Making over Serena Williams
The juggernaut media spectacle surrounding LeBron James that culminated in a wildly self-indulgent primetime employer-switching special got me thinking whether any female athlete would ever be able to get away with ring-leading such a narcissistic circus. If anyone deserves to be on the level of celebrity and power warranting such silliness, it would be Serena Williams, the tennis powerhouse who just strolled to her 13th grand slam title at Wimbledon.
But instead, Williams – who, unlike LeBron, has no team but her own – has a much less noteworthy spread in Harper’s Bazaar, where she dishes not on her career demands or her insatiable need to win, a la King James, but on her diet regimen and evolving fashion sense. And though she’s one of sports’ all-time greatest competitors, her warrior-like spirit comes uncomfortably close to being mocked in a “fashion faceoff” feature pitting Serena against her sister Venus.
It’s all a part of what has become a staple in beauty magazines: the ubiquitous makeover feature in which a talented female who doesn’t conform to beauty standards is polished and buffed until they’re sufficiently girl-ified. It’s a trend that has been thrust upon ladies from Susan Boyle to
track star Caster Semanya to *Jersey Shore’s female contingent*.
But what’s even more maddening than an athlete of Williams’ mind-boggling ability being fawned over for losing 10 pounds and sporting a new sassy new “fresh bob,” instead of say, being one of the most dominant athletes – male or female – of the past century, is the reaction the makeover piece has already spawned.
Despite Williams’ own explanation in the article that she began eating more sensibly and trying to “lean out” her body was something she undertook to make her even more of a threat on the court, and to stay healthier in the long run, the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan characterizes Williams’s efforts, and the photoshoot, simply as an effort to “revamp her image” after losing her temper at a line judge during last year’s U.S. Open. Why Givhan makes this formulation, given that Williams makes no mention of the incident in the article, isn’t clear – except that whereas male stars like Ron Artest with a history of on-court outbursts can walk away from that image, but women athletes like Williams (whose verbal tirade was far less serious) apparently need to spend the rest of their careers running from it.