June 14, 2024
Serena Williams

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 3: Serena Williams of USA during Day 8 of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros stadium on June 3, 2018 in Paris, France. Photo: Jean Catuffe (Getty Images)

As she looks back on the controversial 2018 French Open outfit, we’re reminded that Black women’s health should be more of a priority.
With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Serena Williams’ total domination on the tennis court earns her a place among the world’s elite athletes. But at the 2018 French Open, her outfit got more attention than her play. Now, in an April 16 interview with CNN, the tennis star is sharing her reflections on the catsuit that had everyone talking.

“I didn’t know it would have such an impact. Here I am just trying to be healthy. I was a new mom and just trying, you know, to be me. It was a great moment. I didn’t know it would cause such a stir,” she said.

Ready to defend her title in Paris, Williams wore a simple black Nike catsuit with a red band around the waist. Stepping onto the court one year after winning in 2017 (while she was two months pregnant, by the way) and months after giving birth to her daughter Olympia, Williams said her outfit made her feel powerful.

“I feel like a warrior in it, a warrior princess … from Wakanda, maybe,” she told reporters at the time. “I’ve always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero.”

Tournament officials weren’t impressed. French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli announced they would implement a dress code at the tournament going forward, and catsuits like Serena’s were off limits.

“It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place,” he said at the time.

But Giudicelli and other critics didn’t know that Williams’ catsuit was about more than a fashion statement – it was about her health.

While giving birth to her daughter, Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in her lungs – the life-threatening condition left her in the hospital for nearly a week. She wrote about the terrifying experience in an essay for Elle, which shed a light on how she had to advocate for herself when doctors dismissed concerns.

“I’ve had a lot of problems with my blood clots, God I don’t know how many I’ve had in the past 12 months,” she told the press at a French Open news conference in 2018. “I’ve been wearing pants in general a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going.”

And now, she’s advocating for herself again, defending her decision to wear a suit that was designed for function, rather than form.

“I love wearing skirts. Don’t get me wrong, they’re like my favorite thing to wear, my tennis dresses, but I wanted to make sure that my blood was always circulating and I had been in a near-death experience,” she told CNN.

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