Super Heroes

Serena Williams Pops Up in Dallas at Neighborhood Goods

Boy did she slay. And I still haven't caught my breath.

She’s just that into me. Photograph by Melissa Romig.

The first time I saw Serena Williams play, I cried. It was 2009 and I was in NYC for a trademark and copyright seminar. Bored out of my mind during one of the sessions, I decided on a whim to see if I could get a last-minute ticket to the U.S. Open. The heavens shone down upon me, and I scored a loge seat for the night matches in Arthur Ashe for like $100. I hopped on the 7 Subway to Queens, found my seat, they dimmed the lights, and, as the Black Eyed Peas’ newly released single “I Have a Feeling” blared over the sound system and the spotlights chased each other around the arena, Serena took the court. The crowd went wild, and I sobbed like a 5-year-old meeting Elsa on a unicorn made of candy. That song still makes me tear up every time I hear it.

That was the same year that Serena threatened a line judge with physical harm, which I wasn’t cool with. But I soon forgave and forgot, because, in the end, she always gives more than she takes, to both the sport and the world at large. I haven’t missed a U.S. Open since. This past Labor Day weekend, I hovered behind the windscreen of the practice court as she sat just feet away on a bench, laughing with her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, during a water break. I figured that was the closest we would ever be, and I was fine with that.

Then I got an invite to the VIP launch event Saturday night for her Great Collection at Neighborhood Goods, in Legacy West. Yes, that’s right: the GOAT has gone beyond 23 Grand Slam wins and a Nike catsuit controversy and the Beats “Queen of Queens” video endorsement and marrying that Reddit guy and motherhood posts about teething and being the newest board member of Survey Monkey and showing up to gal pal Megan Markle’s wedding in Valentino trainers to personally stock and style the shelves of a small pop-up shop in Matt Alexander and Mark Masinter’s new take on a department store.

In Dallas.

And so, of course, I went.

There was a line around the block, and inside the light-filled modern space, servers were walking around with avocado toasts and mini cheeseburgers. Too nervous to eat, I ordered a Serenarita (a beautiful pink margarita made with strawberry and poblano-infused tequila) at the bar and perused the pop-up space. I bought two t-shirts, one with her “S” logo in rainbow colors and a Dallas version with a cowboy boot on it. And then I found a place to stand and wait for The Greatest to arrive.

What struck me most was the crowd. It was as if we were all waiting for some combination of Oprah, the Pope, Barack Obama, Ellen Degeneres,  Mister Rogers, and Santa Claus to arrive. There were black people and white people, black gays and white gays, a brown family with a tiny baby in a red tutu and a gaggle of grown women in black tutus. There were men in homemade Serena t-shirts and kids holding tennis rackets and balls. There were big hats and a lot of spectacular hair. People started randomly dancing and striking up conversations with strangers as Serena’s appearance got delayed. A guy in a camo Hance Taplin jacket came over to compliment my D Magazine limited edition version in red satin, and I turned around to introduce myself to an incredibly stylish couple who turned out to be Jasmine Marie St. James from Maison Saint James and her friend Jackson. No one seemed annoyed. The air was electric.

Jasmine Marie St. James and Jackson

Finally, Matt Alexander introduced the surprise guest, model Ashley Graham, who was wearing one of Serena’s bodycon dresses and was going to interview her onstage for her podcast, Pretty Big Deal With Ashley Graham. The crowd got pretty excited about Ashley, and there were a lot of squeals. Then Serena walked out in the Dallas version of her t-shirt and a sequined skirt, her hair unleashed in all its glory, not doubled up in its usual on-court ponytail, and the audience seemed to go wild and get breathlessly hushed at the same time.

Serena and Ashley talked about karaoke (Ashley’s go-to is Shania Twain) and Serena imitated her daughter, Olympia, doing the Chubby Checker twist. Serena talked about how her new clothing line is small, but that she wanted it to be for Every Woman, and that she doesn’t like the term “plus-sized” so she named her collection “Great” instead. She said the fact that Althea Gibson had to sleep in her car while playing tennis tournaments because she couldn’t stay in white hotels inspired her, and that the person behind Olympia’s baby doll’s #realqaiqai Instagram account is her husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian (just an aside: his net worth is an estimated $9 million compared to Serena’s $150 million). She quoted the Bible (“Humility makes you great”) and talked about deciding to invest in women-owned companies after learning from a talk at JP Morgan Chase that female founders get less than 2 percent of all venture capital dollars.

Then she talked about motherhood. About the trauma of missing Olympia’s first steps because she was at practice, not even a tournament, and how she was embarrassed by her daughter’s tantrums on commercial flights. And she shared that after her coach, Patrick, told her she needed to lose weight and stop breastfeeding if she wanted to win another Grand Slam, a poignant moment portrayed in the “Being Serena” documentary on HBO, that she had a conversation with Olympia about it, and they prayed together, and then Olympia never reached for her after that. Olympia actually got her first tooth the next day, so it all worked out for the best, really.

Then it was my turn.

A catsuit tribute. Photograph by Melissa Romig.

The publicist had told me I would get five minutes, but after Serena spent time shopping with fans and signing autographs, I was told my time would be reduced to three. I stood in the press line until I got my cue. As soon as I sat down, Serena’s assistant asked her if she wanted some water. As people scurried around trying to find her some, she pulled out her phone to check her text messages. Then she turned to me, leaned in, and looked me right in the eyes. And this is what I said:

Me: “Do you want to wait for your water?”

Serena: “No, I’m fine. I’m just trying to drink more water. I’m so bad.”

Me: “You need to drink more when you’re traveling!”

Serena: “I know, I’m the worst water drinker.”

Me: “But you must drink, like, 5 gallons a day!”

Serena: “I know, and I have like half of that.”

That took up about a minute.

Then I asked her why she picked Dallas for the pop-up (because she wanted to roll out her line in a city that she doesn’t play in), if she’s been to the Round-Up yet (she hasn’t), what she thought about collaborating with Virgil Abloh (“He’s so sweet. He’s so humble. It was the best thing I did this year.”), and why she decided to design a denim overall dress with a chain halter when she’s barely old enough to remember when that shit was last cool (“I knew I wanted to do a denim dress with a really strong zipper detail in the back.”).

By then, the publicist was enthusiastically giving me the cut-off sign. So I took a deep breath and rambled something to the effect of, “My tennis team is playing in the Tri-Levels tournament this weekend, and we made it to the semi-finals today, and if we win the tournament, and we win Sectionals in Austin, then the Nationals will be at Indian Wells before the WTA tournament. Will we see you there?”

That’s when her eyes got big and she leaned in real close.

“Oh, my God!” she said. “Yeah, of course!”


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  • Fakest News of the week.

    • @zaccrain

      huh wow didn’t think kathy being happy would be so divisive

      • “Athlete with Anger Issues Opens Fashion Outlet”


        • @zaccrain

          maybe the greatest athlete of our time comes to town i think is news

          • “greatest athlete of our time”


            First of all, I think it is offensive that you discount the great athletic achievements of Catlyn Jenner, but even then, she’s not even the best female tennis player, much less greatest tennis player, much less greatest ATHLETE.

            Look out, Lebron James. Usain Bolt, Kevin Federer, Tom Brady — turns out you’ve been usurped by… well, hype.

          • @zaccrain

            i’ll make sure to tell (checks notes) britney spears’ ex husband that he is no longer in the conversation for best athlete ever.


          • 1: “one of”

            2: Women receive flattery, especially when there are soyboy white knights like you running around shrieking about how GREATEST OF OUR TIME they are.

          • @zaccrain

            oh it sounds like little fella is upset. sorry champ

          • “Oooh, listen to that derisive laughter. I really showed him!” Zac the Secret King thought.

          • @zaccrain

            lol man you are mad wow

          • Try harder. You gotta earn that soy milk.

          • @zaccrain

            so angry you’re repeating ‘insults’ — phelps i’m so sorry

          • It’s not an insult. It’s an identifier. It landed too, because you remember it.

            The funny thing is, you might be able to rile me if you were actually capable of empathizing with me, but you aren’t. You only have the evil caricature of me that you’ve built up in your head to give you false confidence in your own beliefs.

          • @zaccrain

            i remember it because i can read. it’s like two comments above this.

          • Kathy Wise

            [cough, cough, choke, sputter, cough] Going on 20, two-zero, years, that’s two decades, of Grand Slam wins, not appearances. That’s without a basketball team or a football team supporting her. Just her. On the court. Winning more than any other tennis player, male or female, in history. Mad respect. From me, at least. Not that she needs it.

          • She’s 0-0-0 against men.

            Billy Jean King FTW.

          • Kathy Wise

            Tom Brady is 0-0-0 against women.

          • Not true. They play the Cowboys every year.

          • disqus_qx3X6S5SC7

            “Male chauvinist douchebag” is no way to present oneself through life, Phelps. Surely you have better things to do than troll the internet while parroting insults that you stole from some far-right leaning imbecile.

          • Seems to me that if the feminists are right, male chauvinist douchebag is the path to success and power.

            Or are they wrong?

          • JamieT
          • @zaccrain


  • MattL1

    I had no idea she was in town. Sounds like an extremely cool experience.

    • @zaccrain

      matt thank you

  • This is an example of what we think about when we think about killing comments entirely. Phelps’ dig on the Cowboys is the only thing that saved this for me.

    • Kathy Wise

      Except that the insult/joke is that the Cowboys “play like girls.” Which, we’ve established (see above), isn’t an insult at all. Because the GOAT is a GIRL.

      • @zaccrain


    • JamieT

      Until Wick shut FrontBurner down the first time all those years ago it was an exciting, organic city blog. Since then it has always been something else. Currently it is a comment desert, which if I were writing posts here would probably get to me, regardless of what the post hit stats might say.

      I think you’ll certainly have the audience you really want if you kill comments entirely, those more interested in the actual posts than in the community response to them, as well as those who enjoy reading D celebrities supporting one another with that trademark D banter. And the comment desert would then simply be xeriscaping.

      Bottom line, if you don’t enjoy the stink of the crowd in your face as evidence you’re still alive in your writing job, comments will probably always prove irritating. Your brother in arms Rod Dreher solved this long ago by both pre-moderating and physically editing his blog comments until he found them pleasing.

      • @zaccrain

        it’s not really a post if it doesn’t have the stink of jamie t on it, i often say around the office

  • Shakin’ In My Boots

    I enjoyed reading this!