Serena Williams Reveals Her Beauty Rituals On and Off the Court

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“Early on, playing on the pro circuit meant having to grow up in front of a camera,” says Serena Williams, whose career kicked off at 14. When she began wearing liquid liner and lip stain for matches, scrutiny followed. “People would always give me side-eye: ‘Why are you doing that? You’re an athlete.’ ” In time, the tennis legend made a case for aesthetic flourishes; now, with the debut of Wyn Beauty, she champions performance-grade makeup for off-court life.

The 10-piece line is both clean and comprehensive, ranging from a stay-put tubing mascara to a lip-and-cheek pigment to an SPF 30 skin tint offered in 36 shades. Every detail is finessed, down to the W embossed into the matte lipstick bullet—taken from a personal font Williams created years ago. To her, the brand’s chartreuse packaging is a symbol of ongoing evolution. “I didn’t like the word retirement,” she says of her 2022 departure from the game. Her tennis ball has simply bounced onto an Ulta shelf.

Here, Williams discusses her early beauty inspirations, the key to a post-match reset, and which product is the all-star—not that she can play favorites.

Vanity Fair: You were a young teenager when you went pro. Who were you looking to for beauty inspiration?

Serena Williams: Back then, it was all about the top models. It was a sensation, these amazing models, so I was always looking into their beauty at that time. Naomi Campbell was someone that was really inspiring—she was always so beautiful.

Tennis has at times felt like it’s governed by tradition. Do you recall a moment when people made you feel like your interest in beauty didn’t belong on the court? And do you remember a turning point?

I remember early on when I wore makeup—not even on the court but just around in the tennis arena—people would look twice. They’d be like, “Why is she wearing makeup?” And I was like, “Well, this is me and this is what I like to do.” When I started wearing makeup on the court, whether it was eyeliner or lip stains that would last a really long time, it was definitely not normal. No one did that up until that time. I definitely saw it changing as the years went on. You would see players walking out with lots of mascara on or, eventually, wearing eyelash extensions if they could. One tournament, I did wear lashes the whole time. That was a fun experience. I won that tournament too, so I don’t know why I stopped! Each tournament I was just changing things up, trying to find a different way to beautify my sport.

Courtesy of Wyn Beauty.

You look at all these other women in such cool sports, whether it’s track and field or basketball, where you have more of an opportunity to present yourself differently. But in tennis, you’re solo. You’re on the court by yourself for two hours, three hours. You never know how long your match is going to be. And you’re pouring sweat the whole time—we follow the sun. So it was definitely an interesting journey to find my own way.

Were there phases of your career where certain makeup products became your go-to?

I would say the first half of my career, I was really too afraid to own up to what I wanted to do. And then the second half, I was just loving wearing that eyeliner. Some years it was just on top; some years it was top and bottom. I would just go all out. Mascara [was key], and also finding a brow I could wear full-time that, no matter how hard I wiped, it wouldn’t move. And then lips: Eventually, I’d just wear a lip color to give me some sort of color on the court.

Millions of people could be watching your final, and that’s the only time they’ll see you. So I’m trying to figure out a way to best represent myself. That’s my red-carpet moment.

You mastered the post-match reset. How do you describe that ritual?

I would have everything that I needed in my kit: a little concealer, mascara, some blush, an eyebrow, obviously a lip. Sometimes my lip was my blush, if I was in such a hurry. Imagine: You get off of a match. You have to remove your tape, shower, and do your makeup all in 10 or 15 minutes. Time was of the essence before you’d show up at your press conference. It was really intense.

I had it down to a science—just apply, rub, smooth. Next, next, next. It got easier in the second half of my career because I would already have my eyeliner and mascara on from the match. Sometimes I would mix my foundation and some sun cream together, and I would just have that on. I like what we created at Wyn Beauty—I really wanted to get our skin tint right. Another thing that was super important to me was the liner. Getting that waterproof and clean wasn’t easy at all. I really watch what I put in my body, and I really watch what I want to put on my face now. Some of the products, they said it was going to be too difficult or take too much time. But we were like, “We’re not in a rush. We can wait a year or two—whatever it takes.”

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Tell me about the brand’s signature chartreuse—the obvious, the metaphorical?

The obvious tie is definitely the tennis ball. The not so obvious: The reason I didn’t continue to play tennis is I wanted to grow my family. But I didn’t like the word retirement. I was kind of evolving. So it’s like my tennis ball kind of evolved into this beauty [line], just bringing that championship mentality [into] everyday life. Active beauty for everyday people to be able to use every single day and still feel amazing—that is what I wanted to champion. There’s more to the story than just the tennis ball green.

On the heels of the athleisure wave, “active beauty” is an interesting phrase. What does active look like for you these days?

My day started today at 7:30 a.m. I woke up late. “Mom, we slept in.” And I was like, “Yeah, we did. Let’s get up.” So being active is going all day. I’m not going to have an opportunity to be back home until the end of the day, when it’s time for me to make dinner. I don’t have time to just do self-care. This is real life, when all the beauty and the glitz and the glam comes off. I don’t have time to have a full-on face of my amazing red-carpet makeup that I would love to have. It also isn’t realistic for me to show up to a grocery store like that.

This is Wyn Beauty: You can win in it and you can be active all day, like I have been. I can go do grocery runs; I can do toy runs if I want to. I can go pick up my daughter from school, and I have my face on. It’s an everyday look, but it still has full coverage. It still has longevity and it’s clean. That’s what I mean by active. You don’t have to be a world-class tennis player. I mean, you can be, by the way. [Laughs.] But everyday lives of everyday people are so active.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Wyn Beauty

Word of Mouth Max Comfort Matte Lipstick

Wyn Beauty

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Wyn Beauty

No Words Needed Lip Serum

Wyn Beauty

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