What tennis star CoCo Vandeweghe learned from her grandmother, a former Miss America

CoCo Vandeweghe serving to Kristina Mladenovic of France in the women’s singles match during the 2017 Hopman Cup Final at Perth Arena in Australia in January. (Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

CoCo Vandeweghe. You might or might not know her name, but the 25-year-old American tennis player is currently ranked No. 22 in the world by the World Tennis Association, and her star seems only to be rising. She’s held her own against the greats, even going shot for shot with Serena Williams in her first WTA final, and has been securely in the top 40 for a few years now. This week she’s playing in the U.S. Open — and on Wednesday she won her first-round match, in three sets, against Alison Riske.

But how does a self-described laid-back California girl, who didn’t even start playing tennis until the age of 11, maintain her confidence on the global sports stage, particularly as she competes against some of the most famous women in the game? For that, Vandeweghe credits the teachings of her late grandmother.

“My grandmother was Miss America,” Vandeweghe tells Yahoo Beauty while hosting a US Open event at Hakkassan New York. “She was all about confidence. When you walk into a room, you just hold yourself with — it’s hard to describe, and she did it so much better because she was so articulate — but you must go into a room and know that you’re something important, even when you’re not! Fake it till you make it. I still use that lesson to this day.” It feels important to note that her grandmother, Colleen Kay Hutchins, was crowned Miss America in 1952 when she was 25 — the same age Vandeweghe is now.

 

Now, two generations later, it seems that beauty pageant blood very much runs through this tennis player’s veins. “My grandmother is my idol — she’s amazing,” Vandeweghe says of the woman who died in 2010.

While Vandeweghe didn’t follow in her beauty pageant footsteps (“I’d rather be getting dirty,” she says), there are pieces of her grandmother’s memory that she carries with her every day, both on the court and off. “I’ve always worn Coco Chanel perfume. That was my grandmother’s gift to me when I was born — Coco Chanel No. 5,” she says. “I wear the Mademoiselle right now. I’ve always stuck with it.”

On Day 1 of the 2016 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)

Vandweghe and her grandmother are not the only two from their family to have stepped into the limelight. The tennis player’s mother was an Olympic swimmer, and her grandfather played for the New York Knicks.

“I loved being in a competitive family,” Vandweghe says. “We competed over everything. Being an athlete and playing sports was the thing to do.”

And tennis, in particular, is the thing for Vandweghe to do. She is on a mission to be No. 1 in the world — and if Miss America 1952 has anything to say about it, she’ll make it.

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