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Proof Serena Williams knew she was a badass way before she was famous

"If you were a tennis player, who would you want to be like?"

Proof Serena Williams knew she was a badass way before she was famous

Serena Williams is on the brink of leaving a big mark on tennis history.

On September 8, 2015, Williams defeated her sister, Venus, in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. If she ends up winning the U.S. Open (as many are anticipating), she'll be just the fourth woman — and the first black woman — in history to win all four major singles titles in one season.

If you look up "badass" in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure you'll see Williams' face.


Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Williams is incredible. But she's had an inkling she'd be something special for a while.

In a new ad for Gatorade, footage captures a young Williams — long before she and her sister Venus were renowned tennis players — chatting with an interviewer.

"If you were a tennis player, who would you want to be like?" the interviewer asks.

Williams' confident (and a bit psychic) answer sums up why she's now one of the greats:

If you're wondering where Williams got her confidence from at such a young age, this video of her father defending Venus from an intrusive interviewer should make it clear.

I think we can all agree: Williams has reached that goal, and plenty of people want to be just like her. From raking in millions of dollars in endorsement deals to gracing the covers of magazines (and, of course, starring in sports drink commercials), Williams has become an inspiration for tennis players (and probably even more non-tennis players) everywhere. You can check out the moving ad below.

You could also argue that Williams' influence off the court has been just as profound as her influence on it.

Yes, she wins championships. But she's become so much more than a star athlete.

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for the USTA.

She's become a champion for body positivity, too. Williams' is a world-famous tennis player, but it doesn't stop people from obsessing over her physical appearance. Stories on Williams ahead of her historic U.S. Open run have often ended up "sexualizing or criticizing her body instead of applauding her unmatched success in tennis," Chicago Tribune's Shannon Ryan wrote.

People have said her butt's too big and that she's built "like a man" — not to mention the not-even-a-little-bit-subtle racism she experiences all the time.

When asked about her haters on "Good Morning America" on Aug. 31, 2015, Williams had the perfect response:

"It's me, and I love me. I learned to love me. I've been like this my whole life, and I embrace me. I love how I look. I love that I'm a full woman and I'm strong and I'm powerful and I'm beautiful at the same time. There's nothing wrong with that."

Williams is proud to be paving a smoother road for future athletes like her.

It's no news that black athletes face unique challenges their white counterparts don't always have to endure — like, for instance, being seen as less valuable to marketers that want to sell desirability and an image "associated with the good life," as The New York Times reported. It's a reality Williams knows all too-well.

But Williams chooses to promote progress over focusing on the negativity so future athletes won't have to face the same inequality.

"I'm just opening the door," Williams said. "Zina Garrison, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Venus opened so many doors for me. I'm just opening the next door for the next person."

Keep opening those doors, Serena. The world is rooting for you.

Check out Williams' Gatorade ad below:


Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Travis Akers / Twitter

A tweet thread by Travis Akers, a Navy Lieutenant with 17 years of service, is going viral because it shows just how sweet children can be and also points to an overlooked issue facing military families.

In the early morning of April 12, Akers tweeted a photo of himself and his seven-year-old son Tanner who he affectionately calls "Munchie." Akers was moved because his son set his alarm clock so he could get up early enough to hand him a pocket full of Legos before work.

Tanner wanted to be sure his father had something to play with at the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida. "This was my daily morning trip to base, departing my house at six am for work," Akers told Upworthy.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less