Tennis legend Serena Williams has been named a fashion icon by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
The organization awarded Williams the title in a ceremony in New York on Monday night.
“I explore fashion and style as a way to make myself stand out,” Williams told the crowd. “For me, the tennis court became my running track in a lot of ways.”
Williams is the first athlete to win the award. Previous winners include Beyoncé, Zendaya and Rihanna.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion appeared on the red carpet at the American Museum of Natural History wearing a custom black sequined dress designed by CFDA Chairman Thom Browne.
In fashion’s equivalent of Oscar night, Williams was awarded the 2023 CFDA Fashion Icon Award by fashion mogul and TV star Kim Kardashian.
Others in the audience included actors Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore and singers Mary J. Blige and Vanessa Hudgens.
In her acceptance speech, Williams spoke of her love for fashion and its role on the tennis court.
“I styled the dress out of denim, wore a purple tutu and leotards, put beads in my hair and braided it,” she said. “It was a really fun time for me.”
Williams studied fashion during her career, attending fashion school during her time at the Grand Slams, and launched her S by Serena clothing line in 2018.
In 2019, Williams told Essence magazine that her clothes “represent women everywhere—indomitable mothers, daughters, and sisters; resilient businesswomen and entrepreneurs; outsiders and underdogs; little girls with crazy dreams. Girls and determined women of color.”
Williams, 42, ends her 27-year career at the 2022 U.S. Open in New York, although she said “I’m not retiring” and the “chances (of returning) are very high”.
She described the end of her career as “moving away from tennis” in a Vogue article.
During the ceremony, Williams thanked several people but left the last one for her mother.
“Watching her sew gave me a sense of creativity that I still have to this day,” Williams said.