Venus Williams full of surprises
Birthplace: Lynwood, Calif.
Siblings: Serena Williams; Yetunde Price (deceased)
Twitter handle: @VenusesWilliams
Twitter followers: 991,976 and counting
15 things you don't know about Venus Williams:
1. Watch out, Nate Berkus! Venus enrolled in an interior design program in the early 2000s and became a certified interior decorator. In 2002, she created V*Starr Interiors, specializing in commercial and residential interior design. The stylista also earned an associate degree in fashion design and launched the EleVen sportswear line, and she is currently enrolled in an online program at the Indiana University East, pursuing a degree in business.
2. Venus and sister Serena became limited partners in the Miami Dolphins in 2009, making them the first African-American women to obtain ownership of an NFL franchise.
3. Some stars have a personal stylist; others have a driver. Venus has a personal physical therapist. Esther Lee treated Serena first; three years ago, she joined Team Venus and now travels with the sister duo full time, carting along a moving pharmacy of anti-inflammatory meds, athletic tape, Thera-Bands, gauze, bandages, sunblock and more. Lee manually warms up Venus' joints before every practice and is always on hand to calm twitchy muscles or address any stiffness or pain.
4. As we learned in "Venus VS.," she is a proud feminist. Angered by gender-based pay inequity, Venus went on record in 1998 after her first-round match at Wimbledon, saying, "I think in the Grand Slam events, it should be equal pay, and I think the ladies should do something about it instead of just accepting it for years to come." She met with Wimbledon officials in 2005 to discuss the negative message they were giving to both current and future female athletes; Wimbledon refused to budge. On the eve of Wimbledon 2006, The New York Times published an essay written by Venus in which she criticized the double standard; the Times of London also published a powerful op-ed in June 2006, in which Venus wrote, "I intend to keep doing everything I can until Billie Jean's original dream of equality is made real. It's a shame that the name of the greatest tournament in tennis, an event that should be a positive symbol for the sport, is tarnished." The next year, Wimbledon announced prize-money parity for male and female champions. In honor of her work, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization named Williams a UNESCO Promoter of Gender Equality.
5. Venus was pumped when little sister Serena won the 2013 ESPY for best female athlete, but Venus was downright moved by Robin Roberts' speech after winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. "I was hanging on to every word," she tweeted. "Getting me so emotional."
6. Venus stopped eating animal products after her 2011 diagnosis of Sjögren's ("shoh-grinz") syndrome -- an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth -- in an effort to reduce systemwide inflammation.
7. Want to try one of her recipes? Give her signature vegan pizza a whirl. The crust is made of raw cashews, extra virgin coconut oil, Italian herbs and Himalayan pink salt.
8. The hardest part of eating raw and vegan? No sugar. Venus has called SweeTarts "the love of my life" and has actual dreams about Hostess Sno Balls. Sometimes, not even an Olympic gold medalist has the willpower to stick to such a strict regimen, so she has coined a new term: "cheagan," which is short for "cheating vegan."
9. "Work on your toss." That's her No. 1 tip for wannabe tennis stars. "On a first serve, you want your toss out in front of you and a little bit to the right," she writes on her website. "This will allow you to rotate around and really put some torque on the ball."
10. Even though she prefers fantasy over science fiction, "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore is one of her favorite books. Other top picks include the "Fablehaven" series by Brandon Mull and the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling. Flash, Superman, the Justice League and other DC Comics heroes also hold a primo spot on her bookshelf.
11. You know the fancy-schmancy, high-end-designer areas at stores like Barneys or Saks? That is not where Venus shops. You'll find her in more reasonably priced stores, such as the Barneys Co-op. "The other areas are annoying," she says. "The prices are outrageous, and a lot of it isn't even functional. Also, I don't like trends. I won't wear them. I have to be on my own path." That said, if Ralph Lauren, Armani or Dolce & Gabbana come knocking, she's not gonna kick them out. And when she wants to channel her inner Beyonce, she wears Matthew Williamson.
12. In her book "Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession," Williams talks with Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Billie Jean King, Magic Johnson, Bill Bradley, Denzel Washington, Soledad O'Brien, Robin Roberts, Vera Wang and others, offering advice on how to learn from losses and visualize success.
13. She's currently sporting pink braids. Last year, she used her locks to pay homage to Team USA with red-and-blue twists. White beads and straightened strands also have made statements.
14. Oprah named Venus to her first Power List in 2009, alongside Cleopatra, political analyst Donna Brazile, comedian Sarah Silverman and Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT and the first woman and first African-American to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
15. The Williams family goes nuts for karaoke and even lugs a portable karaoke machine along when traveling. Go-to hits include "6 Underground" by the Sneaker Pimps, "Stupid Girl" by Garbage, "Call Me" by Blondie, "Gold Dust Woman" by Fleetwood Mac, "Tom Sawyer" by Rush and "Barracuda" by Heart.