In many respects, tennis participant Naomi Osaka has grown up proper earlier than our eyes. Known for being understated and shy when she first emerged as a high contender in 2018 along with her shock upset over her idol, Serena Williams, since then, Osaka has come into her personal as one among her sport’s brightest stars. Between June 2019 and June 2020, her mixed prize cash and endorsements made her the highest-paid feminine athlete of all time, in keeping with Forbes.
With that glow-up has come a a lot larger platform, and Osaka has wielded her voice with intention and care, as evidenced in her newest debut as a cowl woman, this time for none apart from American Vogue.
Osaka is gorgeous on the duvet of the January 2021 problem, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Wearing an asymmetrical striped Louis Vuitton gown, Osaka seems to be like a younger girl in full possession of her abilities, her pure curls lifted by a mild breeze (or, in all probability, a fan), her make-up minimal and pure.
But what has made Osaka particular this yr is her emergence as tennis’ foremost voice on racial justice points.
The 23-year-old spoke at size about her curiosity in racial justice, which started when she was simply an adolescent dwelling in Florida.
“I really feel like that is one thing that was increase in me for some time,” Osaka advised the journal. “I watched the Trayvon stuff go down. For me that was super-scary.”
As the story notes, she was 14 and dwelling in Boca Raton, simply three hours north of the place Trayvon was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, an aggressive neighborhood vigilante.
“I journey a lot through the yr that I do not all the time know the information that is centered in the U.S. But then when the pandemic hit, there have been no distractions. I used to be pressured to look.”
Osaka participated in the Black Lives Matter protests alongside her boyfriend, rapper Cordae, in Minneapolis in the times following Floyd’s loss of life by the hands of native police. She advised Vogue it was the primary rally of any form she had ever attended.
“I do not assume it issues for those who’re shy or not, or for those who’re introverted or extroverted. You’re simply there in the second. When you see it in actual life—so many cameras filming everybody, police with weapons exterior town corridor, the dad and mom of different victims telling their tales—it type of hits you otherwise. You’re capable of course of it by yourself phrases.”
Since then, Osaka has been vocal about the necessity to shield Black lives on social media and on the courtroom. Following the Milwaukee Bucks’ impromptu wildcat strike through the NBA playoffs, she additionally postponed her look at a Grand Slam match in assist of the athletes. When she received this yr’s U.S. Open match, she did so whereas acknowledging victims of racial violence, honoring a distinct individual by carrying their names printed on a facemask every time she stepped out for a match.
Osaka’s deal with racial justice is especially important given her multiracial heritage. She was born in Japan to a Japanese mom and a Haitian American father, and took on her mom’s final identify for sensible functions. But although she represents Japan when she performs tennis, she has spent a lot of her life in the United States.
This grants her a singular perspective—and a chance to speak about racism on to audiences who usually do not spend a lot time contemplating it. But whereas she has been attacked for her stances, Osaka is relaxed along with her position—even when who she is and what she stands for confuses folks.
“Because some folks label me, they usually anticipate me to stay to that label,” she advised Vogue. “Since I symbolize Japan, some folks simply anticipate me to be quiet and possibly solely discuss Japanese matters. I take into account myself Japanese-Haitian-American. I all the time grew up with a little bit bit extra Japanese heritage and tradition, however I’m Black, and I dwell in America, and I personally did not assume it was too far-fetched once I began speaking about issues that have been occurring right here. There are issues occurring right here that basically scare me.”