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There aren’t many idols from my childhood who I’ve consistently been able to look up to from the early ’90s to today. (In fact, in most cases, it’s been the complete opposite.) Even though I was one year old when Venus Williams went pro at the age of 14—um, casual—in 1994, I grew up watching her, cheering her on, and wishing my terrible tennis game could become even remotely close to the moves and swerves I saw her skillfully making on the court. (Spoiler: there are some people who should never own, let alone hold, a tennis racket, and I am one of those people!)

Williams might be one of the most talented and celebrated tennis players of all time—she currently holds 75 championship tennis titles and has had one of the longest careers in tennis history—but she’s managed to transcend her athletic legacy by punctuating her influence with entrepreneurial endeavors that are smart, empowering, and intentional. In other words, she’s not simply sticking her name onto something just because she can. 

While Williams has founded multiple cool brands like Happy Viking—a plant-based protein line and V Starr—a South Florida-based interior design firm, it’s her activewear label EleVen by Venus Williams, and more specifically, the SPF beauty collection within said label, that gets me super, super jazzed. (I am a beauty editor after all!) With three all-star formulas under her belt—a sunscreen cream, a sunscreen serum, and a sunscreen lip balm—we chatted up the athlete and founder to find out what it’s been like to enter the beauty space, what gets her excited about product development and indulging in a beauty routine, and so much more. Keep scrolling to get to know Venus Williams and to become intimately acquainted with her go-to product lineup.

Tell me a bit about your inspiration for creating EleVen. What’s your favorite thing about entering the beauty space as a brand founder?

I wanted to build an activewear brand that blended fashion and function. As an athlete, I’ve learned how things need to perform and move to handle any workout, no matter the intensity. As a designer, I knew I wanted to create a line that reflected my approach to style: pops of color, fun prints, and unique designs that are unlike what other brands are doing. As a brand founder, I really just love being able to share my passions for beauty and design with our customers. It’s so rewarding to me.

What excites you most about growing a beauty business? What messages do you hope to convey to your customers and to the industry through your products? 

I have such a passion for beauty and so much respect for the beauty world as a whole. To be able to share my passions with our consumers is what drives me every day. Personally, I love the joy I feel when I get a little glammed up and the fun I have trying out different beauty products. My hope is to bring that joy to our customers and help them to feel beautiful, bold, and confident. I want them to embody our EleVen mantra and feel like an 11 out of 10 every day.

You’re obviously so well known for being one of the greatest tennis players of all time. How has your athletic career influenced your beauty practices? 

Over the years I’ve definitely struggled with finding the right sunscreens or makeup products to wear when I’m on the court all day long. With the EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 ($42) and Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35 ($50), I wanted to create products that are super lightweight, provide serious protection, and don’t run down my face or sting my eyes when I’m sweating. When it comes to my preferred hairstyles on the court, I’m definitely not one to be shy when it comes to trying out a new hairdo. I do prefer playing with my hair back, but I love experimenting with new styles, whether it’s purple braids or fun alien buns!

You’ve reached a milestone decade, your 40s. Are there any beauty practices you’ve dropped or added as you’ve entered this new phase? 

I don’t think there are any practices I’ve dropped, but I’ve definitely added a few over the years. One of my go-to favorite anti-aging products is Asutra’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($15), which is 100% vegan, super hydrating, and adds brightness to my face. I’m all for any product that can give me an extra glow!

We love a glow! What would you say has changed the most about your skincare routine over the last decade, between 30 and 40? 

Well, it actually wasn’t until I was around 30 when I realized the importance of sunscreen and how damaging the sun can be. Since then, I’ve really made a conscious effort to wear sunscreen every day and making sure to reapply. I’ve become really passionate about taking care of my skin which is a big reason behind why I created the EleVen by Venus Williams clean SPF line with Credo Beauty.

What are a few of your desert island beauty products and why do you love them so much?

First and foremost, I would definitely need to be protected with the EleVen by Venus On-the-Defense Sunscreen ($42), Unrivaled Sun Serum, and one of the Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15 ($19). These products offer full protection which is why they are staples in my skincare routine. For fun, I’d probably want to have Milani’s Stay Put Waterproof Eyeliner ($17) because that stuff is GOOD and lasts so long.

If you could dedicate an entire day to nothing but beauty and self-care, what would the itinerary look like?

I would start the day with a delicious protein shake from my plant-based protein line Happy Viking and some sort of sweet vegan treat—probably a donut! I love exfoliating and scrubbing my body, so any kind of body brush or face brush would definitely be getting some use, and then I’d take a bath using either Asutra Soak The Day Away Deas Sea Bath Salts ($23) or their Magnesium Chloride Bath Flakes ($20). I’d probably then pamper myself with a bit of the Rose Body Oil ($20), get cozy in my PJs, and hang with my dog, Harold! A chill day is the best self-care day for me.

When do you feel most beautiful and why?

I really love natural, glowy, effortless looks. My mom taught me to be confident in my own skin so wearing a lot of makeup isn’t really my thing, but I love the contrast of wearing light face and eye makeup with a bold red lip. The Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15 in Venus ($19) is my go-to these days!

How about confident or powerful?

I feel really confident on the court, especially when I’m wearing a killer outfit from my Wonder Woman line at EleVen. The court is basically my second home, and I feel so good when I’m able to do something that I love while entertaining others. The fans cheering me on make me feel extra confident, regardless of the outcome.

Next: 7 Beauty Tips I Learned from Taraji P. Henson in Under 10 Minutes

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