Serena Williams named GQ Woman of the Year – but cover sparks controversy


Serena Williams. Photo/CNN
Serena Williams. Photo/CNN

In Summary

  • The 37-year-old was called "The Champion" by GQ Woman.
  • In response to claims that she has a man's body, Serena said "...No, I just work hard and I was born with this baddass body and proud of it.

Tennis great Serena Williams has been named GQ’s Woman of the Year — but the magazine’s cover has caused a stir on social media with many questioning why “Woman” was in quotes.

The 37-year-old, called “The Champion” by the magazine, features in one of four covers of the December issue wearing a black long-sleeve turtleneck leotard.

GQ, which first made women part of its Men of the Year honorees in 2003, included the American alongside actors Michael B Jordan, Henry Golding and Jonah Hill.

In February, Williams told CNN she almost died giving birth to her daughter last year, yet within months she was back training and returned to the sport earlier this year, reaching both the Wimbledon and US Open finals.

Chasing a record-equaling 24th major, Williams lost in both finals, falling to a straight-sets defeat to Anqelique Kerber at Wimbledon and a controversial loss to Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows, where she was docked a game after calling the umpire a “thief.”

GQ’s cover has sparked controversy on Twitter, however. Many users seemed unaware that the typography was handwritten by designer Virgil Abloh, who uses quotation marks in his work. Abloh collaborated with Williams and Nike for the player’s US Open outfit which featured “Serena” in quotations on her trainers and “Logo” on her tutu dress.

GQ has not immediately responded to CNN, but in response to a Twitter thread Mick Rouse, research manager for GQ, according to his Twitter bio, tweeted: “Because it was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena’s US Open apparel that he designed).”

Last year, in an open letter on reddit, Williams wrote about being called a man because of her muscular physique, writing: “I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong … It has been said I don’t belong in women’s sports — that I belong in men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this baddass body and proud of it.)”

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