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March 20, 2003

Venus Williams


THE MODERATOR: I just wanted to thank you guys all for coming and let you know we're here today to launch the "Doublemint Feel the Green Auction" for charity. It's for the Tom Joyner Foundation. One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the Tom Joyner Foundation, which is a charity which provides scholarships for historically black universities and colleges.The program will launch on Monday on Doublemint.com. There's a lot of really fun stuff that's going to be up for auction on Doublemint.com that Venus will tell you a little bit about, including a private tennis lesson with Serena, some outfits that are going to be worn here at the NASDAQ-100 Open, as well as the French and Wimbledon. I will pass it over to Venus. Before, I just wanted to note, unfortunately, Serena wasn't able to join today. But we're really, really excited about this program. Venus will tell you a little bit more about it.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Okay. I guess it's my turn to speak. I'm really excited to be partnering with Doublemint. We've done some really, really good programs. They're actually, with Wrigley's, sorry. I've got the Doublemint T-shirt on. I think it's really been a lot of fun. I've been able to feel proud and good about myself because of the programs that they do have. Serena and I feel really good to be able to launch these kinds of initiatives and to be able to bring attention to these kinds of things. It makes a lot of sense to give back and makes us feel good. So what's going to happen is there are going to be a few outfits that we wear at the NASDAQ and some tennis balls and tennis racquets and huge tennis racquets, also a tennis lesson with Serena, and it's going to benefit the Tom Joyner Foundation. That benefits historically black colleges. I guess you know how I feel about education. It's almost number one in my life. Other than that, I'm ready for any questions you may have.

Q. Why is Serena doing the lesson? Why aren't you doing the lesson?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess she's a better teacher (laughter).

Q. Can you tell us a little more about the Tom Joyner Foundation, the sort of things it does?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, Tom Joyner, I'm not sure if you guys all know who Tom Joyner is, but he does a really popular morning show here. It's called the "Tom Joyner Morning Show." He's also African American. His foundation benefits a lot of great things. In this case, it's going to go 100 percent of the proceeds directly to scholarships for historically black colleges. I covered the whole...?


Q. I wanted to say I'm from a morning show in Miami. The foundation is really doing some fantastic things. How did you decide to team up with Tom specifically?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think basically Wrigley comes up with the best ideas.

Q. You're like, "Let's jump on it"?

VENUS WILLIAMS: When they make sense, it makes sense. Here I am. I think that for me, education is really important. A lot of times colleges, especially historically black ones, aren't always getting the funding that some of the other colleges do. So it's very important to me.

Q. I think the baseball pitcher Randy Johnson just paid $55,000 to have a private lesson with Andre and Steffi. I was wondering, do you think someone will pay more than that to get that private lesson with Serena?


Q. Would it be worth that?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think so. Like I said, she's a good teacher.

Q. What makes her a good teacher?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She's patient. She understands the techniques.

Q. Do you have to let them win a few points to make sure the thing's interesting?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, I don't know if they'll exactly want to play a match against her. But they may want some pointers. I guess it's up to how much nerve they have, because even the top players don't want to face Serena Williams (smiling).

Q. Now that you guys are out of the braids, would you consider auctioning off some old beads?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't have that many left. I tried to save them, but I think they got, like, caught in the move when I moved out. But, you know, that is a good idea. Next time we should auction the beads, those are like...

Q. Collectibles?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, that's a good way of putting it.

Q. It's about chewing gum, is it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's about chewing gum and then a little more. What, did you just get here?

Q. Just arrived (laughter).

VENUS WILLIAMS: Okay. I'll go through it again just for you, Bud.

Q. Sorry, Venus.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Don't worry. Okay. It's the initiative that Wrigley's is launching with Serena and I, with our help. We are going to auction off items starting on Monday, all the way through April 25th. The items will include tennis balls, racquets and tennis bags, tennis dresses. I suppose the climax is a lesson with Serena, a tennis lesson. Someone can bid and get that one also. The bidding is at Wrigley.com.

THE MODERATOR: Doublemint.com.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Wrigley, Doublemint, they link. The funding, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation, and the Tom Joyner Foundation, unless you heard that part...?

Q. No.

VENUS WILLIAMS: And you know Tom Joyner?

Q. I'm sorry if my colleagues have heard all of it.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I hope there's a transcript. Tom Joyner is a very popular radio show host. He has his own morning show, and it's syndicated all over the United States. It's my mom's favorite, actually. His foundation is really, really a positive foundation. In this case the proceeds are going to go towards scholarships for historically black colleges.

Q. Very good. Are there any particular schools?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, both my sisters went to Howard, so I guess I'm kind of particular to that one, yeah.

Q. I'm a proud Spellman graduate. I want to see some of that money going there. I know last year you guys were very involved with ACE and the Wrigley program, you slugged through all of the applications and essays. Will you be meeting with some of the people as well who receive some of these scholarships?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think that's a provision, exactly. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how the colleges will award the people who deserve it, but it's going to a good cause.

Q. What do you think you might hopefully raise? Any idea of what sort of target you've set?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No. What do you think?

THE MODERATOR: The goal is $10,000. So that's what we're hoping to get to.

VENUS WILLIAMS: We'll start the bidding high. I guess start -- hopefully, they'll go beyond their wildest expectations.

Q. Venus, in your role as a chewing gum spokesperson, I wonder if you could help with a problem that we have at my soccer club back in Manchester. Manchester United, the coach, manager, is the most successful coach in British football, Alex Ferguson. He has a terrible problem - he chews gum throughout the match and then he spits it out absentmindedly at the end. Do you think that should incur some kind of penalty?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess if someone steps on it then twists their ankle, that deserves at least a warning (smiling).

Q. Only if it's not Wrigley's.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Only if it's not Wrigley's (smiling).

Q. Can you talk about how you made Tom's acquaintance? Was it through your mom? Is he a tennis fan? How did you really hook up with him?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Just, to be honest, I mean, I feel like I've kind of known him for a few years because I was always listening to the show. But I met him... Actually, I'm not exactly sure if I did meet him.

Q. Orange Bowl.

VENUS WILLIAMS: It was the Orange Bowl. Was that 2000? Yeah, it was the Orange Bowl, but I met everyone from the show that time. But I haven't exactly -- I haven't been able to sit down and chat and that kind of thing. But he's a really, really positive person. That's how I envision him.

Q. How do you decide which charities to lend your name to?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm really, really particular towards, I suppose, children and really, I think, anyone who's a good cause. All kinds of requests, of course, for shoes and racquets and that kind of thing. If they're really doing the job, then that's what counts. But my favorite is definitely my mom's foundation, the OWL Foundation. She's my mom, so I lean toward that (smiling).

Q. When you say "a lot of," you get "a lot of offers," can you...

VENUS WILLIAMS: They don't exactly come to me. They're through managers. Racquets. You wouldn't believe the things people ask for.

Q. Such as...?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not even going to get into it in this press conference (laughing). It's what people, lots of people really -- especially good charities, they need help. So, you know, I suppose it's a little bit of my responsibility to be able to help where I can.

Q. Do you enjoy giving back to the charities with your time and your energy?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, when I have time, I try. Exactly like now, this is one of the best ways.

Q. Is Serena in this as well?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah. All the way. There she is (pointing to her picture.) She's not too talkative (laughing). Earphones...

Q. What's the designed "Feel the Green" racquet all about? Did somebody design it? It said on the release you specially designed it.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Maybe we aren't on the same wavelength. Well, "Feel the Green" is part of this campaign, also the ad campaign. But I don't know about a racquet.

THE MODERATOR: They're signed.

VENUS WILLIAMS: There are some designed racquets for auction?

Q. It says, "Specially designed Feel the Green..."

VENUS WILLIAMS: I thought she was talking about the big ones?

THE MODERATOR: Not the big ones. It will be up on the auction site.

Q. There's talk that we've heard that you're not going to go back to Amelia Island to defend your title. Have you made a decision?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm currently not entered. I loved it last year; I really did. Really, I never experienced another crowd like Amelia, at Amelia Island. I really haven't. I just really couldn't believe how wonderful the people were there and just how supportive and how much they wanted me to be able to succeed in my matches. So that was real, real nice.

Q. So you're not going to go back this year?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, I really want to, but I had some things going on in my life off the court so I couldn't exactly sign up.

Q. Speaking of "off the court," how are you finding balancing tennis with V Starr Interiors responsibilities?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I practice in the morning, go in the office in the afternoon. Then I get off work, put in my time card. But, no, it's a lot of fun. It's something I wanted to do, so... I like to think that once I put my mind to it, it will really go well.

Q. So what happens when you're practicing in the morning or when you're on the road?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not the only person at the design office. I don't take care of everything.

Q. How many people are on board?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Currently, just two. But as I say, it's hard to find good help. I've learned...

Q. How many places have you designed? How many clients have you had?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I have a few clients. My toughest client is Serena. She pressures me (laughing).

Q. Is that for her LA apartment?


Q. Is it an apartment?


Q. How many bedrooms?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She has two.

Q. She's paying, too, for this service?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I would never charge her. I would charge the rest (laughing). I wouldn't even do that. She kept saying, "I want to pay, I want to pay." But, no, I wouldn't.

Q. How long does it take for your clients to forget that you're Venus Williams, a tremendous tennis player, and just that you're an interior designer?

VENUS WILLIAMS: To be honest, it doesn't take long at all because something like a home is very important, it's where you live and where you go back to every day. So you have to have a certain amount of confidence in whoever you hire that they are going to do a good job. So when people do choose V Starr, then they have a certain amount of confidence that the job can be done.

Q. Are you one of the designers who fits the theme of a project to the person who's the owner, or you kind of just push your thoughts on them?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I'm not pushy at all - only on the court, only on the tennis court.

Q. You mentioned your sisters in Howard. Do you have any ambitions to get a college degree?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm working on it, Bud. It's just not easy.

Q. I know.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah... One day. One day.

Q. I mean, you do have that ambition?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, for sure. But as the years go by, it looks harder and harder. But I will. It would definitely, I guess, be one of my proudest moments. I don't know, there's a lot of great colleges. I suppose I won't be a candidate for one of the Wrigley's scholarships, but (laughing)... Who knows?

Q. Venus, you and your sister are so close. Never before on the women's tour have the No. 1 and No. 2 players had that kind of a relationship that you have. What kind of impact do you think that has had on women's tennis?

VENUS WILLIAMS: That's a good question. I don't even know. "How has the impact of the sister's relationship impacted tennis?" I hope in a good way. I think in a good way, yes.

Q. Scared the hell out of a lot of them (smiling)?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Who (smiling)? What's the point of being afraid if there's nothing to fear? What did that mean (laughing)? I don't know what I just said. It's kind of like a Chinese philosopher, you know.

Q. Why couldn't Serena make it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She just wasn't able to make it.

Q. I'm not sure if you're aware, but yesterday Mal Washington's dad stationed a protest outside. He's sort of been a critic of the wildcard selections (inaudible). What do you think about that issue?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't even know. I like to think if you're good, people want you there, no matter who you are. If you're bad, you're not necessarily the attraction. But I don't know what his platform is, so I can't really comment on it.

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