As the No. 1 ranked women’s tennis player in the world, Serena Williams is a force to be reckoned with on the court. She built her career on pushing past the pain of injuries, maintaining focus and dominating her fears.

However, it wasn’t so easy for her to overcome her own discomfort about her body, especially growing up in a household with sisters. “I was the youngest, and I was really thick. My sister Venus was so tall and slim, and just being in a society where a lot of people are really thin, it was hard. Especially as an athlete,” the tennis player tells DuJour magazine.

“No athlete has boobs like me. But I had to learn how to embrace myself and embrace my curves. And that’s something a lot of people can relate to,” she says. Williams has faced her fair share of criticism concerning her body in the past, and she says it’s only in recent years that she has come to love what makes her different.

“Well, I wasn’t always confident. I just started feeling comfortable with myself about six or seven years ago. That’s why I tell people that even at 25 or 26, it’s OK if you’re feeling uncomfortable with yourself. I was too. It’s normal. I love who I am, and I encourage other people to love and embrace who they are.”

Part of embracing herself was accepting the drawbacks of fame that come with being Serena Williams. The athlete says she “hardly ever” leaves her hotel room when she’s playing a tournament. “I really don’t like to say no to pictures, so I always end up saying yes. But if you say yes to one, then there’s 20 people asking, and then there’s 30,” she says. But don’t think for one second she would trade her life for a “normal” one.

“I don’t complain about it – it’s just something you have to get used to. It’s such a humbling feeling that anyone would even watch me play. I feel so honored, honestly, by anyone who’s a fan of mine and who appreciates me.”