Maria Sharapova retired from tennis early last year and is ready to just be, which makes her guest appearance on Bethenny Frankel’s Just B podcast a perfectly logical pivot.
Frankel, formerly the Sharapova of the reality juggernaut The Real Housewives of New York City, launched her podcast in the fall of 2020 and invited the five-time Grand Slam champion to discuss building a brand, aesthetics and the value of a dollar in an episode that aired on Tuesday.
“When I was training and very young, I never thought about money,” Sharapova said when asked about being one of the sport’s richest athletes—though she rejects the figures often cited in the media.
“My parents always provided an environment that may not have been full of rich luxuries, but one that was always comfortable and safe. I always felt like that was enough, and I never knew what more money would bring me because I was so comfortable with what I had.”
Sharapova, who recently became engaged to longtime boyfriend Alexander Gilkes, had indeed made plenty of money, first as a Wimbledon champion in 2004, then as the face of elite brands like Nike and Evian, and later as the brain behind Sugarpova, her confectionary empire.
“I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, and I’m still far from it," the 33-year-old said. "As I grew up in my early 20s, I became very curious, and I started questioning many things. I started attending meetings that maybe I didn’t need to be at, but I wanted to learn along the way.
“I took a few courses at Harvard Business School in the summer when I had some time. I put myself in design meetings when I was in Portland, working with Nike on collections. I just wanted to gather all this information and potentially apply it to different aspects of my business career.”
Sharapova made an instant connection with Frankel, whose Skinnygirl brand targeted women looking for a healthy way to indulge with cocktails—given Sugarpova attempts the same balancing act with candy.
“If you’re constantly saying ‘no’ to yourself if you have a drink or chocolate in front of you, and every single day you’re saying, ‘no,’ you’re wasting more energy on that as opposed to just giving yourself the occasional comfort," she said.
Comfortable as she may be now, having embraced retirement, this next chapter of life, and how it has allowed her to pursue other interests like travel and architecture, the former world No. 1 concedes she never felt better than she did on the court at the peak of her powers.
“I never felt more comfortable than when there was sweat and tears in the third hour of a match, in the finals of a Grand Slam," she said. "I couldn’t care less how my hair looked, whether my skin was glowing or about my pigmentation. I put all of that aside because what truly mattered, and what I loved bringing out—and what I genuinely believed was beautiful—was showcasing strength from within...
"I just saw straight, and I was on a mission, and I just wanted to perform. I always felt proudest when I could showcase that inner mental strength. That, to me, was beautiful.”