Serena Williams is finding a silver lining in her U.S. Open controversy.
Earlier this week, the tennis star, 37, opened up about her career and how she turns often negative attention on her life and actions into something positive — for her, her fans and her businesses.
“I just feel like sometimes, for whatever reason, anything that I do gets amplified, and so I use it for my brand,” she told Adweek for their Nov. 5 cover story, in which she was named their 2018 Brand Visionary.
In addition to being a professional athlete, Williams has launched her own fashion line called “Serena” and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in the industry, from Nike to Puma to HSN. She is also an author, activist, and mom to 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia with husband and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
“I use it to promote messages that are affirmative, like ‘you are strong, brave, proud, great’ and all those things that I feel like I’m in a position to not only express playing tennis but can also be expressed in my fashion line and other products,” Williams continued.
Positive affirmation from her own loved ones was equally important to Williams — who was honored at the magazine’s Brand Genius Awards on Wednesday night — as she noted in her acceptance speech that being an African American woman often caused her to be “overlooked.”
“I know what it’s like to be overlooked as a woman — as a black woman,” she said. “But I never let anyone define my potential by my gender or my color.”
“Once you set your goals, always aim higher,” she continued. “I have to say hard work and dedication are the cornerstones of success.”
The entrepreneur’s cover story with Adweek comes just two months after she was accused of cheating during the U.S. Open Championship.
Back in September, Williams was given a violation during the first set of the match from chair umpire Carlos Ramos for illegal coaching from coach Patrick Mouratoglou. After the violation, Williams told Ramos on the court, “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.”
She eventually lost the match to Naomi Osaka, 20, after receiving a total of three violations from the chair umpire — for illegal coaching, breaking her racket and verbal abuse — which added up to a fine of $17,000.
Williams has since suggested that the umpire’s actions were “sexist.”
“I just don’t understand,” she told Australian TV show The Project while addressing male punishments for similar actions. “If you’re female you should be able to do even half of what a guy can do.”
Mouratoglou said later, “I’m honest, I was coaching. I don’t think she looked at me so that’s why she didn’t even think I was.”
“ said he made a motion,” Williams said. “I don’t understand what he was talking about. We’ve never had signals.”
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“She’s the best in the world, so she’s going to get scrutinized the most; she’s a woman of color; she’s a woman; she’s just coming back from having a baby,” Wambach told PEOPLE in September.
“She is a literal walking, breathing science experiment at how the world relates to people that are perceived as less than or marginalized,” Wambach continued. “What Serena got herself into, and what the world has witnessed, and what this guy, this umpire, has put out into the universe was just a microcosm of what’s been happening in our culture.”