With her 18th career U.S. Open appearance steadily approaching (August 29), Venus Williams is ready to add another Grand Slam title to her belt. To make this tennis tournament more memorable, American Express partnered up with the racket-swinging titan for a series of short digital video vignettes, giving fans and attendees a glimpse of what is means to be “Open Like A Pro” via the onsite U.S. Open American Express Fan Experience.
In the clips (below), the Compton-native subtly touches on various topics that go through many athletes’ minds, from what to eat and fuel the body with, to what to wear for a championship match, to having a strong mindset on those repetitive training days. Aside from showcasing a personality not often seen on the court, the entrepreneur is seen wearing pieces from the Prism Collection in her very own clothing line, EleVen by Venus Williams.
VIBE had the chance to chat with the Olympic medal winning athlete (before the clips’ premiere) to talk about how she prepares for a major competition, what sports have taught her about life, as well as how she overcomes the stigma of being a tennis player running a business in the fashion realm.
Venus Williams: Yeah, I think my first time working with American Express was in 1997. I was 17 years old or was I 18? It was during that time when I was very young. I think that was the first year that I got to do a commercial, so a lot of great memories.
Definitely a very exciting time. Tell us about the newest campaign you’re working with them on, “Open Like A Pro?”
Yes, it’s all about preparing like a pro. As a professional athlete, there’s so much that goes into your preparation. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see. So we had a fun take on kind of what I do. We played with fashion. We played with, actually, oranges and orange juice to play on nutrition and all of that stuff. We had a lot of fun with bringing people into that full U.S. Open experience.
Let us find out you can dance! What’s your favorite dance move?
(Laughs) I can actually do the wave. I feel like I didn’t do it in the commercial. I’m not sure. I should’ve done it in the commercial.
You mentioned that this campaign also deals with fashion. Does this mean your athletic apparel line, EleVen by Venus Williams, is featured in the campaign?
Yes, and we featured what I’m wearing at this year’s U.S. Open in one of the clips where I’m trying to decide what I should wear. We had some fun with that.
Dope. Now this will be your 18th U.S. Open. Are you ready? How do you even feel about that?
(Laughs) Is it 18? You’re kidding? It’s surreal actually. It’s surreal. I’m so blessed to be able to play that many. I’m looking forward to it. I hope I can make it my best one.
Let’s talk about working out. What is a typical training day like for you?
Well, I wake up in the morning, and I hit snooze (laughs), but I wake up in the morning and go immediately to the court. Depending on how far away from an event I am, I spend a couple hours on the court and then I spend a couple hours in the gym, so I spend as much time on the court as in the gym to prevent injury and to remain strong. I do cardio workouts, which could be a long distance run. It could be bikes. It could be plyometrics. It could be a swim. All of that, and, of course, focusing on [strengthening] every single part of the body, even parts that I don’t know are there (laughs).
What is your favorite fitness activity outside of obviously tennis?
Does dance count?
Definitely dancing, which can be very cardiovascular. Actually, we did dancing in the AMEX commercial. They asked what songs do you want to dance to, and we had a lot of fun. But I do adore dancing. It makes me happy. It’s just one of those things that you do that’s my favorite workout outside of the court.
What about nutrition? What does a pro or tennis beast like you eat? If someone wants to be a pro or a beast like you, what should he or she be eating?
I think every person is a little bit different in terms of what works for them so I never tell people eat exactly this. I would definitely say fuel your body with lots of natural foods, so not a lot of packaged things. Anything that you can buy that is naturally made. Lots of vegetables. Lots of fruits. That sort of thing. Lots of grains. Lots of fiber. All the stuff that people don’t like to eat as much.
I’m always trying new things and trying to see how I can get at my maximum capacity. Most athletes do that, but I think probably even more so in my case [with overcoming Sjögren’s Syndrome], definitely lots of green things to keep my body in a state where it’s very calm. It [vegetables] calms your body down a lot.
In a recent interview with American Express OPEN, you talked about how you’ve learned a lot from sports as an athlete. What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned about life through tennis?
I’ve learned you can always achieve more than you thought you could. There are moments when I’ve walked off the court, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how I won that match.’ It was actually impossible, but it happened, and then you realize that you can push yourself much further than you ever thought, and you can make the impossible happen. I’ve also learned discipline. Definitely timing things, pushing yourself, accepting failure as a means of success. There have been multiple lessons in terms of transferring tennis to life.
As a professional tennis player, what’s the most challenging thing that you have faced while building your retail business? And how did you overcome it?
The most challenging thing is people do see me as a tennis player, but I’ve had a lot of opportunities because I am a tennis player. And I don’t mind that. You have to prove that you know what you’re doing. You have to have longevity. You have to stay around. You have to do things right to stay in business, and that’s not easy, and that’s a choice on a daily basis, the choices you make in how to run your business and how to have a point of differentiation and how to be true to your brand, how to offer something that people want and to offer something that you love. It’s all of that, and like I said, I don’t mind a challenge. I love a challenge. People said I couldn’t, and that motivates me more.