We love to clock diversity in fashion, so we were delighted to see tennis powerhouse Serena Williams on the April "Shape Issue" cover of Vogue.
Of course, Vogue editor Anna Wintour is a tennis fan, so Serena is not a surprising choice. Still: She's no wispy supermodel. With Williams' titanic body poured into a slate gray Rag & Bone shift dress, her chiseled face freshly scrubbed, and a bushel of hair blowing in the wind, the 33-year old sport dynamo appears steely, sensual, soft, and still in this Annie Leibowitz-shot image. (This isn't Serena's first time on Vogue; in 2012 she shared a cover with fellow US Olympians Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo.)
Inside the glossy, the tennis juggernaut's jaw-dropping curves are wrapped into the folds of a crimson Donna Karen gown, her muscular back and damn near inspiring posterior perfectly defined. While the look is positively muted compared to the splashy on-court ensembles the fierce competitor is known for, the juxtaposition between Williams' unembellished beauty and obvious strength is an empowering sight. Vogue has a reputation for having age-old ideals about race, thinness and female beauty, but with these images, the magazine boldly showcases Williams' bodacious physique.
In a year that has already seen some bungling of black women's magazine covers, it's refreshing to see Williams so perfectly depicted here. The camera doesn't shy from capturing Serena's true coloring or even the veins popping along her enviable forearms — forearms she tells the magazine that as a teenager she hated: “I wanted them to look soft." Some 15 years later, her soft strength practically oozes here, with Williams finally revealed to be the force of nature that levels anything — be it a tennis ball or fashion cover — in her path.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.