Serena Williams makes her face a canvas for Essence magazine


Serena Williams had her face painted by Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Laolu Senbanjo for September’s cover shoot of Essence‘s Global Fashion Issue.

Serena Williams Essence magazine

In the magazine, the tennis queen talks about broadening her horizons when she launched her own clothing line:

My biggest joy is that I know that I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do, that I always dreamed of doing. I just needed to do it on my own. Because when you invest in yourself, it helps your confidence, and you’ll know forever that whether you make it or not, you stepped up to the plate.

Serena Williams Essence magazine 1 Serena Williams Essence magazine

The artist behind the visual identity of the shoot has cooperated with a number of celebrities, including with Beyoncé on her 2016 Grammy award winning “Lemonade”. Serena appeared in the video for the album’s song “Sorry” and we can see this similar white tribal face paint on the dancers and the singer herself.

Beyonce Sorry

Thrilled to be given an opportunity to work with Serena, Laolu Senbanjo said on Instagram:

Working with one of the greatest athletes of all time was truly an honor. It is still surreal when I think that Serena Williams was my canvas. I captured her essence and greatness with this unique print. Every element in the artwork is a reflection of who she is.

Serena Williams Essence magazine

The photographer in charge of this spread was Kwaku Alston. As his website states, “his portraits have a fresh, unaffected feel, and yet they celebrate the extraordinariness of his subjects, striking a balance between contemporary documentary photography and classic celebrity portraiture.”

Essence is taking us behind the scenes of this gorgeous photo spread:

The issue hits newsstands on August 16th.


  1. A gorgeous set of photos, indeed. Makeup, attire, photography, and poses on point for sure. However, Serena needs to focus on tennis and leave the celebrity fanfare for when she retires. Get fit and get that winning streak going again, then go down in history as truly the greatest of all time. Focus & prioritize, Serena!


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