Growing up in Champaign, Illinois, my parents would always tell us that they worked hard to make sure we had a better life than they had. Their dream was to see us flourish and not have to work as hard as they did.
Sitting in the theater watching the path Richard Williams and his wife Oracene laid out for their girls, not just Venus and Serena, but all of their children, brought back those words my parents said to me all those years ago.
The publicity for the film KING RICHARD gives the impression that it is all about Richard Williams and how he single-handedly brought Venus and Serena to success in the tennis world. That is not the case. This film is about how a family, powered by a dream that they all bought into, supported the belief in Venus and Serena to achieve success in tennis and beyond.
I sat down with Saniyya Sidney (as Venus) and Demi Singleton (as Serena), and Demi expressed her thoughts on the family dynamic.
“For my entire life, basically up until KING RICHARD, I had always thought that Serena’s and Venus’ journey had just consisted of Serena and Venus and Mr. Richard. I didn’t realize how involved their mother, Ms. Oracene, was, or their sisters, Isha, Lynd, and Tunde were in their careers. One thing that I realized was that this was a team effort, something that the entire family supported them on.”
The plot: Before Venus and Serena were even born, Richard Williams wrote a 78-page plan that his next two daughters were going to make history as star tennis players. The interesting thing is neither Richard nor his wife played tennis but learned so they could teach their daughters Venus and Serena.
During their growing up, Richard was relentless in having them practice in all kinds of weather and court conditions. He had no problem going into situations that could cause harm or embarrassment to get his daughters in the faces of coaches who could help them excel.
Once he got them in the door, he wouldn’t back down or yield in his beliefs of how they should be trained. This is where the media began the negative press about how he dominates the girls and is demanding and unmoving in his beliefs on how they should be exposed.
In speaking with Saniyya and Demi, I asked if they thought the image of Richard Williams was a true one.
Saniyya: “I feel like the image was trying to-
Demi: “Vilify him.”
Saniyya: “Definitely. I feel what he was doing was so ahead of his time that no one could understand. That was okay to him. They didn’t have to understand. He believed in himself and believed in his girls. That was something that was sky’s limit for him. He just went for it.”
Demi: “He was hard on his girls, but not in a way that they couldn’t handle it. That’s what parents are supposed to do. They’re supposed to push you and help you be the best version of yourself that you can be. I think that he did what he knew how to do. He did it with love. Nothing he did for his girls or to his girls was malicious or ill intended. He was an amazing father. He was a genius. Like Saniyya said, people just didn’t understand or maybe they didn’t want to understand. That didn’t stop him. He just kept raising his girls, and look how they turned out today.”
Saniyya: “He and his wife definitely had a plan for them, and they stuck to it.”
Will Smith as KING RICHARD captures the man from the gait in his walk to the stubbornness of his beliefs.
Aunjanue Ellis plays the girls’ mom, Oracene “Brandy” Williams, and I must say she is my favorite character in the film. She makes us understand Oracene’s role in all of her daughters’ and husband’s success. We walk out with a strong respect and knowledge of her strength.
Saniyya and Demi as Venus and Serena are amazing. We see the dynamic of their relationship and love for one another, not only as sisters but friends.
KING RICHARD is a must see for families. You may walk in with one perception of what you will see but I guarantee you will walk out feeling good and proud of not only Venus and Serena, but the entire family led by Richard Williams.
I give KING RICHARD 5 Winks of the Eye
Until next time keep your EYE to the sky!