I woke up in a hazy mood and put on a Desert Island Discs podcast with Billie Jean King, the former world tennis-champion. Her voice immediately shook the sleep from my eyes. She had me hooked.
Winner of thirty-nine grand-slam titles, King is best remembered for the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match in 1973 against Bobby Riggs, the former number-one tennis player three decades earlier. The iconic match was recently brought to life in the well-received movie of the same name directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, a match where King defied public opinion by putting a man in his place.
Born in Long Beach, California during WWII, Billie was a head-strong young woman who never took well to enforced limitations. Raised in a generation where women were meant to be perfect, she constantly bucked tradition in favour of her own instincts. King was an advocate of women’s rights and equal opportunity at a time when gender lines were cut and dry, fighting to introduce the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation.
In more recent years, King has also been a huge proponent for the LGBT community after being outed by a former lover in the early eighties (a fact that terminated all her sponsorship deals). Now in her mid-seventies, King is as dedicated as ever to speaking out on behalf of the silent majority, advocating three lessons for life that are tantamount to her raison d'être: Relationships are everything, keep learning (and keep learning how to learn) and be a problem solver.
I couldn’t have said it better.