For starters, the latter is a slender, long-legged, blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman with a penchant for wearing short skirts during her matches.
Sharapova embodies the white standard of beauty that continues to cast a shadow over women of color. That’s why she attracts so many endorsement opportunities—because other women admire and envy her appearance.
She appeals to a broad-sweeping demographic of consumers. Big market brands target high-profile clients to endorse their products based on the law of attraction. Although she can’t hold a candle to Williams on the tennis court, Sharapova’s European good looks have given her a considerable leg up in the endorsement realm.
On the flip side, Williams doesn’t fit the mold of your prototypical runway model. Her physique is better suited for a Muscle Milk commercial or Nike ad. Don’t get me wrong, Williams isn’t a tomboy by any means. She gets dolled up for her tennis matches as if she’ll earn extra points for being fashionable. Nevertheless, her demeanor and physical attributes are a far cry from girlish. Williams isn’t particularly graceful or delicate. These adjectives more accurately describe the women who she demolishes on the tennis court—like Sharapova. Williams is cut from a different cloth. She’s fiery, demonstrative, and physically imposing. She exudes a quiet confidence that intimidates her opponents more than any verbal threat could. But beyond her impeccable professional resume, Williams’ otherworldly anatomy is the main component of her larger-than-life persona.
Williams is a physical specimen. Her body is composed of rock-solid, Amazonian muscle. She’s not trim and long-limbed like her sister Venus. Her physique is more compact. She’s built like a race-horse: powerful legs, massive glutes, a strong back, and bulging, broad shoulders. Her jawline is square, her cheek bones are high and sharp, and the sound of her voice is a few octaves lower than your average woman. Her skin is dark. Her nose is round. Her fingers are meaty and hard-worked. These attributes aren’t appealing to the masses.
As the most dominant tennis player of her generation, Williams’ earnings amount to millions upon millions of well-deserved dollars. However, in spite of her mind-boggling success, she earns significantly less money in endorsements than Sharapova. Simply put, Williams isn’t “pretty” enough to be the face of any high-fashion or cosmetic line. This has nothing to do with racism, as there have been plenty of other black women selected to headline promotional campaigns for major women’s franchises. The names that come to mind include Beyonce (L’Oreal), Rihanna (Cover Girl), Gabrielle Union (Neutrogena), Janelle Monae (Cover Girl), Kerry Washington (L’Oreal), and a host of others.
Truth be told, Williams has larger biceps and shoulders than most men (yeah, I said it). Don’t get me wrong, she’s cute in a Compton kind of way. But from a business perspective, Williams simply isn’t as marketable as Sharapova. White shoppers still outnumber black shoppers. On a financial level, it’s in a company’s best interest to employ individuals who appeal to the largest demographic; it’s called good business. Not surprisingly, many of Williams’ African American supporters have argued that racism factors into the disparity of endorsements opportunities between her and Sharapova. Furthermore, the sky seems to fall whenever Williams is described by critics as being “masculine.” Let me get this straight: Black people have no problem with poking fun at Iggy Azalea’s square jawline and prominent cheekbones, but somehow Williams is beyond criticism? I smell hypocrisy.
For most women, especially those who juggle multiple responsibilities, gaining Sharapova’s body is out of reach. Still, the media has successfully promoted a standard of beauty that wreaks havoc on the insecurities of female consumers everywhere. This airbrushed image is traditionally slender, light-eyed, and above all else, white. The tide has shifted a bit in recent years due to an outpouring of concern over the lack of sufficient diversity in fashion and entertainment. Currently, there’s a global fascination with the newly emerging trend of surgical enhancement to a woman’s buttocks. The intensity of this phenomenon, and its high cost, is driving many women to put their lives in the hands of less expensive black market surgeons. Despite its hazards, this procedure has boosted the careers of voluptuous rappers Iggy Azalea, her former arch nemesis, Nicki Minaj, as well as prominent members of the Kardashian family (allegedly). Now that the proverbial hourglass figure is en vogue, the winds of opportunity are sweeping across Hollywood’s urban female population.
There’s a simple reason why Serena Williams isn’t the highest paid tennis player in the world. In a different universe perhaps, the way a woman looks wouldn’t determine her economic potential. If Williams were living in that dimension, she would easily be the highest paid female athlete around. But in the real world, where vanity reigns supreme, there’s a barrier of success separating the pretty people from the not so pretty ones. Williams is by no means unattractive. Her thousand-watt smile can light up any room, and she can wash laundry on her wash-board abs. With that said, she is still too much woman for her own good.
The Black Hat is written by Southern California based Cory A. Haywood, a freelance writer and expert on Negro foolishness. Contact him via: [email protected] and/or visit his blogs: www.coryhaywood.webs.com and corythewriter.blogspot.com