llserena
ESPN's October 2009 issue.

Let’s see: four Wimbledon trophies, 13 Grand Slam titles, but all we’re hearing about Serena Williams are her “big boobs and this massive butt.”

Those are her words, as quoted in this Harper’s Bazaar article. It’s a nice, light, fun piece about her new, leaner body, fashion sense and self-confidence. Although she says she loves her smile and her latest haircut, it’s the boobs-and-butt comment that’s grabbed the headlines and spawned more than 1,000 articles.

As you can imagine, the hate-filled comments attached to most of those articles are loathsome, far too many flat-out racist. I won’t bother sharing the venom with you. Suffice it to say that, Sir Mix-A-Lot notwithstanding, the vilest comments were about her gluteus maximus.

In Harper’s, the 28-year-old Serena was comparing her body type to big sister Venus’: “I was 23 when I realized that I wasn't Venus. She's totally different,” she explains. “I'm super-curvy. I have big boobs and this massive butt. She's tall and she's like a model and she fits everything. I was growing up, wanting to be her, wanting to look like her, and I was always fitting in her clothes, but then one day I couldn't.”

With pilates and yoga, she’s dropped from a size 12 to a size 10, and remains a strong, fit and indisputably muscular black woman. Last year, she wore nothing but her megawatt smile on the cover of ESPN magazine’s October “body issue”. She looked fantastic, but horrible comments lit up the ’net for weeks.

It makes me wonder what the real problem is. The words that come immediately to mind are “threat” and “intimidation.” The negativity is not coming from African-American men or women. Well, near as I can tell, judging from the comments. Her brown skin offends. Her build, arms and thighs offend.

I suppose that to really get into the core issues, I would have to care. And people, I just don’t. I’m used to being perceived as a threat on the professional courts; it’s as petty as it is revealing of an opponent’s true character. Intimidating? Whatever.

African-American women supposedly have more body confidence than others. That’s a myth. The truth is in the stats: 80 percent of us are overweight and therefore disproportionately suffer the related diseases of diabetes, hypertension and some cancers. Stress manifests itself as depression, and the number of black women with eating disorders is steadily increasing.

And this is where Serena teaches us all some important lessons:

· Love yourself, no matter your size, height or body shape.

· Don’t like what you see in the mirror? Fix it.

· Take good care of your health so you can have a more full, rich, healthy and productive life.

The Harper’s piece is nice one. Refreshing. I appreciate it, and I’ll be sure to let them know that.

Never trust a big butt and a smile. ~ Lyric from Poison (1989), by Bel Biv DeVoe

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.