Days after the U.S. Open, Serena Williams made a powerful statement at New York Fashion Week.
While models walked the runway on Sept. 12 to debut her new clothing line, Williams read a spoken word poem over the speaker titled “I Am Woman.”
“I wanted to empower women to just feel strong and feel amazing,” says Williams, who was named one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World in this week’s issue.
The poem also addressed the power of women supporting each other — something the tennis champ, 35, describes as a “really important message to spread as well.”
In an interview with PEOPLE, the winner of 22 Grand Slam titles shares her view of failure.
“You can’t fail if you do something and it doesn’t work out,” she says. “That’s success. Maybe it wasn’t to the point of success where you wanted to do it, but it’s still success. There were a lot of times where I wasn’t as successful as I wanted to be, but that doesn’t define me. It just defines how you can come back and not let anything hold you down.”
Williams, says that there is one quality she considers to be the most important to make a huge impact.
“You need to have confidence in yourself and confidence in what you’re doing,” says Williams, who is now taking that confidence to Compton, California, where she grew up.
Teaming with Compton Mayor Aja Brown, who is also one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, the duo is opening the Yetunde Price Resource Center, named after Williams’s oldest sister, who was killed by gun violence in 2003.
The center will help anyone who has been affected by violence.
“One of the things that stands out to me is her ability to relate to people and not just be at a distance,” Williams says of Mayor Brown. “She seems to get on the same level as everyone else. For example, when there were so many problems with gangs in Compton, she invited them in and said, ‘Let’s talk about this. Let’s find a solution.’ ”
Williams says she is also inspired by how much Brown has accomplished at 34.
“That’s totally amazing, because you can really look up to your peers. I’m thinking, ‘Wow, she’s doing so much. What am I doing?’ She’s so motivating.”
Adds Brown: “Her goal was to do something special and really understand the challenges that our community faces. We both agreed that doing a trauma center would be really amazing. I really admire her tenacity and the way she handles herself on and off the court. She’s so inspiring and she’s never forgotten her roots.”