Exclusive: Maria Sharapova on Being a First-Time Mom, Breastfeeding and the Role Beauty Plays in Her Life

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Exclusive: Maria Sharapova on Being a First-Time Mom, Breastfeeding and the Role Beauty Plays in Her Life featured image
Court Supremes, a photo project by Radka Leitmeritz and Porsche

It’s just around dinnertime in London and Maria Sharapova is multitasking a spotty phone connection and a four-month-old that may—or may not be—ready for bed.

“I really hope you can hear me,” the 35-year-old profusely, and unnecessarily, apologizes. “I am sorry if it is loud.”

This summer, the former tennis pro, model and long-time spokesperson for numerous brands (Porsche, Evian and Bala to name a few), became a first-time mom with the birth of her baby boy, Theodore. The pregnancy was, for the most part, something she kept rather close, announcing the arrival with fiancé Alexander Gilkes on Instagram a few days after the fact, but something she says she had “dreamed about” forever.

“I wanted this for a really long time,” she shares. “But I’m still trying to figure out the balance. As soon as I think I have something down, I realize I don’t!”

Congratulations on becoming a mom. You’ve worn a lot of hats in your life, and now you have a new job. Which is the hardest?

That’s hard! I think it depends on where you are in life; I can’t compare them. I was really ready for motherhood. It was something that I dreamed of forever. I have a really good relationship with my own mom—we’re really close and share a lot—and I’m an only child, so I felt like I was ready to have a child of my own and pass along my own experiences.

I’m really excited to watch this little boy grow up, although that is still incredibly hard because I’m still mostly trying to figure things out! Every day is a new day and every time you think you have something down, you realize you don’t. There’s always something new to learn and about them and about yourself. That’s incredibly beautiful, but it’s also challenging.

Sport is very challenging, too, because it keeps your feet on the ground every single day. Particularly, as it was for me, tennis was something I had to play every single week and whether I won or lost in one week, I had to turn around and prove myself the next week. It was very demanding—you can never feel too comfortable or too confident in what you were doing. I don’t know if that’s the best answer, but both roles are very hard, but in different ways.

Part of your “bigger” career is also being a model, but what role did beauty play in your tennis career?

It was actually a big part, mainly because I spent so much time outdoors! I was born in Siberia in a very cold town, but I started training in Florida when I was only six—and I was constantly under the sun.

From that first day that my mom and I got there, she was so adamant about making sure that I applied SPF and that I reapplied it. I remember thinking, “Wait, why do I need this at such a young age?” But she would always remind me of the basics of aging and skin cancer.

Of course, when you’re young, you have wonderful skin, and you recover so fast and you don’t have that many wrinkles…and you think that’s going to be the case forever. But something did “stick” with me that prevention might be smart.

Skin-care wise, I instilled all these little routines as I got older. I was always on the road, but when I had all my little beauty things with me, I actually enjoyed the traveling part—it was always the “treat” after a long day. I would take masks with me and, on my days off, it would be part of my rest and recover, which is so important in my sport. I liked to build in these little “facial days” and other simple skin-care things. I always made time for moments of wellness in my career. It was always a very big part of it.

Any specific brands you relied on?

I had a hard time finding the right sunscreen because I was constantly sweating when I was playing and practicing. It would get in my eyes, and that obviously doesn’t feel great. I must have tried dozens of sunscreens—I used to spend so many hours at Sephora and I came across Supergoop! when they were in their second year. I had my manager at the time reach out to them, not knowing anything about the company, but to tell them that I literally had tried everything, and it was the only sunscreen that I could compete with and be wearing. Then, I became an investor! That was back when they had like 10 employees, if that. That was actually my very first investment.

I think what people forget is that it’s not just about applying SPF, but reapplying it after you leave the house. When I spoke with Holly, the founder, she told me her goal was to have people wearing her SPF in the winter months. When she said that, it was as if my mom’s words came together with hers and I was like, “Okay, this is a dream team here.”

Other than that, when I travel, I always love Barbara Sturm’s masks. They’re in little packets, which I really like. I think the best sheet mask on the market is from 111SKIN. Before going to an event, it’s a must. I use the Biologique Recherche products as well. I love their masks. The P50 toner is amazing! I know everyone uses that, but I do love it and it works well on my skin. I went with mom to get a facial by them in Paris a few years ago and I left saying, “Well, this is a facial! This is the real deal!” It felt like what a facial should feel like. The way they use their hands is magical.

How has your routine changed with the baby?

My routine is mostly praying, “Please make this nap good, so I can have a really good morning!” But he’s actually a pretty good sleeper. I’ve been fortunate with that.

I also think so much of any routine is the way you eat. Since I’m breastfeeding, I’m always hungry. I think everyone handles their body different post-birth, but I feel like I always have to eat now, which wasn’t the case during my pregnancy, so it’s all an interesting balance.

Now, I feel like I constantly have to make milk [laughs], so I need food! It’s a strange balance and I’m still figuring it out, but your health always starts with what you eat. It’s hard, but I’ve tried to make it a habit of having a really good morning breakfast. Usually, I’ll make steel-cut oatmeal, I’ll cut up some fruit add some flax seeds and chia, and a little bit of honey. That’s pretty much the start of my day.

In terms of beauty, it all depends on the amount of time I have. I’m not very fussy with things and I’m very much of the mindset, if something works really well, I keep using it! I really like Joanna Czech’s new line; I love her serum, which I apply right before SPF—it feels like a glowing primer. It’s a really great combo. I also love the Therabody face massager. It sculpts and de-puffs like no other device I’ve ever tried. I have it sitting on the coffee table next to my nursing sofa for the rare, peaceful minutes in-between feeds.

What else am I using? There a lot of items from Barbara Sturm line that I still love. It’s such an easy, on-the-go line. At the end of the day, I’m really quite minimal. Even now, when I go to events when someone is doing my makeup, I always say, “Please do the makeup that I would do, but that I can’t do!” [laughs] I would never be able to do it myself, but I want it to look like I did it myself!

You’ve been in the public eye since you were very young. What are the biggest things you’ve learned that you’ll pass along to your son?

I do think that being yourself is ultimately the best advice. I’ve tried to carry that with me; I’ve tried to never pretend to be someone that I’m not. I think authenticity—particularly in today’s society where we are bombarded by so many influences—is key. All these different influences, good and bad, can very quickly make you want to try to be something you’re not. It’s important to know who you are and to find out what it is that you love about yourself, and what it is that you want to say, as opposed to what others would want you to say. And continue to be curious. I think that’s so important in life. Never be the smartest one in the room, always give yourself room to grow. Those two things are the biggest.

What are you excited for next as the year closes out?

This has literally been the fastest year of my life. It’s like we blinked, and it’s over. I’m excited about this stage of motherhood. I feel like I’m just getting through the first few months of a little baby’s life. It feels a bit like an alternate reality and now I feel like, “Okay, this is life. He’s here.”

I’m excited to see the next year unfold and to also see how I find my balance with work. Now, when I walk out of the house, I really think twice about if where I’m going is somewhere I really need to be. I’m interested to see what choices I’ll make with that work-life balance. It’s never going to be 50-50, I know that already, but I’m excited to tread into it because I really do love to work. I also love my family. I know a lot of women face it—there’s this unique challenge of finding that right balance that works for your family. I don’t know the secret, but I’m ready to work on it.

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