When Serena Williams’ daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian has her milestone first birthday on September 1, there won’t be any fanfare.
While Williams loves a celebration – her wedding to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian featured a Disney theme, two Alexander McQueen gowns and doughnuts that dropped from the ceiling – her daughter’s birthday won’t be marked.
And there’s a surprise reason.
“Olympia doesn’t celebrate birthdays,” Williams, 36, told a US Open press conference on August 25.
“We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we don’t do that.”
The official website for Jehovah’s Witnesses explains that church followers don’t celebrate birthdays “because we believe that such celebrations displease God”.
While the site said that “the Bible does not explicitly forbid celebrating birthdays”, it listed four reasons why Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid birthdays.
Among them: Such celebrations have pagan roots, said the site (quoting 1970s encyclopaedia specialists Funk & Wagnalls.) And the only commemorations that Christians are required to keep “involves not a birth, but a death – that of Jesus”.
During the media conference, Williams revealed other personal details about her domestic life, including that Olympia – her mother calls her that but her father, 35, dubs her ‘Junior’ – hates road trips.
The little girl is “not very good in the car”, said the champ.
“That’s one of the toughest things we work on. She’s not good if we’re [going on] more than a five-minute ride.”
On August 27, Williams posted to Instagram a photo and story about Olympia not dealing well with a flight: “She threw up all over me and in the aisle.”
In the post, she asked for other parenting horror stories and was met with perhaps more than she bargained for: A deluge of anecdotes about children’s toilet habits and little heads getting stuck in cat flaps.
Kids humble us. The other day on a flight home Olympia had so much energy and insisted on running up and down the aisle. When I finally got her to calm down and sit still, she threw up all over me and in the aisle. #ThisMama wants to remind all mothers the importance of supporting one another through the highs, lows, laughs and tears. _ Share your own stories of motherhood with hashtag #ThisMama. I’d love to hear them!
A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on
Still, social media feedback from other mothers is always welcome, Williams told the US NBC Today show last week.
“When I missed Olympia’s walking, I posted about it and so many parents wrote in and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I missed it too,’ ” she said.
“I didn’t realise that it’s almost more normal to miss it than it is to make it,” she added. “So I really kind of rely on everyone’s help out there. It’s been so, so amazing.”
Motherhood duties were temporarily put on the back burner on Monday (US time), when Williams made a stir hitting the court for her US Open comeback.
Just days after the former world No.1 was criticised by French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli for playing in a custom black catsuit at July’s French Open, she made another decisive fashion statement.
Williams’ outfit? A custom one-shouldered black tutu dress worn with compression fishnets and sparkly silver sneakers.
The ballerina-inspired dress was the result of a collaboration with Nike and Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh, a favourite of Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Kanye West.
Williams took up dance a couple of years ago when she was tired of doing routine cardio and wanted a “different form to express myself”, she said last week.
“When I teamed up with Virgil and he pulled out this tutu, I was like … this is the moment I’ve been waiting for,” said Williams, who beat Poland’s Magda Linette 6-4, 6-0 in the dress.
It met with fans’ approval.
“You can’t wear a catsuit to play? OK, I’ll go with a tutu and fishnets then. @serenawilliams is the role model even big girls needed. Williams is unflappable, even in a tutu,” wrote one Twitter user.
Said another, “Yes Queen.”