Being more than halfway through her pregnancy, it makes sense that a lot of the questions Serena Williams has been answering in interviews have been about her pregnancy, her plans for motherhood and what the future holds for the tennis ace and fiancé Alexis Ohanian . But in a new interview for LeBron James’ Uninterrupted website, Williams talked about something else — money.
Sitting down with James’ business manager and friend Maverick Carter, she discussed having to become financially responsible as a teenager and how despite making quite a bit through tournaments and endorsements, Williams didn’t get into tennis to propel herself forward financially. She was so unphased about the idea of making big money that she would often forget to pick up her prize money.
“I’ve actually never played for money,” she said. “I just thought you would go out there and hold a trophy. Not once did I think about a check. In fact, when I first turned pro, you had to go pick up your check. I never, never picked it up so at the end of the year, the tournament directors would literally hand me the check ’cause I would never go get it. I just played for the love of the sport.”
But once she really started winning, money became something Williams found that she had to take seriously, especially since her parents weren’t monitoring her spending habits.
“Early on I learned a lot about money,” she said. “My dad was always so hands-on with me. It was interesting. He said, ‘I’ll never take any money from you, a fee or anything. But I’m also not going to direct you into what you spend and what you don’t spend. It’s going to be your decision.’ Since I was a teenager, I’ve made every financial decision in my life. I’ve had to learn how to make good ones and how to make bad ones, which I think helps you make better ones.”
As for life before the money, one might assume that the Williams family, seven people trying to make it in a two-bedroom home in Compton, struggled when Serena and Venus were growing up. But according to Serena, she never wanted for anything.
“I never, ever felt broke,” she said. “Looking back [laughs], I’m like, wow. We lived in a two-bedroom house, seven people. I don’t know how my parents were able to make me feel that way, but they did. And that was really something really special. So I never felt when I came into money that ‘I need to go buy this!’ because I never wanted anything.”
That’s probably why when she got her first million dollar check, she chose to deposit it instead of buying anything big. Granted, her methods of depositing the check were probably not the best.
“I never touched it. I just put it in the bank,” she said. “And I remember, I went through the drive-through to deposit my check and then they were like, ‘I think you need to come in for this.’ So I ended up going inside. I was just like [laughs], ‘Just put it in my account!’ I should have taken a picture with it.”
And while she may not have started playing tennis for the money, Serena Williams is very vocal and has been for years about the pay disparity between male and female players. As a soon-to-be mother who could very well have a daughter who wants to play tennis just like her, Williams told Carter that she would hope things would finally be equal for her when the time comes. If not, she already knows that her daughter would be outspoken about it, too.
“If my daughter were able to play in the sport and she was able to have equal prize money or equal pay or equal rights, I feel like that would be a success,” Williams said. “And if not, I would really want her to speak up for it. Any daughter of mine will have a voice.”