Serena Williams on Fashion, Romance – and Her Thighs

Serena Williams on Fashion, Romance – and Her Thighs
Serena Williams
John Parra/WireImage

08/27/2009 AT 03:50 PM EDT

Serena Williams – the outspoken winner of 22 Grand Slam titles – is rarely at a loss for words. But since the 2003 murder of her eldest sister, Yetunde, the tennis star has remained uncharacteristically quiet about her loss.

But Williams decided to write a memoir, On the Line, about her life – the fashion, the body image, her love life and how much she loves her sisters. Sitting with PEOPLE in the master suite of her Florida home, Williams spoke candidly about the ups and downs of her very public life.

What did you want to say in your memoir?
I wanted to explain how I see things. I wanted to talk about my body and my sisters, my career, what I've learned, what I'm still learning. I want women to know that it's okay. You can be whatever size you are, and you can be beautiful both inside and out. We're always told what's beautiful and what's not, and that's not right.

Williams was devastated by the 2003 shooting death of Yetunde Price. The shooter, Robert Edward Maxfield, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The heart of the book is about the loss of your sister, Yetunde.
It was a real dark period in my life. I went through depression. I never even talked about it to my mom. No one knew I was in therapy, but I was. I was so close to her.

After Yetunde's death, Williams gained about 20 lbs. Although she says she has always been 'thick,' Williams was the heaviest she'd ever been.

There were a lot of comments about your size. Was that strange?
Yes. For some reason, everyone is obsessed with weight. Are you bigger? Are you smaller? And everyone cares about that! It's insane. Some days, I'll be bigger. Other days, I'll be smaller. It's not a big deal.

You mention that in your memoir. But just a few sentences later, you say that you're insecure about your body.
I think every female does that. We think we look good one day, and then the next day – or the next minute – we're insecure about something. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and am like, 'I want to lose my inner thigh. I've got to do an hour of cardio today,' or whatever. I try not to do it, but the insecurity comes back sometimes. I do want to look good still; I do want to be healthy.

So what are your troublesome body parts?
My thighs. I think they're too big. But also my arms. I think they're too muscular. They're too thick.

Your arms? I thought you'd consider those your best part.
I'm sensitive about them. I know that toned arms are in now. Look at Michelle Obama. She has great arms, and I think it's wonderful that she shows them off like that! I love her for that. I'm like, 'keep wearing strapless dresses!' But I don't like mine.

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