Ava DuVernay

time-100-2017-ava-duvernay Photograph by Luisa Dorr for TIME 

When I first met Ava DuVernay, I had no idea how great an impact she would have on my life—and on so many other lives as well. But by the time I found out that she wanted to do a program with me, the "Venus Vs." episode of Nine for IX, I didn't need much convincing. If you have a chance to work with Ava, you do it right away.

Ava's point of view is fresh, it's inspiring, it's original, it makes people's heads turn. But she also embraces other people's perspectives. When we worked together, Ava was able to integrate herself into my life and see things through my eyes. It takes a very special person to do something like that.

Ava makes it her mission to tell important stories, from Selma to her prison documentary 13th, and to empower important storytellers—by choosing only female directors to helm each episode of her OWN show, Queen Sugar, for example. She's opening doors, and that's courageous.

Williams is a champion tennis player

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.