What US Open? Serena Williams Came to Slay New York Fashion Week

Photo: Getty Images

Despite losing to Karolina Pliskova during the semifinals on Thursday and losing her No. 1 ranking -- an end of an era after 186 weeks at the top -- to U.S. Open champion Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams was all smiles on Monday as she returned to New York Fashion Week for the third time to debut the Serena Williams Signature Statement fall collectionpresented by HSN. Her focus -- for the time being, at least -- is on fashion, as she quite literally slayed in a lace gown with a high-waisted short.

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“I wasn’t as nervous this time at all, until the girls started walking. Then my heart started beating real fast,” Williams admits to ET backstage after the show.

Perhaps inspired by best friend Beyoncé, the show featured a poem about female empowerment written by Williams, which was heard in between songs by female artists. Yes, that was Sia’s “The Greatest” -- “You recognized that one?” she laughs -- helping set the mood for the looks seen on the runway. (The show was also streamed live on HSN apps, giving customers the opportunity to buy any of Williams’ 42 original pieces online immediately.)  

"She was born and faced many obstacles
Many challenges
Many you cannots
Many you will nevers
Gripped with determination those words became whatevers
She is woman"

Serena Williams

“I wanted people to come to my show and leave with more than a fabulous coat -- I definitely want them to leave with that too, but I wanted them to also leave inspired," Williams says. "That’s what I wanted to pass along to all women of today: I wanted to give almost an appreciation to what women do [in life], and it was so important for me to do." Written between tournaments, the poem was an attempt to answer the question “How do you feel about being the greatest female athlete?” she told the Associated Press.

And to further the connection between her runway show and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, which featured Williams dancing in the music video for “Sorry,” another track (“Pray You Catch Me”) played in between stanzas. But she did seek her friend’s permission to use the song.

“I was like, ‘Listen, I want to use your song.’ She was all for it. She loved the spoken word,” Williams said. “It's always good to have that support.”

Photo: WireImage

Also providing her with support was Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who not only sat front-row at the show, but has also helped Williams find her voice as a designer. “Anna has been such a huge influence in particular,” she says. “Her critiques are always so important to me. She is someone you really respect in fashion.”

Besides, “I can’t have Anna Wintour sitting in the front row saying, ‘This doesn’t look good,’” Williams says.

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While she and her sister were once criticized for not focusing enough on tennis and spending too much time involved in acting and interior design, among other ventures, there’s no doubting that Williams can manage both, especially as she looks to her future in the sport.

“I know I have been playing forever, but one of these days, I’m not going to play,” Williams says, knowing that she has the validation and discipline to pursue other ventures full-time.

“It’s great, especially when you don’t win the U.S. Open,” Williams says with a laugh.