalizing his looks.”
Fittings have seemingly become more far and few between for McLeod, who calls herself a visual architect, as she gets more involved in the styling of her clients. Through the years that she’s worked with them, she’s learned a lot about their sizing. For Williams in particular, she’s learned about the different ways to flatter her muscular figure into a feminine fit.
“One of the things I have to be conscious of is her arm and shoulder build,” McLeod says in regard to Williams. “Using different types of halters often made her look too muscular, when in reality I put a cap sleeve or something long sleeve on her, and you don’t see it. It’s all about figuring out what shapes work and what shades work to soften her image as far as dressing her when she’s not working.”
Styling all her athletes off the court comes with the task of branding them in a way that reveals their personal style and their true personality. McLeod often has to remind people that seeing her clients in a uniform can only reveal so much, while taking more risks off the court can illustrate a different side of the individual.
“For example, with Serena, you see her as a dominant women on the court, and just a very strong, powerful force. I kind of bring out the softer side, the more feminine side that not a lot of people are seeing,” McLeod explains. “I know her personally, so I am able to bring these things out for the public to see.”
Throughout Williams’s pregnancy, McLeod notes that the tennis player had attained an extra boost of confidence with her baby belly.
“I think the most noticeable change is that she’s accepted this pregnancy to be part of her fashion wardrobe,” McLeod says. “You’ve seen a lot of her photoshoots that she’s done since she revealed, and there’s a certain type of uniqueness to it now. With styling her, I feel like all of her clothes work better with her. This is just a very nice and enjoyable moment that I’m just being a part of with her.”
As for styling the tennis star in post-pregnancy, McLeod expects to give Williams some time to relax and enjoy motherhood instead of pressuring her to get back to her pre-pregnancy body.
“It’s OK to still wear some of your maternity dresses upon leaving the hospital, and within that month,” she says. “Then you can get back to your normal self as things start settling down. I know Serena’s body will still be going through 10 months’ worth of changes. It’s OK to relax and to give everybody their time to come back into their fashion moment. I think that all moms should know that.”
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Amal Clooney has totally changed since giving birth — and her dress is proof
- Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Demi Moore, and Other Celebs Who’ve Posed Pregnant
- Mom makes adorable mommy-daughter outfits out of bed sheets