'I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious,' Naomi Osaka speaks out after she was depicted with pale skin in ad
Current tennis World Number One, Naomi Osaka, has spoken out following the backlash over the controversial sponsor ad depicting her with pale skin.
Just days before her impressive win at the Australian Open, Osaka responded to the outrage trailing one of her sponsors, Japanese instant noodle company, Nissin, after they depicted her with Caucasian features in an anime ad.
The ad shows Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, alongside her fellow Japanese tennis star Kei Nishikori in an anime cartoon based on a manga series called "The Prince of Tennis."
After fans accused the noodle company of "whitewashing" Osaka, they pulled down the ad and the tennis star has now said they’ve apologized to her.
Osaka told reporters in Melbourne when she was still preparing for her final match:
“I've talked to them. They've apologized. I'm tan. It's pretty obvious.”
The Japan-born athlete also said she doesn’t think Nissin intended to whitewash her.
“I don’t think they did it on purpose to be whitewashing or anything,” said Osaka. “But I definitely think that the next time they try to portray me or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it.”
Osaka would go on to win the Australian Open and earn her second Grand Slam title on Saturday, January 26, after she beat Petra Kvitova in a keenly contested match.
A spokesman for Nissin, Daisuke Okabayashi, earlier responded to the backlash, stating that the company did not mean to disrespect diversity.
“We as a company put human rights first, and our stance of valuing diversity is unchanged,” he said in a telephone interview.
Okabayashi also spoke to CNN and owned up to their lack of sensitivity with the issue:
"There is no intention of whitewashing. We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future."
Meanwhile, this is the second time a cartoon depiction of Osaka is generating controversy. Following her US Open win against Serena Williams last September, the Japanese player was featured in an illustration by Herald Sun and shown as a light-skinned, blonde-haired woman.
The publication also came under fire for their depiction of Williams as a baby throwing a tantrum.