Serena Williams on Migraine Disease, LA’s Female Soccer Team, and Her Daughter Olympia

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It’s easy to think of Serena Williams as superhero on and off the tennis court. After all, she holds the record for most Grand Slam titles in basically every category and survived a harrowing experience giving birth to her daughter Olympia. But the rub with superheroes is that they all have their kryptonite.

For years now, the 38-year-old has suffered from debilitating migraine disease. It’s a condition that she’s refused to accept as a permanent way of life: “I always feel, for me, just because I’m tough, it doesn’t mean that I have to endure the pain,” she said on a recent Zoom call. During quarantine Williams started taking a medication for migraine attacks called Ubrelvy. She admits, that when her doctor first told her about it she was a bit skeptical. “But I had such good results,” she says. In fact, she benefited so tremendously that she officially signed on to be the face of the product. “You know how when you get something, you get good news, you kind of want to share it?” she says of her new venture. “A lot of people kind of think that, ‘Oh I can get through this.’ Especially moms, they think ‘I can do this’ but you don’t really have to, you can just get treatment for the pain.” To mark the launch of the new partnership, Williams chatted with ELLE.com about family life in quarantine, her new women’s soccer team, and how she’s feeling now.

How have you been keeping healthy and sane in quarantine? What have you been up to?

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I’ve been keeping really busy. I’ve been training every day, not every day, I lie, but mostly. Every Saturday, I do an Instagram live called Serena Saturdays. It’s for my clothing line, S by Serena. I just launched a new capsule of Serena Williams jewelry called Unstoppable. So, that’s been really cool. A portion of the funds help Black-owned businesses. And so that’s been really exciting. I’ve been a full time mom. I’m sorry I was a little late on the call today because I was still dealing with some baby stuff. I learned that as a mom, you can’t rely too much on a schedule. You just kind of gotta let it go.

Queen Olympia! Is she enjoying all the down time at home?

She’s so young so she’s at a perfect age for this. I feel really fortunate, I’m glad she’s only four because [if she were older] she would have more friends she couldn’t see. I’m also glad that she’s at this age because she’s not really in school. She literally just started school and then we had to pull her out. It’s been interesting but she’s good. She just loves being around us and my goodness, I love being around her.

I mean that iconic purple matching picture of you and Olympia in quarantine, it was unreal.

Oh my god. That squat. Oh my god.

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It was just announced you are helping to bring women’s soccer to LA which is so cool.

Isn’t it? Being from LA, it’s a really cool thing. It was really my husband that was behind it. I kind of got into it because of that. The story and everything that we’ve heard over the past 12 months about female soccer players and the pay disparity, it’s just really intense. It’s crazy. So it was a good opportunity and it’s so good to be a part of so many amazing other female founders, other male founders as well. So it’s good.

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You’re an entrepreneur, designer, author, athlete, mom, and so many things. How have you found ways to stay balanced and get creative during COVID?

I was sketching yesterday. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m old school sketching. So I was trying to think of a new idea for our clothing line, just incorporating some new stuff. And then jewelry is special for me. I went to school for clothing, but I didn’t go to school for accessories. And so that’s really been stretching my brain to the furthest limits. No wonder I was getting so many migraines during quarantine. Also because of everything that we as a society was going through, we were locked in our houses for the first time. We didn’t know who should come over. We were wiping down groceries, we’re afraid to go to the grocery stores. I think all that stress really contributed to that.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or favorite shows?

I started briefly baking. I became a professional cinnamon roll maker. I made some beignets. It was crazy because I couldn’t find flour. The flour was sold out, so that was hard. But I did more baking. As a mom, I didn’t really have a ton of time to watch TV. I can only start watching TV at 9:00 PM. That’s when my day is finally over and sometimes even then I’ll schedule a call, because I’m like, “Okay, this the only free time I have.” That’s been a little stressful, but it’s all right. I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I saw the pancakes you made for Olympia! They were so cute.

Yeah, it was so fun. She’s obsessed with animation and different animated characters. And so we try to make them in the pancakes.

Have you been keeping up with friends and family during this time?

In the beginning, I was. I was like, okay I’m going to be on a great friend schedule and now I’ve gotten busier. I don’t have time to even talk. I’m busier now than I was when the world was open. So I don’t know, it’s insane. I feel a lot of people feel that way though.

What are you most excited for when quarantine is over?

Going to the movies is my favorite thing. Eating popcorn, I go to the movies just for the popcorn. And I wanted to see Mulan. I don’t know what happened to that. There’s so many movies that I wanted to see. I’m just hoping that the movie theaters are able to survive because I really want to do that again. I think I took it for granted. I mean, I went all the time and now I’m like, oh my gosh, it’s not going to happen.

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What have you learned about managing your migraine disease, especially when you’re so busy?

I juggle so many countless responsibilities. But there have been times when I would just wait so long to take my medication until my migraine was bad. Because like I said before, I was just tough, trying to deal with the pain and I’m like, okay I can deal with this, I have to do this. And at times, I unfortunately, I’ve waited too long and it would be too late. So I’d end up suffering longer.

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This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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