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Behind the Scenes of the Serena Williams Cover Shoot

“I’ve been photographing Serena since she was 16 years old,” said Annie Leibovitz. “It was wonderful to do these pictures at this stage of her life.”

Serena Williams is known around the world as a powerhouse on the tennis court, and Vanity Fair’s August 2017 cover shows the superstar athlete imbued with a new source of power: motherhood. In two stunning portraits, shot by Annie Leibovitz, the 35-year-old strikes regal poses in profile—jet-black mane freely flowing in one, long braid hanging down her back in the other—and proudly displays her pregnant belly.

For Leibovitz, the minimalistic, breathtakingly beautiful shoot marked a milestone moment in her long-established relationship to Williams. “I’ve been photographing Serena since she was 16 years old,” Leibovitz told Vanity Fair. “It was wonderful to do these pictures at this stage of her life.”The full portfolio features Williams both solo and alongside her fiancé, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. They plan to marry in the fall, after the birth of their first child; Williams discovered she was pregnant, much to her shock, roughly a week before the beginning of the Australian Open in Melbourne last January.

“We found [Alexis] to be a lovely guy and completely supportive of Serena,” said Vanity Fair senior photography producer Kathryn MacLeod, who produced the shoot in Highland Beach, Florida. “He was on set the whole time, and they seem very happy and very in love.”At the heart of Leibovitz’s portfolio is a refreshing portrayal of modern, multifaceted womanhood, with Williams leading by example. “The thing we all agreed on,” Vanity Fair fashion and style director Jessica Diehl wrote in an e-mail, “is the fact that power, motherhood, and athleticism are not mutually exclusive.” Diehl, who has worked with Williams on past shoots, also noted that while, previously, “it has been about celebrating and showcasing the perfection of the physique of an athlete (the best, in my opinion), this time it felt more appropriate to bring in a bit of softness. Hence the caftan.”


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