Now, this is what we call a serve. We’re admittedly excited to wax nostalgic as we finally dig into the highly anticipated King Richard, the tennis-fueled Williams family biopic which debuts today in theaters and on HBO Max, starring Will Smith as patriarch Richard Williams. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge the flawless throwback served by the film’s co-producer Venus Williams, who paid tribute to the start of her now-storied career at the film’s Los Angeles premiere this week. The tennis legend hit the red carpet sporting a stunning braided and beaded hairstyle reminiscent of those she and sister Serena famously wore early in their careers—at the time, often drawing derision from those who didn’t understand the classic African American style.
The modern-day interpretation of the look was a collaboration with celebrity stylist and “hair MacGyver” Nikki Nelms, who updated the girlish style by topping it with a high braided ponytail at the back, using the beaded elements—which coordinated with Williams’ slinky silver slip dress—as face-framing bangs with long sidepieces at the front.
Williams gave further context to the homage on Instagram, writing:
When [Serena] and I wore our iconic beads, we didn’t wear them to be different, we wore them because they were a part of our heritage. Beads are a typical style for African American children. Of course they are worn by adults too for decoration in African American culture but have deep roots in African history. Beads and braids could be a symbol of your tribe, rank and status, age, religion and much more. They were and still remain in some areas of cultural significance to both men and women.
Wearing braids and beads unbeknownst to us at the time as children was an opportunity to share our beautiful and rich heritage with the world. It gave other African American women and children pride to wear their natural hair even before the natural hair movement sprouted decades later.
Wearing a beaded style for the premiere was a representation of my roots. The film is a true origins story. My hair represented not only my origins as a child in tennis, but also my African roots. It was a beautiful moment to celebrate it! Thank you to Nikki Nelms for making this style come to life!
The EleVen by Venus founder has been killing it on the style tip in the lead-up to King Richard’s premiere; for her recent appearance with Serena on Will Smith’s takeover of Red Table Talk, she donned a piece from her own line which was inspired by both the movie and her father, according to a press release provided to The Root.
Venus took the memorable vintage styles she and her coach and father, Richard Williams, wore in the ‘80s and gave them a modern, yet nostalgic edge. The jacket Venus wears in the episode—an old school sports coat just like Richard wore—is the hero piece, but with a contemporary crop and exaggerated collar bringing femininity and luxe to round out this honorary capsule.
The best part is the collection pays it forward; 15 percent of proceeds will fund The Yetunde Price Resource Center founded by the Williams family in honor of Venus’ late sister Yetunde Price. YPRC offers healing and wellness services to the Compton, Calif. community.
Again, that’s what we call a serve.