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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Serena Williams is proud and pregnant on the cover of the new issue of Vanity Fair.

In this age where everyone can have his or her views instantly known, quite a few people are already taking issue with Serena’s cover, but the greatest woman tennis player of all time embraces her body with confidence.

Serena’s good friend, Danish tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki, also graces the cover in her birthday suit of a new publication, ESPN’s 2017 Body Issue as does NFL running back Zeke Elliott in an alternative cover.

An athlete first and foremost, Caroline has stated that she does not feel the need to look like a supermodel. She has a healthy attitude about her body, her weight, about being judged by people she has never invited to judge her. She is also candid about the toll sports can take on a body.

Gaining self-esteem and self-confidence can be quite a marathon. Growing up gay, I was bullied. I had a face my mother kindly said I would “grow into some day,” a pretty indented sternum (pectus excavatum), a deformity that made me embarrassed to be in front of others for swimming classes, and a good dose of teenage acne. I loved sports, and even with the sunken chest and diminished lung capacity, I became a good tennis player and runner. Most people describe me as thin. Occasionally, in the thick of my training for a marathon, the adjective is “gaunt.”

Yet two of the guys I first dated (and who broke up with me) when I came out of the closet in my early 30s told me I was fat! Yikes!

Fortunately, I met the love of my life who for 15 years has accepted me for who I am and how I look at all times of day, who embraces me when I’m a sweaty mess after a marathon, or tells me how nice I look when I get ready for work.

Our gorgeous daughter was born with an extra chromosome. She is stunning and I want her to know that at an early age. One family member suggested I tell her no more than once every few months how beautiful she is, that I was perhaps going overboard.

I let her know every day! I can tell she is on a great path to embracing who she is. That will go a long way in helping her get through a few tough miles most of us face in life.