Style

Venus Williams to body-shamers: 'My body looks the way it is because I'm strong'

Venus Williams is best known for being a champion professional tennis player, but she's also a talented and creative entrepreneur. She's the chief executive officer of interior design firm V Starr Interiors, and in 2007 she launched a fashion line with Steve & Barry's. Here, she tells TODAY why she loves producing inclusive clothing for women of all sizes.

For me, personal style was a journey. I was born in the '80s, so there have certainly been some bad fashion choices on my part. But over time, I've found my style.

Now, my goal is helping other women find theirs.

The message I hope to send to my fans through EleVen, my clothing line, is that you should always be aiming for your personal best. That means you should go past reaching for a "10" and instead reach for that "11." Still, whatever your own "11" is, accept that.

What it's not aboutis comparing yourself to anyone besides that best version of yourself.

RELATED: Melissa Joan Hart talks body acceptance: 'Not everyone can be Barbie'

If you're larger, you're larger. If you're smaller, you're smaller. Just make sure that you know the best person you can be, realistically, and always strive to be her. What you don't want to do is see the best person someone else can be and strive to be them.

Stay true to yourself.

  • Slideshow Photos

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    Welcome to our first annual TODAY Style Heroes list, honoring 40 actors, designers, athletes and revolutionaries changing the style world.

  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Alicia Keys -

    Alicia Keys' decision to go makeup-free reminds us all that beauty really is on the inside, and it also inspired some women to ditch the concealer and lipstick for a few days. Now she says going bare-faced is a metaphor for something much bigger. "I believe this is the time of the woman," Keys said. "The definitive moment when we get to uncover the ideals that have been placed upon us and be who we are, as we are, in all of our beauty, depth and complexity. For me, not wearing much makeup is a metaphor for that."

    Reuters
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Ariel Winter -

    Between flaunting her curves on Instagram and slamming body-shamers with well-crafted tweets, Ariel Winter is fearless, and that makes her a star in our book. We've watched the actress grow up on "Modern Family" and she's shared with TODAY how she's stayed so grounded through it all.

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Christian Siriano -

    Since launching his career on "Project Runway," Christian Siriano has become a pioneer in the fashion industry, as one of the first high-end designers to embrace all sizes. He's created two collections for Lane Bryant, and recently stunned spectators at New York Fashion Week when he sent five plus-size models down the runway at his show. For Siriano, that call was a no-brainer: "I just wanted to have different sizes," he said. Hey, it makes sense to us!

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Dana Donofree -

    When Dana Donofree couldn't find any pretty bras that fit after undergoing a double mastectomy, she took matters into her own hands. She founded AnaOno, a lingerie line for fellow breast cancer survivors. As one vendor put it, "it brings back confidence, not just comfort."

    Tracy Birdsell Photography
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Ashley Graham -

    Arguably the most famous curve model on the planet, Ashley Graham has been featured in Cosmopolitan, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and more. Graham is more than a pretty face, though. She's also a body-positive activist eager to prove to everyone that curves are beautiful, and that's why we love her. "Stop judging yourself," she has said. "Embrace the things that society has called 'ugly.'"

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Chrissy Teigen -

    Chrissy Teigen, who welcomed her first child this year with husband John Legend, is fun and funny — just what we would want in a best friend. And despite being a famous swimsuit model, she's also refreshingly down-to-earth about topics like body image and motherhood. Rushing to the gym after having a baby? Not Teigen's style. Lilliana Vazquez, of the TODAY Style Squad, calls her a personal style hero.

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Dascha Polanco -

    "Orange Is the New Black" star Dascha Polanco proves that you don't have be a sample size to look fabulous on the red carpet. We love the actress' style, confidence and body image philosophy that she shared with TODAY.

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Jennifer Aniston -

    We've loved Jennifer Aniston's effortless style since her "Friends" days, but this year she caught our attention with a powerful statement about how women are portrayed by the media — and how that can affect young girls. "The message that girls are not pretty unless they're incredibly thin, that they're not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we're all willingly buying into," she wrote in a viral essay. Aniston is ready for a change, and we couldn't agree more. And that's also why TODAY Style Squad member Jill Martin calls her a personal style hero.

    FilmMagic
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Daisy Ridley -

    The 24-year-old Brit is best known for her role as Rey in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but we also love her red carpet style and the good head she has on her shoulders. Case in point? Knowing when to stand up to body-shamers on social media. "I will not apologize," she said, when someone critiqued her size.

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Adele -

    The British Grammy winner is more than an amazing singer-songwriter. She's also a mom and a confident woman who loves her body, but reminds us all that it's perfectly normal to have bad days, too. Her beautiful music? That's just icing on the cake.

    Getty Images
  • Ify Ufele

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Ify Ufele -

    Ify Ufele, who was once bullied at school, burst onto the fashion scene at only 10 years old, debuting her plus-size, African-inspired designs at New York Fashion Week earlier this year. As she puts it, "I turned negative attention into positive attention." Way to go, Ify!

    chubiiline.com
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Iris Apfel -

    Even at 95 years old, Iris Apfel is still turning heads. The fashion muse and sometimes model — she's starred in an Alexis Bittar jewelry campaign — is often photographed at fashion shows, parties and events, always dressed to impress. We love her bits of wisdom about living life to the fullest, in style. No wonder Bobbie Thomas from the TODAY Style Squad calls her a hero!

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Laurie Hernandez -

    The pint-sized Olympian wowed us with her acrobatic feats in Rio, and we also love her playful sense of style. Hernandez reminds us all how beautiful it is to be strong, and how important it is to love the body you have. That's a message we're happy to share.

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Iskra Lawrence -

    Iskra Lawrence is a plus-size model and one of the stars of American Eagle's #aerieREAL campaign. She's also an outspoken advocate for body positivity, and not afraid to speak up for the cause — like when she posted this bathroom selfie to make a point about thigh gaps. "You are meant to be you and no one else," she said. "Your body is your home so love and respect it."

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Jennifer Weiner -

    Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner won us over with novels including "In Her Shoes" and "Good In Bed," but this year she appeared to be on another mission: to get women to love themselves. Her #weartheswimsuit movement encouraged women to put on a bathing suit and have some fun this summer, but she's also well aware that self-acceptance is a journey. "I struggle like everyone else," she said. "I have good days and I have bad days. I have days where I'm content with what I see in the mirror, and I have days where I'm like, 'Oh God, can I just have a do-over?'"

    Maarten De Boer
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Kristen Bell -

    In the summer blockbuster "Bad Moms," Kristen Bell played a rule-abiding mom who decided to shake things up and have some fun. She's not so unhinged in real life, but she also doesn't beat herself up over things that don't matter so much -- like losing the baby weight, a common concern for moms in the spotlight. "Who cares?" the actress said. Kristen, we knew we liked you.

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Johnny Weir -

    What's not to love about a man who wears a headpiece made of roses? Johnny Weir has never been shy when it come to style, and we love the figure skater's bold looks and brave attitude when it comes to trying — or creating! — fashion trends.

    Getty Images
  • Bryne Huffman

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Brynne Huffman -

    Brynne Huffman stood up to a body-shaming bully on Facebook and in the process, the mom of two became an advocate for positive body image and self-love, even launching a social media group for women to "celebrate each other." "I want to have an ongoing commentary in a safe place about what's going on in my life, along with suggestions from other people about how to love yourself, shop for clothes you love and feel as beautiful as you are," she said.

    Courtesy Brynne Huffman
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Jillian Mercado -

    Model Jillian Mercado is bringing a much-needed dose of diversity to fashion. The New Yorker, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, has appeared in ad campaigns for major brands including Diesel and Target. "I love that fashion is this revolving door of culture and ideas that never stops spinning," Mercado said.

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Kate Winslet -

    We've been fans of Kate Winslet for decades now. The actress is always perfectly poised and put-together, while still feeling relatable, and that's what makes her a true star.

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Leslie Jones -

    "Saturday Night Live" star Leslie Jones is one of the funniest women we know, even when faced with hardship — or hackers. And her style is on point, too. We especially love this red gown by fellow TODAY Style Hero Christian Siriano that Jones wore to a "Ghostbusters" premiere in Los Angeles.

    AFP-Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Matt McGorry -

    He caught our attention with roles on "Orange Is the New Black" and "How to Get Away With Murder," but it's Matt McGorry's activism that really has us hooked. The actor isn't afraid to speak up on behalf of women's rights and he's determined to prove that a man who's in touch with his emotions isn't weak — he's strong. We like your style, Matt!

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Amy Schumer -

    Whether she's making us laugh on stage, posing for the Pirelli calendar or speaking up about body image, Amy Schumer is funny and feisty, and that's why we love her.

    Getty Images
  • Mindy Scheier

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Mindy Scheier -

    Mindy Scheier is a mom on a mission to make clothing work for everyone — including kids who have physical disabilities. That's why she founded Runway of Dreams, which partnered with Tommy Hilfiger this year to create a line of adaptable clothing. The adjustable hemlines and magnetic closures make it easier for kids like her son, who has muscular dystrophy, to get dressed. "It's going to be our new normal," Scheier said of the inclusive designs.

    Richard Corman
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Michelle Carter -

    Michelle Carter won a gold medal in shot put at the Olympics this summer, but that's not the only dream she's accomplished. She's proud to be a body-positive makeup artist who runs a company called Shot Diva, which is also her nickname. "I think it's important to do whatever makes you feel your best," she said of her beauty looks during matches. "For some people, being bare-faced is wonderful. Others like a little bit of mascara and eyeliner. Others want a full face (of makeup)." We completely agree — find what works for you, and go for it! 

    REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Melissa McCarthy -

    She's an actress, a comedian, a producer and a fashion designer. Need we say more? McCarthy has never disappointed us when it comes to spreading a positive message about body image and self-confidence. She's urged people to "stop tearing down women," and we're grateful for every time she's encouraged us to love ourselves, just the way we are.

    Getty Images for Nordstrom
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Meghan Trainor -

    Ever since she burst onto the music scene with "All About That Bass," it's been clear that Meghan Trainor is proud of her curves, and we love her confidence and body-positive message. She's also adamant about not being Photoshopped, even yanking a music video this summer when she realized that her body had been edited to appear slimmer.

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Susan Gregg Koger -

    The ModCloth co-founder is so dedicated to celebrating women's bodies the way they are that she created an entire company around the concept. She also took her mission to Washington, D.C. this year, to fight for the Truth in Advertising Act, which calls for the regulation of altering models' appearances in ads — meaning you would see real models, not airbrushed ones.

    Shutterstock
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Renee Zellweger -

    Bridget Jones is back. Actress Renee Zellweger reprises her breakout role in the upcoming film "Bridget Jones' Baby." But she also caught our attention this year when she spoke up about accusations that she had plastic surgery, reminding us all that, well, it's really none of our business. That her looks made the news at all is just a reflection of "society's fixation on physicality," Zellweger wrote in a viral essay.

    Getty Images
  • Misty Copeland

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Misty Copeland -

    Misty Copeland is breaking barriers in the dance world as the American Ballet Theatre's first black female principal dancer. She's a perfect example of staying true to who you are and fighting for what you want, and that's something that we can always get behind

    PR NEWSWIRE
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Jamie Brewer -

    Actress Jamie Brewer is bringing some diversity to our TV screens. From major acting roles to walking in New York Fashion Week, Brewer has never let Down syndrome stop her from pursuing her dreams. She's best known for her roles in the FX hit "American Horror Story."

    Getty Images
  • Ibtihaj Muhammad

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Ibtihaj Muhammad -

    Ibtihaj Muhammad is challenging stereotypes about what an Olympian should look like. She made history this summer in Rio as the first U.S. athlete to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics. The 30-year-old Muslim woman took home a bronze medal in fencing.

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Williams Sisters -

    We admire their fashion almost as much as their athletics. Sisters and world-class tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams approach the game (and life) with style and strength, and that's what makes them TODAY Style Heroes.

    AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Sally Field -

    She's been dazzling us on the screen for decades, but Sally Field makes our list for a variety of reasons. The "Hello, My Name Is Doris" star is refreshingly honest about aging in Hollywood, and she's not afraid to stand up for herself, once even telling her agent "You're fired," when she suggested she wasn't "pretty enough" to be in movies.

    Invision/AP
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Ronda Rousey -

    UFC fighter Ronda Rousey keeps her head held high, in the ring and outside. She's honest about her ups and downs and through it all, she remains tough — and that's always in style.

    Getty Images
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Tess Holliday -

    Model Tess Holiday is a body-positive activist who isn't afraid to stand up to critics. We love her bold retorts on social media, which remind us all that beauty — and health — looks different on everyone. "If my doctor thinks I'm OK, then I'm OK, internet," she has said.

    S Meddle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Tim Gunn -

    We have lots of love for the man who helps women everywhere "make it work." And this year, Tim Gunn also spoke up about a huge problem in the fashion industry: the lack of plus-size clothing that fits well and looks stylish. "Designs need to be reconceived, not just sized up," he wrote in a popular essay. "It's a matter of adjusting proportions."

    Getty Images for Nespresso
  • Tracy Norman

    The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Tracey Norman -

    When Tracey Norman launched her modeling career in the 1970s, appearing on a box of Clairol hair color, no one knew the stunning model had been born a man. Now she's an advocate for the transgender community and once again working in fashion, recently appearing on the cover of Harper's Bazaar and in a new campaign for Clairol. "Eyes are open now to the beauty we possess and the talent we possess," Norman said of fellow transgender stars such as Laverne Cox.

    Clairol
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Zach Miko -

    You might recognize Zach Miko from a Target campaign or as the first face of modeling agency IMG's new "Brawn" division for plus-size men. Now, he's dedicated to creating more options for big-and-tall men who have trouble finding stylish clothes that fit well. "In 15 years, plus-size clothing for women became a $20 billion industry," he said. "What if the big-and-tall industry became just a quarter of that?"

    Leonardo Corredor
  • The 2016 TODAY Style Heroes List

    of

    Zendaya -

    Whether she's dazzling us at the Met Gala as Michael Kors' date, or pairing dreadlocks with an Oscars gown, the 20-year-old Zendaya's style is always refreshingly unique. She's also spoken up against heavy use of Photoshop and the importance of self-love: "If there's any definition (of) being perfect, you're perfect at being yourself," the singer once said. "There is no such thing as ugly."

    Getty Images

The truth is, there have been so many people who have body-shamed Serena and me. They've said things like, "Oh, they're too muscular," and, "Oh, they look too much like men." If I look like a guy, great, whatever. I don't really care.

My body looks the way it is because I'm strong, I work hard and I train hard. It's an achievement of mine, and I'm in control of it.

I want others to feel this.

AFP - Getty Images
Venus Williams celebrates after defeating Julia Goerges of Germany during their 2016 US Open Women's Singles match.

When your self-talk gets to a place where you know who you are and what's in your heart, nobody can touch you. And that's an incredible moment.

I design for women of all body shapes and sizes because I want everyone to feel secure about themselves. There's just no feeling like it.

And at the end of the day, we have to stop judging ourselves. If we stop that and instead let go and focus on the things we're achieving and the incredible people we are, that's a thousand times more important than anything else in between.

As told to TODAY's Rebekah Lowin.

0:00
 
0:00
Your video begins in
0:00
TOP