King Richard is a phenomenal movie that looks at the early success of Venus and Serena Williams, and the impact their father played on helping them find that success. For viewers the film puts you in this place where you’re not sure if you love Richard Williams, or if you want to question some of his motives, which I think everyone in the film does at some point in the movie. That’s partly why I didn’t originally write this piece because I didn’t want to put a magnifying glass on the man, when this wonderful story told us what we needed to know about him and this legendary family. But after a watching it a couple times, I decided to take a bit of a deeper dive into the real Richard Williams. Here’s some of what the King Richard movie didn’t tell you.
That said, have to start with the real Richard Williams
Richard Dove Williams Jr. was born on February 14, 1942 in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Before moving to California, he lived in Saginaw, Michigan.
He mentions in the film that him and his wife were athletes, and sure, they were, just nothing major. He actually did get tennis lessons himself even before Venus and Serena were born. And while he did train them, they were originally in a tennis academy, which is where they got their foundation.
During an argument with his wife Brandy, the film does mention that he had another family before this one. Richard was actually married 3 times. His first, was with Betty Johnson. Together, they had 5 children: Sabrina, Richard III, Ronner, Reluss, and Reneeka. (Betty also had another daughter from a previous relationship)
Richard Williams was married to Betty from 1965 to 1973. And yes, they also lived in California.
Richard met Oracene “Brandy” Price in 1979. She already had 3 children from her previous husband who had passed away by the time she met Richard. Richard and Brandy married in 1980.
Richard and Oracene divorced in 2002, although they had been living separately since 2000. In 2010 he married Lakeisha Juanita Graham, who is just one year older than Venus Williams (a 37 year age difference). Richard and Lakeisha have a son named Dylan, who as of this writing is only 9 years old.
They divorced in 2017.
Richard has at least one other confirmed child as well. According to multiple reports, Chavoita Lesane, 48, is one of his oldest children and has been taking care of him since 2016.
There are reports that Richard’s health is not doing great as he has suffered multiple stroke, deals with a disorder and may even be suffering from dementia.
Will Smith played the hell out of this role, high water shorts and all. Not sure anyone else could have done these scenes. One of the things that makes this movie so great and so on the nose is that many of these scenes were actually recorded, and the footage is still available. As is the case with this scene below, which Will Smith shared on his Instagram recently.
Interestingly, Richard Williams himself never directly spoke with any members of the cast or crew. Although, they did speak with Oracene. Richard Williams’ autobiography “Black and White: The Way I See It” was used to help write the script for the King Richard movie.
Also, that scene where he is about to shoot that gang member who beats him up in the park… not quite how it happened.
Richard did say in his autobiography that he would carry around a shot gun to keep the family safe in the park. He also said that he saw a gang member who attacked him dead on the street when driving home one day. But he didn’t see the murder the way it plays out in the film.
Oracene “Brandy” Price
She learned tennis so she could help train Venus and Serena. She says it in the movie, but she basically was there for every step of Richard’s dream and helped it play out the way it did. Venus and Serena have acknowledged that they would not have made it without her.
She was nicknamed “Brandy” at birth, but it wasn’t an official middle name or anything.
Venus Ebony Starr Williams was born in 1980, June 17th.
Serena Jameka Williams was born a year later on September 26, 2981. Only one year younger than Venus, the movie makes it seem like the age gap was a bit larger.
Her other children
Isha, Venus and Serena are executive producers on the King Richard film. Lyndrea Price is a costumer on the movie.
Isha Price is a lawyer.
Lyndrea Price is a fashion designer. She’s been in fashion for a number of years, playing different roles.
Yetunde Price was the oldest sister. She went on to become a nurse and an owner of a hair salon. She was also the personal assistant for Venus and Serena for some time.
In 2003, at age 31, she was murdered in a reckless shooting by gang members, in a case of mistaken identity.
The man responsible for the murder, plead no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released in 2018 on good behavior after serving just 12 years.
The Williams Sisters Weren’t The First
While tennis has historically been a sport dominated by white athletes, the Williams sisters were not the first African-American women to be great in the sport. Absolutely taking nothing away from them because the sport featured almost no other African-American athletes when they emerged on the scene, however, in the 1950s Althea Gibson, an African-American woman, was the first African-American to win a Grand Slam title. In all, she won 11 Grand Slam tournaments: five singles titles, five doubles titles, and one mixed doubles title. As an individual, She won Wimbledon 2x, The U.S. Open 2x and won the French Open.
Both Williams sisters have acknowledged her in the past, but for someone watching the movie with no other knowledge, you might believe that Venus was the first woman of color to do it.
Venus Williams early professional career
The movie ends with Venus losing her first professional tournament in October 1994, at just 14 years old.
That turned out to be her only tournament that year. (Remember, Richard didn’t want her to do it in the first place).
She did participate in 3 tournaments in 1995 and then 5 tournaments in 1996. She didn’t win any.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1998 that Venus would win a major tournament. She continued to get better and better over the years and in ’97 she did beat a top 10 player for the first time. In 1998 she reached at least the quarterfinals in all the major grand slam tournaments for the first time.
In 2000, she won her first singles grand slam title at Wimbledon! The winning only continued from there.
Serena Williams early professional career
Serena made her debut as a pro in October 1995. Much like Venus, she had some minor successes, beating some notable names early in her career, but it took some years before she would dominate the sport. Both Venus and Serena won mixed doubles grand slam tournaments with male partners in the late 90s.
Serena won her first professional singles title in 1999. That year she also won the US Open, winning a Grand Slam title before her sister. She became the second African American woman to win a Grand Slam title, and Venus became the third the following year.
Venus vs Serena
Venus and Serena Williams faced each other for the first time as professionals in 1998 at the Australian Open. Venus won.
Serena has since dominated their matches against each other. At least count they have faced each other 31 times as professionals. Serena has won 19 of those.
side note: Venus suffers from a health condition called, Sjögren’s syndrome, which has affected her in the later years of her career. I doubt she would make any excuses for herself, but as her career numbers have declined, the illness has surely played a role.
main image credit: Warner Bros.
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