We know Venus Williams as one of the foremost tennis players of her generation – an incredibly talented competitor who helped carry the sport into the 21st century along with her sister, Serena Williams.
Venus Williams, 32, has been dominant in tennis long enough that one might be forgiven for forgetting that she is not just an athlete.
The tennis star recently spoke on a range of topics with ABC News’ John Schriffen at Courgette, a Midtown New York City hotspot, during a fundraiser for the non-profit organization Driving Force Giving Circle. The charity was co-founded by Serena Williams and is committed to supporting education and community-building efforts.
Supporting the growth of young people is important to Venus Williams and her sister. Mindful of being a role model, she has some advice for young girls.
“Believe in yourself," she said. "You’ve got to take that chance, even if it’s hard, even if it doesn’t make sense: Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do and, at some point, you will. With self-belief comes self-esteem, as well. All of those things contribute to making good decisions for yourself. That’s so important for young women.”
Williams practices what she preaches. She’s stepped outside of, if not away from, tennis, to develop her own fashion line, Eleven by Venus.
“It’s about giving your best, going past a 10, not settling … what my life has been like in my career," she said.
Williams comes by her secondary profession honestly.
“I went to school for fashion design, so I’m right at home in design studios.”
Her label is “my vision of what I think active wear should look like, and I have a lot of fun wearing it on the court. I do get antsy, because once a collection comes out, I’m ready for the next one. So it’s really sad, nothing’s good enough for me, apparently.”
Fashion forays aside, Venus Williams is not ready to hang up her racket just yet, noting, “I’ve got a lot more to do. I love the game. I feel like I have so much more to give to tennis.”
In a career studded with highlights, one recent moment stands out: the 2012 Olympics. Though she was not successful in the singles competition, Venus and Serena Williams won gold for their country in women’s doubles.
For Williams, that doubles victory “was definitely one of the most special moments in my career.”
If she can stay healthy, she’d like to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’m counting down to the Rio games," she said, "so that’s [on] my radar right now.”
Though she’s played countless matches with innumerable opponents, Venus Williams is clear about her toughest rival: her sister.
“She’s a player that I have the most respect for," Venus Williams said. "That rivalry is ongoing.”
Venus acknowledged that their sisterly competition is a “once-in-a-generation experience. I can’t describe how wonderful it is. … It’s something I realize that’s very special.”
Is it difficult facing off against a loved one in a high-pressure competition?
“Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose every match,” she said. “We both give 100 percent and try not to be the one that loses.”
Off the court, the two rely on each other for support – and fun.
Tennis fans “would be surprised at how silly we are. We have not grown up.”
Case in point: “I could walk home to the house to [find] Serena singing karaoke at, like, two in the afternoon and I’m, like, "OK." Next thing you know, I’ll join right in, and two hours have passed. … That’s the kind of home that we have. … We have fun, that’s how our life is.”
As to which of the tennis titans is a better singer, Williams is politely mum.
“Neither one of us is going to be having an album anytime soon, let’s put it that way,” she said.