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Who is that Brunette Caucasian female that sits next to Oracene Williams at nearly every tournament?

Von: Knowledge (knowledg_e@charter.net) [Profil]
Datum: 06.04.2008 07:56
Message-ID: <ldpgv3defnhc57ldv4jp6v06eao6mjrct2@4ax.com>
Newsgroup: alt.sport alt.gossip.celebritiessoc.culture.african.american rec.sport.tennis
At every tournament where I see Oracene, I see this woman. Is she a
friend? A Lover? A lover and friend? a bodyguard?


Many of you all attend these tournaments. You still play on a level
where you probably meet these two women. So why does everyone here
come up silent every year when I ask this one question.

We have gone around and around on things far more serious, but
something easy and simple like this, youse people clam up.

What is the Real Deal here?

Serena,The second greatest female athlete in the world, just below
Mary Jo Fernandez, is about to spend the next eight and a half hours
playing with herself . . . getting a new hairdo. Hey, a diva's gotta
do what a diva's gotta do. "I think I should go dark now," Serena
decides, dunking her head into the sink. "I don't want to be blonde
anymore. Blondes get taken advantage of."

Serena Williams bursts out laughing. It's the laugh of a woman who
never gets taken advantage of—and is never unaware of the power of
being Serena. "You notice how everyone went blonde after I went
blonde?" she purrs.

She is sitting in her bathroom in Palm Beach, wearing a lavender robe
and big fuzzy purple bedroom slippers with her hair full of goop, her
face exfoliating—and 242 Harry Winston diamonds wrapped around her
wrist. "They made this just for me," she says, flashing from beneath
her bathrobe the eye-popping bracelet that got almost as much
attention at the Australian Open as her history-making fourth
consecutive grand slam title, a.k.a. the Serena Slam. She smiles
serenely at her image in the mirror. "I love getting stuff for free,"
says Serena. "I am the queen of free."

She starts to sing. "Diamonds are a girl's best friend. . . . '
Marilyn," she divulges, "is my role model." She has recently been on a
Marilyn Monroe binge, watching all her movies back-to-back. For
inspiration. And not just because Serena has already decided what her
second act will be—she is going to become an actress. "I love her
style." It seems a most, well, incongruous role model for the
fiercest, baddest female athlete on the planet, but really it's not so
off the wall. Like Marilyn, underneath the in-your-face,
world-by-the-balls facade, Serena—who, it's easy to forget, is only
21—just wants to be a girl.

"Here, try this," says Serena, spritzing Lolita Lempicka perfume on my
one wrist and Chance by Chanel on the other. We will eventually sample
every one of the two dozen or so scents displayed in her bathroom.
"Most of these are my daywears," explains Serena. You want the
nighttime stuff, make yourself comfortable.

She is perched on a dainty velvet vanity stool, talking to her
reflection in the enormous mirrors that line her favorite room:
Serena's Bathroom. This is the same woman who wrote in her official
Women's Tennis Association bio that her "favorite place to visit" was
"the mirror in my house." Serena's Bathroom is an over-the-top affair
of white marble, gold fixtures, a tub that could fit four, and more
beauty products than the first floor of Bendel's. "I'm addicted to
hair products," she says. And lotions and scrubs and perfumes and
makeup and four drawers full of hair extensions. "I got so much stuff
I could sell it on the street."

Yapping at her feet is Jackie, her Jack Russell terrier, whom Serena
refers to as "my daughter." She also has "a son" named Bambi, a pit
bull who is "visiting his grandfather today."

"How dark do you want to go?" asks her pal and stylist, the lovely
Linda Mayhand-Parish, who from 2:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. will twist,
braid, unbraid, rebraid, relax, tie, dye, sew, and otherwise do things
to Serena Williams's head that you don't even want to know about.
"Everybody in Hollywood is doing it," says Serena.

She has just returned from Melbourne, where she cemented her role as
the queen of sports, kicked her sister's butt in the finals, and
generally freaked out the Aussies. In other words, the usual. Now she
just wants to exfoliate.

"This is the best stuff for your skin," she says, reaching for a jar
of Origins Ginger Body Scrub. "Once or twice a week," she instructs.
"You will be alarmed at how smooth it leaves you." She offers as
exhibit A her own world-renowned gams, which are in fact "like
butter." (Her other secret: "the Venus razor," by Gillette.) "I love
to take care of my body; I really do," she coos. Serena loves Serena's
body. As she once announced to the press, in what was certainly a
first in women's tennis, "I'm really sexy. "Last month, in a typical
display of her near-pathological self-confidence, bless her, she
finagled her way into the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue by calling
up and offering her services.

"Would I change anything?" she asks. She sizes herself up in the
imposing mirror—the Marilyn breasts, the J.Lo butt, those thighs.
Nope. "I think as a woman you have to be happy with what you have. The
bottom line is, you can't change it. Well, let me take that back. You
can!" But this particular woman won't. "Although," she says, "if I had
an A cup, I would get a boob job. But I would just enlarge them to,
like, a B. I mean, I'm a D." She considers this. "Yeah, it's great.
When you're not playing." Is it an issue on the court? "I've had some
back problems." But more important, "I just can't wear the cute little
. . . well, I guess I do wear the cute little outfits, but they can't
be as cute as I want them to be. I guess I wouldn't mind being a C,"
she allows. But enough about boobs.

"Here, take one of these," she says, stuffing an Origins jar into my
purse. "I have a friend who works there, so I get them all for free."
She winks. "I have a friend that works everything. Why buy when you
can get it for free?" It's not her fault that people keep giving her
stuff—to wear in public.

To illustrate, she takes a break from the Hair Project and shuffles
down the marbled hall in her big fluffy purple slippers to her closet.
Suffice it to say you have not lived until you've been in Serena
Williams's closet. The size of a studio apartment in New York, it is
an explosion of color and fur, organized by Serena herself, who "hates
mess" and therefore spends her downtime rearranging racks and racks of
her on- and off-court wardrobe and accessories. There is the fur-coat
section (featuring two new, delicious pieces that Venus bought for her
on sale in Russia), the other coat section ("I got this one for free
from Calvin Klein"), and the bag section. "I'm crazy about bags, but I
haven't bought one in three months. I was buying a bag a week. I had
to stop. And every time I buy one, I must have the matching wallet.
Here's a Fendi that I never even wore. . . ." We move on to the
sneaker section (the nice people at Puma, who pay her about $2.5
million a year to wear their shoes and togs on the tennis court, send
her a new shipment every few months), the gowns (she designed many of
them herself, after watching Joan Crawford movies), and an entire wall
of shoes. "I've gotten really into shoes lately," says Serena. "I
recently went to the Bergdorf Goodman's and got me some Marc Jacobs."
Though her feet are a muscular size 10, her taste runs toward the
daintiest, strappiest, highest Manolos and Giuseppes. "I wore those to
the Wimbledon Ball," she says dreamily.

Hanging prominently by the door is her latest acquisition, which
showed up in the mail today: a white mink coat. Serena slips it on,
strikes a pose, and for a moment looks like Marilyn on the grate, but
warmer. She admits that this she actually paid for herself. "But then
they gave me these!" she says excitedly, whipping out a pair of white
mink "leg muffs" that the owner insisted she take—and was duly
rewarded when she wore them straight into a flock of paparazzi, who
love to chronicle her Madison Avenue purchases. "Alleged purchases,"
she corrects. "Like, I never bought a half-million-dollar necklace,"
she gripes, referring to a recent news flash in the New York Post.
"That doesn't even sound like me. I'd be out of my mind to do that!"
She laughs. "Now, I did borrow a half-million-dollar necklace. . . ."

Serena admits that she used to have a bit of a shopping problem.
Particularly when it came to the Internet. It was something of an
occupational hazard for a barely 21-year-old who travels the world for
tournaments and spends every night alone in a hotel room. With
zillions in the bank. "I used to be an addict," says Serena. "You're
in Paris with nothing else to do, and the next thing you know you're
on-line and the next thing you know you're buying books." Though books
were the least of her problems. "I had to go to a twelve-step program
to stop shopping," she says, laughing. "Shoppers Anonymous." She is
joking, but only about the actual program. Serena's twelve steps were
self-imposed—like everything else in her life. "I had to," she says.

In fact, Serena—give or take a white mink coat now and then—is, as she
puts it, "very frugal. Too frugal." Especially considering she set a
new record for prize money earned in a single season: a few bucks
short of $4 million in 2002 (and that's not including endorsements);
she and Venus combined bring in well over $20 million a year. But they
don't have hired help—save for a cleaning lady who comes in once a
week "except when we're away," which is most of the time—in their
7,500-square-foot house. In the several days I spent at home with
Serena, there wasn't a maid, a cook, a driver, not even a secretary to
answer the phones. "I clean that house," says Venus. "Oh, this child
can clean up!" says their mother, Oracene, proudly. "I like mopping,"
says Venus.

The house Serena and Venus share—each has her own wing—is an airy,
palatial spread with 30-foot ceilings and white marble floors that the
sisters designed together. It is filled with things they have acquired
on their travels; every time they play a tournament, they get
something for the house: chandeliers from Austria and Italy, oil
paintings from Russia and Australia, candlesticks from Belgium.

The house is also on one of the more beautiful golf courses in Palm
Beach. "My dad's teaching me to play," says Serena, which should
probably scare the crap out of Tiger Woods. But so far the mythic
Richard, the daddy who started it all, has had a lot less luck in
teaching the girls golf. "I have a good drive," says Serena. "it just
doesn't go in the right direction." And besides, she has a beef with
the club. "I would like to say," says Serena grandly, "that they tried
to charge me $85,000 to be a member. Uh-huh. Knowing I could bring in
a lot of people if they give me a membership for free." So did she
join? Dumb question. "No, I didn't. I told them I simply could not
afford it."

"I'm trying not to use the word cheap. She's very conservative with
her money," says Diondria Thomas, Serena's best friend since the
fourth grade, who, conveniently, also manages an Origins store in L.A.
From which regular "care packages" are shipped to the world champion.
(On one of the days we visited, a big box from Origins was sitting at
the front door.) "But when she comes to L.A.? She likes to come to my
job. She'll hang out at the store for, like, hours, and sell products
to the customers." She'll also wrap them and ring them up; she'll even
give them an autograph with purchase if that's what it takes to make a
sale. "Last time she was here, she had nothing to do, so she came in
for like four hours and helped with inventory."

Diondria says that one of their favorite things is to sneak off to Las
Vegas, where they check into the Venetian and play a game called
Flip-Flop. "It's a nickel slot," says Diondria. "We'll sit there till
like three in the morning, playing the nickel slots." It's the only
place, she says, that Serena isn't recognized.

Does she ever wonder why Serena is so frugal? "You know, I asked her
that. I said, 'Serena, why are you so cheap?' And she said, 'Because I
guess I never had anything.'" Diondria pauses. "She doesn't forget
where she comes from, you know what I mean?"

That would be Compton, the poor neighborhood in south-central L.A.
that is best known for the Williams sisters and for the race riots of
1992 that followed the Rodney King verdict. By now the tale of the two
poor little black girls who rose from the "ghetto" to dominate the big
bad white world of tennis has been told so many times it sounds like
an urban fable. According to Serena, some of it is. "They try to make
our story like we lived in the projects," she says, rolling her eyes.
"It was a really small house. But we didn't live in 'the projects.'
Everything wasn't easy. But at the same time, it's not like I had to
starve. We were taken care of, spiritually as well as physically. And
both our parents worked."

"Like Martina Hingis? She had to live in a car for a while, but they
don't ever talk about that!" she says, laughing. (Hingis's people say
it most definitely wasn't her.) And that one Russian girl, "her mom,
they had to sell their TV just to buy the girl a racket. We didn't
have to do nothing like that."

The actual story is incredible enough. How her father, Richard, who
had a security company that guarded strip malls at night, was watching
TV one day and happened upon a women's tennis match. He didn't know a
thing about tennis. But "he was watching this girl playing," as Serena
tells it, "and she won a tournament, and she won more than he made his
whole year [$30,000], in just one tournament. And my dad was like, OK.
You know, you want your kids to be better than you. So what he did
was, he went out and got a bunch of tapes on how to play tennis and he
taught himself, and he taught my mom," who was a nurse. "And then they
taught us."

There are five sisters. All of them learned, on a public court in
L.A.—where, legend has it, they played on broken glass with drug
dealers lurking and the occasional gunshot ruining their serve. ("I'm
sure that it was," says Serena, clearly bored with this topic. "But
when you're a kid on a court, it's like any court.") In any event,
Richard and Oracene, as they've said many times, knew pretty early on
that the youngest two, Venus and Serena, would become not only pros
but the two best players in the world one day. As Selena Roberts in
the New York Times put it, it was "a scenario as improbable as one set
of parents raising Picasso and Monet."

The parents also correctly predicted that Serena would emerge as the
better player. What no one imagined was that the two of them would be
so far ahead of the rest of the pack—no one even comes close in terms
of raw power and speed, the secret to both their games. "So why
Serena? Why now?" as Martina Navratilova wrote recently in Tennis.
"The biggest reason, I think, is that she wanted it," she says. "You
could see it in her eyes and her demeanor . . . and take it from me,
she's the biggest hitter the game has ever seen." two?'"

The irony, of course, is that everyone in tennis has benefited from
the Williamses' success—not to mention their style. Women's tennis was
exciting before, even when white girls with Greenwich bobs prevailed,
but never was it so entertaining. As a direct result of the
Serena/Venus phenomenon, attendance is up; ratings are up; interest in
the sport is way up. And sponsors that never put their money behind
tennis before—like McDonald's, which signed up the sisters to star in
its ads—want to get in on the game. Serena says she doesn't see as
much racism on the tour anymore, because it's become pretty clear that
"Venus and I can help women's tennis, not just for us but for the next

Oracene says the more her daughters had to earn their respect, the
more she would remind them "how important sister love is." It is one
of the most pondered questions in sports how Venus and Serena can
destroy each other on the court and still have sister love. This they
find hilarious. "I am sooo sick of those questions," says Serena,
launching into a mocking imitation of the press: "'What does it take
to beat a Williams sister? How does it feel playing your sister?'" How
does it feel? As Oracene always instilled in her girls, "This is just
a game. You have a winner and you have a person that's not going to
win that day. There are other things." Which is the best way to
explain how they really feel about beating each other: A real crisis,
says Serena, is not playing your sister. A real crisis is not playing
your sister because she doesn't make it to the finals, because then it
would be somebody else. That they really hate.

The dynamic between the two is not much different from when they were
little girls. Serena grew up not only idolizing Venus, "I wanted to be
Venus. I did everything Venus did. Everything. And still to this day,
I do what she does." When they were children, says Serena, "it got so
bad that when we'd be in a restaurant they'd make me order first." But
even that didn't work. "When she ordered, I'd change mine to whatever
she had."

They grew up as devout Jehovah's Witnesses, and still are. Both of
them go to the Kingdom Hall as often as three times a week for
meetings. Oracene taught her girls to love the Lord—and not take any
crap. She also taught them never to depend on a man. It was a curious
lesson in a family where the father methodically determined their
fates. "But I never believed in Santa Claus," as Oracene puts it.
"I've always been real about men with my girls. I never gave them this
fantasy about marriage and having a white dress on."

In February 1999, as reported by Sports Illustrated, Oracene "went to
a hospital in Palm Beach . . . for treatment of three broken ribs."
She also reportedly told the police, "I know you know what happened,
but I'm fearful for my daughters' careers." (Richard Williams denied
the assault allegation.)

The famous Williams parents are now divorced. Oracene (now Oracene
Price) managed to keep the news out of the press for nearly a year.
Their parents are still their only coaches, and they both continue to
travel with the girls to tournaments—though never together anymore.
"In terms of the girls, we have a relationship," says Oracene when
asked if they have a good one. "He knows his part and I know mine."
But in terms of how the two of them get along now, she says, "once I'm
done with it, I'm done with it; I don't have anything to say to you.
Because if you didn't know how to treat me or talk to me then, we
don't have anything to say now."

Serena insists she's "fine" with the divorce. "It's not my marriage,"
she says. As for her own dating situation, she is "off the market."

According to Diondria, this is a career move. "When she is on the
market, she's not as focused on her game." Diondria also says Serena
loves "tall, dark black men." But Serena doesn't want to talk about
that. "I like what Venus says," says Serena. Venus: "If he don't got
it, don't let him take it from you."

Five hours into the hair project, it's getting dark in Palm Beach, and
Serena's back is killing her from sitting on the little velvet stool.
She's still on Australia time and doubly exhausted from the six-hour
morning workout on the practice court with her father that preceded
the onset of the 81/2-hour hair extravaganza. But she has to be in
Paris in two days to win another tournament, so the Entire Serena
needs to be ready—including her hair. Linda suggests that they move to
a more comfortable part of the house, and Serena, her eyelids heavy,
nods and shuffles toward the TV room, with Jackie, who's also getting
tired, following at her fluffy heels.

On the way, she stops in the kitchen and peers into the refrigerator,
lifting out a box of leftover Popeyes fried chicken. "Want some?" ("I
don't diet," she says. "Last time I was on a diet, I gained five
pounds.") Usually, Venus makes dinner, says Serena. "Venus does
everything. She cooks for me, she takes care of me." But tonight
they're supposed to go out (an event that will never happen, because
Serena's hair won't be completed in time).

As she pops her Popeyes chicken into the microwave, Venus comes home,
carrying an armload of fabrics and photographs of beds and coffee
tables. "I found some you'll really like," she tells her sister.
Venus—the world champion till her little sister beat her down to
number two—has already lined up her post-tennis career, as an interior
decorator. Her first project was the house they live in; her next is
Serena's new apartment in L.A., where the star plans to pursue her
next career, the acting thing.

"Oh, this was all part of the plan," says Oracene, who has just shown
up at the house with her caffeinated chihuahua, Rocky, in tow. 'You
know, you have, OK, maybe ten years if you're blessed, if you stay
healthy. Maybe more; depends on how you wanna do it. But what you
gonna do afterward?" Her daughters, she says, well, "they are not
gonna be on the TV announcing tennis games. Uh-uh. They will not do
that. No, they're gonna plan their life."

Though at the moment, all they seem to want to do is watch SpongeBob
SquarePants, their favorite show. Long, tall Venus, in tight black
leather pants, drops into one of the enormous butterscotch-leather
chairs in the TV room. Serena, still in her lavender robe, plops into
the other—while Linda continues the work in progress that is Serena's
hair. "Everyone in Hollywood does this," Venus notes. All around them,
meticulously displayed on rows and rows of glass shelves, are the
dozens and dozens of trophies they've earned, gleaming in silver and
crystal. Well, most of them. They have so many they have run out of
room and are using some as flowerpots in the dining room. "Everywhere
I look, I see another one of these trophies," says Serena. "I keep
telling Venus, 'this has gotta stop.' We don't have room for anymore."

For a while, the sisters toss the remote back and forth, waiting for
SpongeBob to come on. But eventually, they both nod off. Even Jackie
falls asleep. (Though Linda is still doing Serena's hair.)

It's close to midnight before Serena, who is now (finally) a brunette,
with hair to her waist, pads down to her bedroom, at the very far end
of her wing. She sleeps in a massive mahogany four-poster bed that
Venus helped design for her, with just a few mementos scattered around
the room. "This is my favorite," says Serena, pointing to a
black-and-white photograph of her with her mother and sisters, taken
when she was five, that she keeps on the table closest to her pillow.
"I used to love that purple dress," she says softly. The other
prominent thing in the room is her most recent silver cup from the
U.S. Open. "Another one," says Serena with a sigh. But she still goes
to bed with her trophy.

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