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Maria Sharapova’s celebrity was divisive but built a brand for life | Tumaini Carayol | Sport



The first time Maria Sharapova arrived at the top level of professional tennis she was introduced to the world as a “babe”. Sharapova had been drawn to face Ashley Harkleroad, another blonde youngster thrust into the spotlight on the perceived strength of her looks, in the first round of Wimbledon in 2003. The tabloids exploded.

Sharapova was only 16 years old but the match was dubbed “the battle of the babes” and she later sat through a cringe-inducing press conference as journalists leered at a child and then put their leering thoughts to her. “How are you going to fill the [Anna] Kournikova role?” asked one reporter. “What’s the biggest difficulty with certain looks and a certain ability to keep concentrated on the sport?”

Last Wednesday Sharapova announced her retirement from professional tennis after a , tough struggle with age and a crumbling shoulder. With five grand slam titles, a career grand slam and 36 titles overall, her career has been a 16-year response to the latter question. The platform chosen for her announcement, a first-person article published in both Vogue and Vanity Fair, seemed to be a reflection of how she wants to be remembered – a rare athlete whose celebrity transcended the sport she played.

It has been that way for a long time. Even when she was still winning grand slam titles her career seemed to be better defined by the annual announcement of her topping the Forbes rich list. No tennis player in history has been likened to a brand as much as Sharapova, phrasing that has even permeated the minds of her fellow players. “Her impact on the sport, not just women’s tennis but men’s tennis, tennis in general, was great,” said Novak Djokovic, the men’s No 1. “It still is great. It’s going to keep on being present because her brand, I think, exceeds her tennis achievements.”

The fascination with Sharapova’s money has always been curious because, as her first Wimbledon experiences showed, so much of it is a simple reflection of a society that values and promotes a certain look. As she has grown into herself the Russian has assumed agency for her brand and harnessed it into new ventures that will keep her busy for long after her career; but she also had opportunities that many other players didn’t.

The duality of Sharapova’s image is that while she presents her manicured image away from the courts, what she has brought to the sport is so specific. She burst on to the tour playing vicious, precise tennis and winning the 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open titles by the time she was 21. Although her shock win against Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final was always hoisted up as her signature victory, even more impressive was the consistency she quickly established as a teenager and how she twice dismantled Justine Henin en route to subsequent titles.

Sharapova hit the ball hard and flat and instinctively knew how to construct an aggressive point, but her game was already limited before she returned to the tour in 2009 after shoulder surgery and with her serve diminished. It is difficult to think of many players who would have continued to thrive after a weapon as essential as her serve was affected.

No longer able to consistently strike the ball as cleanly, Sharapova simply leaned heavily on her love of a brawl and her street-fighting instincts, battling back to the No 1 ranking after winning the French Open in 2012.

Glimpses of the real Sharapova are visible in the long looks down the court, the clenched fist tapping against her thigh, in the way her refusal to make friends enraged. In the midst of an epic three-set match against Agnieszka Radwanska she buried a forehand and bellowed “run, run” across the court. After the French Open crowd booed her in 2008 for no reason she crunched a forehand winner, pivoted on one foot and bellowed “Allez up your fucking ass”. What she brought to the table inspired devotion and loathing, but she made most people feel something.

Even as her head-to-head with Serena Williams descended to 2-20 the Russian was a rare player whose presence heightened a moment, who made the most important matches feel even more essential and tense.

Maria Sharapova announces she had failed a drug test in 2016.

Maria Sharapova announces she had failed a drug test in 2016. Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA

Sharapova was always a divisive figure but her doping ban cast a shadow over her career. The case itself falls into the grey moral areas of sport – she was legally taking meldonium for 10 years when it was added to the banned list in 2016 and she immediately committed a doping violation with her first test at the 2016 Australian Open.

At the tribunal her agent’s explanation of how they failed to note meldonium’s status change deserved a laugh track. Max Eisenbud explained he usually checked the list while on his annual holiday during the off-season but, because of his divorce, he had forgone that holiday and so he forgot to check. After she attempted to control the damage by announcing the ban herself and demonstrating contrition, she never conceded she had used it legally to help her performance. In the end, although more than 170 athletes were banned for meldonium, Sharapova was one of the few to receive significant punishment for it.

The slapstick errors that led to her ban seemed to be a significant revelation. After a decade of narratives about the weight of her brand and the machine behind it, it revealed her as just someone who can be sloppy and make bad judgments. Rather than for the money she made and the brand she built, perhaps it is better to remember her as a flawed person, like everyone else, who achieved enough.

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Which Swindon celebrity is selling flowers? The great British art quiz | Art and design




This quiz is brought to you in collaboration with Art UK, the online home for Britain’s public art collections, showing art from more than 3,000 venues and by 45,000 artists. Each day, a different collection on Art UK will set the questions. 

Today, our questions are set by Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, which has one of the most significant collections of modern British art in the UK. It includes predominantly paintings and works on paper, around 300 studio ceramics and a number of sculptural works. The collection features artists including Frank Auerbach, Lucien Freud and Henry Moore, as well as artists of local significance.

You can see art from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery on Art UK here. Find out more on the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery website here.

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is housed in Apsley House, which was built in the 1830s. But in which decade was it adapted to house Swindon’s collections?

This scene was painted by Christopher Wood in 1930. But what popular seaside town does it depict?

Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson met Alfred Wallis in 1928, and were amazed by the simplicity and directness of his approach. This is demonstrated in Ship Amid Tall Waves. What was Wallis’ main profession?

Which Swindon-born celebrity did Desmond Morris depict in Girl Selling Flowers?

Walter Sickert produced this study for his painting Vernets in 1920. What was ‘Vernets’?

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery recently acquired two pieces from Swindon-based artist David Bent’s Aerobots series. Which of these subject matters is David well-known for being inspired by?

This bronze bust of Virginia Woolf was created by Stephen Tomlin (1901-37). Which other famous member of the Bloomsbury group was Woolf’s sibling?

Which of these groups is Robert Bevan most closely affiliated with?


You got…

You need to swot up on Swindon!

You’re a Swinner!

Could have Swindon better!

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Bhumi Pednekar endorses anti-spitting campaign in fight against COVID-19




Bhumi Pednekar endorses anti-spitting campaign in fight against COVID-19

Bhumi Pednekar endorses anti-spitting campaign in fight against COVID-19

Actress Bhumi Pednekar has urged all to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through an anti-spitting campaign that aims to educate people. She has reminded that the dreaded novel coronavirus spreads even by spitting. “We have to defeat coronavirus and everyone has to join hands. Leave the habit of spitting. We have to save the country. Currently, our country is under the threat of corona and the fatal disease spreads even by spitting,” Bhumi said. She added: “We all came together to get associated with the toilet campaign and pledged to make the country clean. Similarly, let’s pledge to make the country corona free, by avoiding to spit here and there.”

Bhumi has recently come out with a campaign titled ‘One Wish For The Earth’ for World Environment Day, on June 5. Several Bollywood personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma and Karan Johar have supported the initiative. Big B tweeted and pledged “to be climate-conscious, create awareness within families & communities.”

Akshay shared a video where he spoke about climate change. He said the one wish that he has is to “work towards rebuilding mother nature by the simplest act of planting trees.” Anushka urged everyone to treat animals and plant species with utmost kindness and equality.

Bhumi has become the face of the anti-spitting campaign for Sambandh Health Foundation along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, endorsing the Spit Free India Movement. 

Earlier, actor Abhishek Bachchan had also shared a ‘cool rap’ with anti-spitting in open message to combat COVID19. He had shared a video promoting the government’s message of not spitting in the open in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Sharing the video, he said, “This cool rap video is a great way to drum home the anti-spitting in open message to combat #Covid19. Remember to stop & SOCH – think about your actions & the repercussions this could have on others! Kudos to  @PMOIndia @MoHFW_India @BMGFIndia #KhuleMeinNaThooko #MilkeCoronaRoko”


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5 Queens Who Made The Best Mentors (& 5 Who Need Improvement)




The RuPaul’s Drag Race universe keeps expanding, and Secret Celebrity Drag Race is yet another very successful spin-off that is destined to be renewed for many seasons. Each episode, RuPaul invited three celebrity guests to compete for the title of America’s Next Celebrity Drag Race Superstar a donation of $10,000 to a charity of their choice.

RELATED: RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race: 5 Things We Loved (& 5 We Didn’t)

These celebrities were guided by iconic Drag Race contestants of past seasons, which, on Secret Celebrity, were referred to as Queen Supremes. While it was exciting to watch many of the ultimate Drag Race fan-favorites back on TV, it is only fair to point out that some of them did better than others in this new mentorship role.

10 BEST: Bob The Drag Queen

Bob the Drag Queen felt immediately comfortable as a Queen Supreme on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, which probably comes from the many years of experience coaching up-and-coming drag performers (such as Miz Cracker) and the lessons she learned while filming HBO’s We’re Here.

On both of her Secret Celebrity appearances, Bob had to coach contestants who were surprisingly introverted and somewhat apprehensive about their makeovers. In both instances, it was clear that these celebrity guests were able to come out of their shell due to Bob’s expert guidance.


Kim Chi is one of the most talented and memorable contestants in the history of RuPaul’s Drag Race. However, it is also fair to say that Kim is a shy individual who excels at her craft when she is executing her own vision.

On Secret Celebrity Drag Race, Kim had the difficult task of mentoring a comedian for a roast challenge. Matt Iseman was very open to suggestions, proved himself to be a great straight ally, and developed deep bonds with the queens. However, this comedian was already very confident about and prepared for the roast (without any mentoring), and Kim’s expertise in throwing shade just didn’t align well with Matt’s style of comedy.

8 BEST: Alyssa Edwards

As the owner of a dance studio and the head of the House of Edwards, Alyssa Edwards has been putting people into drag for the first time and dealing with all kinds of students for over a decade. All of this experience made Alyssa a natural mentor on Secret Celebrity Drag Race – being tough when she needed to, but also kind and patient.

RELATED: RuPaul’s Drag Race: 10 Best Dancing Queens, Ranked

Like Bob the Drag Queen, Alyssa Edwards was featured twice as a Queen Supreme on Secret Celebrity Drag Race. In both instances, Alyssa coached women with strong personalities and got them to push the envelope on what they thought they could or couldn’t do.


On season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Asia O’Hara proved that she is a kind, smart, and compassionate individual who has been a motherly figure to many other drag performers. But then Asia was assigned to mentor the multitalented and iconic Vanessa Williams on Secret Celebrity Drag Race.

As a result, fans saw a version of Asia O’Hara who was shier and quieter than usual, going with the flow of things and mostly just being supportive. In her defense, it is hard to imagine anyone ‘coaching’ Vanessa Williams, and the nerves probably got the best of Asia.

6 BEST: Monet X Change

On Drag Race season 10 and All Stars 4, Monet X Change served as a great mentor for the people she transformed on the makeover challenges. Unsurprisingly, Monet was just as funny, supportive, and blunt on Secret Celebrity Drag Race, which highly benefited her mentee Nico Tortorella.

In the episode that featured Monet X Change, her drag sister Bob The Drag Queen was also present, which made their appearances even more entertaining to watch. If you’ve ever seen the two of them interact, they are just like actual siblings who bicker and tease each other on a daily basis.

5 NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Vanessa Vanjie Mateo

No one can deny the star power that Vanessa Vanjie Mateo has, so much so that she was brought back to compete on Drag Race season 11, then back again on season 12 to mentor the contestants for the Snatch Game, and was also featured as a Queen Supreme on Secret Celebrity Drag Race.

With that said, the iconic and hilarious Miss Vanjie is still a young drag performer who likely didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the mentorship role. Like many other queens, Vanjie is used to doing her own thing and seemingly doesn’t have as much as experience on making over other individuals.

4 BEST: Trinity The Tuck

Trinity The Tuck has been a well-rounded drag performer since her first appearance on season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Then, Trinity won All Stars 4 alongside Monet X Change, which makes her very experienced in the franchise.

On Secret Celebrity Drag Race, Trinity The Tuck was the designated Queen Supreme for comedian and talk show host Loni Love. Throughout the episode, it was clear that Trinity spent a lot of time giving Loni helpful advice, boosts of confidence, and constructive criticism. Despite the fact that Loni Love competed in an episode with Vanessa Williams, Loni certainly stood her ground and did great.


It’s no secret that Trixie Mattel doesn’t consider herself a great Drag Race competitor, despite having won All Stars 3. Like Kim Chi, Trixie has a particular sense of humor that can be misinterpreted by those who aren’t deeply familiar with her, and is clearly very uncomfortable being ‘tough’ with others.

RELATED: RuPaul’s Drag Race: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Trixie Mattel

These various qualities from Trixie Mattel make her a great entertainer, but someone who still has room to grow as a mentor. It is true that her mentee Jordan Connor won his Secret Celebrity Drag Race episode, but one must note that a significant part of the energy that he brought was already there prior to any guidance.

2 BEST: Nina West

Many of the Queen Supremes are great Drag Race competitors, have loud personalities, and/or have a long history of coaching others to get in drag. But what makes Nina West a great mentor is none of those things. Instead, Nina’s strengths as a mentor are that she is deeply compassionate, a great listener, and always able to make the best out of something.

As Dustin Milligan’s Queen Supreme on Secret Celebrity Drag Race, Nina West was helpful, charming, and precise. Much of Dustin’s transformation was focused on an internal makeover – rather than external changes –, and Nina was the absolute perfect mentor for someone like him.


Monique Heart is one of the best personalities to have ever been on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but fans didn’t see all of that energy being translated into mentorship skills on Secret Celebrity Drag Race.

Madison Beer ­– Monique Heart’s mentee – came with a set plan for what she wanted to accomplish on the series. As such, just like Vanessa Williams and Matt Iseman in other episodes, there wasn’t much room left for Monique to actually mentor Madison beyond what was already in development.

NEXT: RuPaul’s Drag Race: 10 Most Shocking Eliminations

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