The new documentary Venus and Serena is the story of how the Williams sisters became world class tennis players. Fashion is an integral part of their rise to the top as not only athletes, but also celebrities. The sisters have a huge fan in Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who photographed them for the magazine, and routinely make headlines for their unusual on-court ensembles. Filmmaker Michelle Major spoke to BuzzFeed Fashion about the sisters’ relationship with Wintour, Serena’s love of nail art, and more. And scroll down for an exclusive clip of Wintour talking about the sisters.
Serena goes to a lot of fashion events, like fashion week. Did you tag along with her to any of them?
We filmed her getting ready for the Met Ball. We filmed her also being styled for it, which is great because you get to see all these amazing outfits and everything she tried on you were like, oh my God, if I had a body like that. One outfit that stood out was, like, from the ’80s. It had a spikey punk rock belt. She ended up wearing this swan-like gorgeous ballgown and looked very much like a fairy — a fairy godmother.
Serena at the Met Ball in 2011.
Who’s her stylist?
She has several stylists. You really have to — there’s no way you could pull it together every single time.
I remember when she was getting ready for the huge party that marks the beginning of Wimbledon, and it was a team of ten getting her ready in lightning speed.
How would you describe the Venus and Serena’s taste?
They’re not interested in sort of boring things that everyone else wears. And why would they be if they’re so into fashion? Venus designs all of her own clothing for the court, and she designed that very interesting dress that she wore for the French Open. You’d think the French would have appreciated it — it was black lace but it had chocolate colored underpants so when you lifted it up it looked like she had a bare bottom. The press went wild but she’s sort of unfazed by the response of others. She thinks it’s funny if they’re negative or critical because she’s enjoying wearing something that makes a splash.
Venus in her famous black corset/nude shorts tennis outfit.
What about Serena?
She’s said — and I kind of joke — that her nail polish color and her nails are more important than her serve.
She is very into nail art.
She does nail art. During Grand Slams, to sooth herself, she’ll sit there with her assistant and physiotherapist and her assistant is just doing their nails. Serena’s teaching them how to do nails — she’s taking courses. She’s gearing up to open her own salon. She’s been talking about this for a while — I think she got distracted because of her illness in 2011.
Where would it be?
It could be in L.A. She talks about having a reality TV show where she has a salon and she oversees the whole thing.
Like Tabatha Takes Over but with Serena?
I know she’s been studying cosmetology. But she still goes to get her nails done. She goes to the strip mall and she says, “There’s this one person who does nails here who I really, really like.”
Serena is also an icon for women who aren’t a size zero and have curvier or more athletic builds.
Serena spent a lot of time in the fashion world in major cities like New York and L.A. I know most women would do anything to be a size zero, and Serena’s sort of parading around constantly asking how her behind looks. She’s proud of her figure.
What is Anna Wintour’s relationship like with Serena Williams? Are they actually friends or do they just get photographed together at fashion shows?
At one point I was on the court, and we were filming with Serena and I was like, who are you texting? And she’s like, I’m texting with Anna!
They’re actually friends — they’re not just doing photo ops. They actualy like each other and respect each other. Anna’s a huge tennis fan, as I’m sure you know. I think there’s mutual admiration there for their individual greatness.