Serena Williams offered her own creative input along with photographer Yu Tsai on the set of Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year cover shoot.
“I wanted to capture the real Serena,” Tsai says. “Serena has been such a driving force with so many people that she's just powerful in her own way and so inspirational to people. We can all hope that we have one ounce of her strength.”
Williams is SI’s 10th female recipient of the award since its inception in 1954, as well as the first female sole recipient since Mary Decker in 1983. Williams is also the first tennis player to win the award since Arthur Ashe in 1992.
“She was a difference-maker in other areas, speaking out against bodyshamers in both words and actions, posing for the Annie Leibovitz–shot Pirelli calendar in only a bikini bottom,” SI managing editor Chris Stone writes. “The cover shot of this issue? Her idea, intended, like the Pirelli shots, to express her own ideal of femininity, strength, power.”
Williams sits on a throne, while dressed in black, on the cover of the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. Other shots in the magazine include a balancing act on a hanging ring in the studio as well as poses in a white dress and a white sweater.
“I love her on the rings because it's a mix between femininity and strength of power,” Tsai says. “There's something so angelic about that image but most importantly showing the true Serena.”
Chris Hercik, Sports Illustrated's creative director, was on the set of the shoot.
“Serena is happy,” Hercik said on set of the shoot. “She feels comfortable, which makes her relaxed and makes her get into each pose and feel every shot that [Yu Tsai] is shooting.”
- Christopher Chavez