Miami Beach, Fla., may have played host to Art Basel 2018 last weekend, but it also welcomed 700 inspired and inspiring women for the Create & Cultivate Vision Summit, a one-day event of panels, workshops, and more, geared toward working women.
The summit was the first of its kind for the online community and offline event producer, which has become a hub for multifaceted and entrepreneurial women, attracting celebs, success stories, and aspirants in equal measure (Issa Rae and Meghan Markle have previously made conference appearances). Saturday’s event, sponsored by IT Cosmetics, Aerie, and The Home Depot, included conversations on media, career, marketing, entrepreneurship, the digital space, and life as a modern woman, according to a statement.
But the jewel in the crown of the festivities was an appearance by Venus Williams, who got candid about her role models, her ongoing and concurrent careers, knowing and demanding her worth, and competing with sister Serena.
Given the worldwide fame of the Williams sisters, fans often forget they are actually the youngest of five. Williams said her sisters and mother have had a profound effect in shaping her career, especially older sister Isha Price.
“She’s always saving my life,” Williams said. “I’m grateful for her. I have three older sisters, one younger, and I have my mom. Those were the role models in my life. We’re a tight-knit family. We were taught that your sisters are your best friends.”
And of little sister Serena, who, like Venus, also owns a fashion line (and hosted a nearby pop-up in Miami the day before), Venus confirmed that their competition remains healthy, but deeply supportive.
“We definitely support each other,” Williams said. “We motivate each other. When I see her doing great, I feel motivated. After a while, I felt like whatever she was doing I was doing. Last year at Wimbledon, I was in the semifinals and realized, “Oh no, I have to do this, Serena’s not doing it.” It’s a weird feeling. As a sister, when they’re doing something it’s your success too.
But while Williams readily offered that the woman whose career she admires most is Serena, Venus deserves major credit for her efforts to secure equal pay for women players in the French Open and Wimbledon, a campaign she began in 2005. In 2007, the organizations capitulated, marking a major breakthrough for not only Williams, but every woman competing in the sport. Of her groundbreaking achievement, she humbly told the Create & Cultivate crowd that it was a group effort.
Growing up, I just wanted to win Wimbledon. When I got there, I didn’t realize it wasn’t equal for the men and women so it was a wakeup call. I was on the player’s council and was a part of the governors of women’s tennis. It was a long journey and a lot of people helped. Really a whole tour got behind it. I ended up being part of something that was much bigger than my dream of winning Wimbledon. There were people like Billie Jean King who jumped on board to help. It was something that had been going on since the ‘60s, and it was about time we finally got equal prize money.
The Williams sisters were famously trained early on by their father and first tennis coach, Richard. Now, Venus credits that early training with her ability to not only dominate on the court but juggle an ongoing career in competitive tennis with multiple business—in addition to her activewear line, EleVen by Venus, she also helms a successful interior design firm, V Starr.
“I encourage people to do something physical that’s challenging or go out and play with your kids,” she said. “You learn how to control emotions. At work things get emotional, you need to learn how to control that. You learn how to win, how to lose, how to be a leader of your own life.”
If you think Williams is just the face of her brands, think again. The tennis star, who was just accepted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) found time to go to design school in Miami prior to launching EleVen and V Starr. As she told the Create & Cultivate audience:
Whatever I do I want to bring credibility to. On the court I’ve worked so hard so I bring that to anything I do. ... EleVen stands for, better than a ten. It’s about bringing your best every single time. It’s about living a healthy life. Empowering yourself. ... We’re about being healthy and empowering others to be their best. ...
Through EleVen, I want to see people say ‘I’m living a healthier life because of this’ or ‘You wrote a blog and it made me feel better about myself’. EleVen, for me, is an opportunity to give back what being active and confidence through being active, focusing on what you can achieve instead of maybe what you look like. Everyone wants to look good but it’s more important to feel good.
For a woman who admitted to the crowd that she hates losing and gets anxious about “not putting in the work,” Williams had sage advice for Create & Cultivate, including the tried and true “fake it ‘til you make it philosophy.” Ultimately, it comes down to discerning what’s really worth the time, effort and worry in her already jam-packed schedule.
“The same amount of time you worry is the same amount of time you could use doing something about the worries you have,” she said. “I do the best I can with the amount of time I have. If it doesn’t work out, I get another plan.”