Charleston has once again welcomed tennis great Venus Williams to the annual Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island. In her 20 years as a professional athlete, she has won 23 overall Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals. At this year’s Australian Open she returned to a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2009, playing her sister, Serena, in an exciting and historic match. At the end of that match, Venus was ranked number 11 in the world.
Williams’ drive to achieve her goals is evident both on and off the court. In 2002 Williams founded V Starr Interiors, a full-service commercial and residential interior design firm. In 2007 she launched EleVen by Venus Williams, a line of athletic apparel designed to “get people moving, healthy and feeling damn good about how they look and feel.” Williams’ advice to her customers and fans is to be confident, express themselves and live without limits.
What do you like most about visiting Charleston?
The first time I came here I was 12 years old. At that time, the tournament was held in Hilton Head. I have come back many times over the years. I love Charleston’s hospitality. I love the support from the fans. And most of all I love the opportunity to play right at home in the United States!
When did you start playing tennis, and what was your typical practice schedule as a child?
I started tennis at the age of 4. As children, we practiced a good three or four hours every day, six days a week and took Sundays off. Serena and I got to a point where we were hitting up to eight hours a day as young people. That was a lot of work—but clearly it paid off!
You have praised your parents for being great coaches as well as great parents. Tell us about that—and what it has taken to achieve your goals in tennis?
My mom and dad never forgot that they were parents first—not coaches or parents vicariously chasing a dream through their child. At some point, a parent’s goal has to become your own, since no one can do the work for you. To be a professional athlete takes a tremendous amount of work. Reaching the top in my sport became my dream—and one I’m still pursuing today.
We hear you and Serena are very close, both on and off the court. What has that meant to you?
The thing about playing doubles with Serena is that she knows exactly what we have gone through. There’s nothing like just being there for each other—and, of course, it’s wonderful to play with the best player in the world!
What motivated you to design your line of women’s activewear?
I started EleVen to combine my two loves—design and sports. But it was also an opportunity to share my life experiences and translate them into something that goes beyond just me. EleVen encourages people to improve their lives, move their bodies and be “better than their best.”
What is the essence of EleVen?
The message we want to send is to “be better than a 10”—in other words, be better than your personal best, not anyone else’s. It’s about self-achievement and living life with no regrets. It’s also about style and moving in style.
Self-expression has always been very important to me— from my style on the court to my workouts in the gym to the way I approach my everyday life. I always push myself beyond my limits. That is what it means to be an EleVen.
Tell us about your favorite EleVen styles.
My favorite collection is Datura, which debuted in March of this year. The Datura collection illustrates the soft, beautiful and feminine side of my design aesthetic. Of my other lines, Thika is a fun pop print, and Intrepid is a bold geometric, so adding a floral print in the Datura collection truly reflects spring and the flowers blooming. It is important to me that EleVen is forever changing and evolving, so our customers are never bored. It’s important to me to explore every side of a woman’s personality.
Our collections for fitness, yoga, running, dance and tennis are designed to make women feel confident, strong and express their own individuality while being functional for every activity.
Where can we purchase your fashions?
EleVen is available in many boutiques, and all collections are available on our website, elevenbyvenuswilliams.com.
Tell us about V Starr, your interior design business?
V Starr is a wonderful group of designers that work on hospitality, commercial and residential projects. We work throughout the United States. Our current projects are in Miami, Orlando, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida, and in Chicago and New York. The V Starr team consists of three licensed designers and three other graduates of interior design, as well as two design assistants and me. Each team member brings amazing concepts and thoughts to the table. I would describe our design style as elegant yet fun and energetic.
What advice can you offer women about achieving their dreams?
Being true to who you are and hard work will always pay off. Have the courage to go after your dreams. Failure will become part of your success; I have failed many times, yet I’ve learned some of the most important lessons because of it … lessons about myself too. Don’t let failure deter you from pursuing your dreams.
You have said that, “success comes when you develop your own point of view and stick with it.” Please explain.
There are many ways to be “successful,” and there are many points of view. Mine worked for me, and if my inspiration can work for other people—that is amazing.
What’s your next goal in tennis?
My goal is to win. Every time I step on the court I aim to win. I’d like to win another medal at the 2020 Olympics—the gold type, of course! And, if I had my choice, I’d be playing doubles with Serena. Those doubles matches mean the world to us. A gold medal in the mix would complete it all for me.
Mary K. Love is the editor of Charleston Style & Design.