Grand Slam winner Sloane Stephens broke records as she raced her way to the top of the tennis charts as a teenager. Just as iconic as her inimitable forehand is her illustrious smile that she sports on and off the court. The 29-year-old seems particularly grounded for someone born to two professional athletes. It’s often easy to forget I’m chatting with a US Open winner (she credits her mother in part for her self-awareness). Over the years, Stephens has honed her ability to identify what she, or others, need, whether it be a self-care Sunday moment with a friend, early-morning practice or building a school in Haiti with her husband.
You’re constantly traveling. What are some products that you don’t leave the house without?
“I would say, I never leave the house without a chapstick or a lip balm, never. Since I was young, I’ve always been obsessed, and Carmex ($2) is my favorite. As I’ve gotten older and more mature I’ve gone on to the likes of Dior Lip Oil ($38) and things like that. I’ve gotten way savvier with those things, but I would say a good go-to that’s just always reliable is definitely Carmex. It always works.”
I know you’ve posted about self-care Sunday. What does a standard self-care Sunday look like for you?
“Well, I love going to the spa, and obviously, during COVID, we couldn’t do that. So I got into making the spa at home for my friends, my mom, my husband. That just became a thing for us, whether that was taking long baths or doing a face mask or body exfoliator that we made and did outside in the yard. All of those things kind of became ways to take care of ourselves—but also stay in tune with our bodies.
I feel like during COVID, especially as an athlete, we got away from taking care of ourselves. At a tournament, I’m getting a massage every single day. That’s self-care but that’s also part of my job. It’s not a fun massage, but it’s just something that I’m used to doing. I feel like a lot of the habits that I had I got out of so quickly because it wasn’t part of my everyday routine. So I really had to emphasize things at home that I wanted to focus on, which I do a better job at now because I’m way more aware of when I need to get my nails done or when I need to get a facial.
Doing things that make me feel good outside of my work has been really important. Do it with a friend, do it with your husband, just make it fun and enjoy it. Self-care sometimes can feel like a task, and that’s never fun. You want to keep it fun.”
I saw that you did a self-care Sunday with your mom and she looks amazing. Has she handed down any tips or tricks to you?
“She’d be happy to hear that. My mom is a psychologist. She’s very into wellness and being in tune with your body and mind, figuring out what you need, identifying a situation, identifying what the problem is and what you’re feeling. Even therapy is a form of self-care, right? So her way of being like, ‘Hey, I’m here for you, I support you,’ is like ‘If you’re not talking to me, you might feel comfortable talking to someone else.”
Winding down, meditation, all of those things she’s heavily into. I think I kind of just get that naturally from her. But also in the sense of just identifying and being aware [of your needs], it could be that you need ice cream that day. It could be that you need a therapist. There can be so many things. I think my mom has really helped me identify what I need in any given moment to not only be a good person and function in everyday life but also to be a high-performance athlete.”
So what are your go-to habits to help recenter you when you’re stressed or you have a big match coming up?
“I love getting my nails done. It’s something that I didn’t know that I love so much, but I feel like whenever I get my nails done, I can’t be on my phone really so I have to relax. I feel like that’s one thing that’s really helped me relax. I can’t sit there when someone’s doing my nails. So I think for me, doing the extra long pedicure and the manicure and really just being in my thoughts and closing my eyes but also still being awake has really helped me.
It’s a very strange thing, but it works well. When in the day do you get time to do nothing? People will be like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m like, ‘I’m getting my nails done.’ So people are like, ‘You can’t really talk right now,’ like ‘nN, I can’t actually. Do not disturb.’”
What products do you wear on the court?
“I don’t really wear too much makeup, like any mascara or anything, because I sweat so much. I used to do lash extensions, but in the summer, they’re too hard to wear because your sweat droplets are like the size of Jesus’ tears, so they’re so heavy on your lashes. It’s the worst feeling in the world. So those are only winter things.
I’m a really big fan of Dr. Barbara Strum, so I love doing the Anti-Pollution Drops ($6) right when I wake up in the morning. Then I do sunscreen—it’s just been a habit my whole life. Being a tennis player and being outside pretty much every single day, I wake up and put sunscreen on. That’s just my go-to. Even if I don’t put moisturizer on. I know that I’m going to take, in one day, probably four showers, so I’m always reapplying. I’m hyperfocused on that—it’s always been part of my routine.
If I’m feeling really good about myself, I’ll do some drops, some moisturizer, some sunscreen, and I’ll really be feeling fluffy and cute, but most of the time, I’m going to work, so it’s just sunscreen I applied in the morning when I brushed my teeth. Then when I get to wherever I’m going, I apply again because I just can’t get sunburned. Sunburn is the worst.”
Tell us a bit about the Sloane Stephens Foundation.
“Next year will be our 10-year anniversary, which is very exciting for us. I always say tennis has been my vehicle. It’s allowed me to do so many amazing things in my life. I’ve been able to travel, meet presidents and vice presidents, go to amazing destinations and do a ton of things that, if I wasn’t a tennis player, I probably would never be able to do.
For kids in under-resourced communities, tennis is never their first sport. Tennis is a super hard entry-level sport. It’s a super hard sport to even consider as a parent, especially if you live in a community where it’s not popular. So for me, my biggest thing was giving the kids the opportunity to even pick up a racquet and swing.
Then comes you need a racket, you need a court, you need balls, you need a coach. There are so many other things. That entry-level of being able to play with no strings attached, showing up, picking up the racket and playing—that was really my goal to get kids playing because you never know where the next LeBron James is coming from. It’s just a kid who loves a sport and wants to be really good at it. So I think being able to give those kids those opportunities to play and experience tennis, not having to be a professional athlete, just doing it because they like it, has been the biggest thing in our grassroots tennis.
We have like 20 kids at camp each year. They come from all across the country and basically just help them and their parents with resources. We show them what they can do, how to talk to college coaches, how to email them. We help underserved people in the community that wouldn’t have these resources. I would say those are our two really big ones. We serve about 15,000 kids every year, which is a big number, which I’m very proud of.
It’s basically our goal to help them succeed and get into more tournaments and travel and really learn the game and experience it like any other kid would experience it who has all the means to travel and do all these amazing things. We want to give them the same resources to be able to experience it like anyone else.”
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