Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Tennis star Naomi Osaka debuts red braids on the court in Japan ahead of the Summer Olympics

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A month and a half after taking a break from tennis in the middle of the French Open, Naomi Osaka is back on the court refreshed, ready, and rocking a new ‘do.

The 23-year-old is a favorite to take home gold at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but before the games have even started, she’s already making headlines with her court style.

Today, Naomi — who this morning was also revealed as one of three cover stars of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue — was photographed practicing at Ariake Tennis Center in Tokyo, where she wore a Nike warm-up outfit and a cascade of black and red braids.

Work it! A month and a half after taking a break from tennis in the middle of the French Open, Naomi Osaka is back on the court refreshed, ready, and rocking a new 'do

Work it! A month and a half after taking a break from tennis in the middle of the French Open, Naomi Osaka is back on the court refreshed, ready, and rocking a new 'do

Work it! A month and a half after taking a break from tennis in the middle of the French Open, Naomi Osaka is back on the court refreshed, ready, and rocking a new ‘do

Lookin' good! Naomi, 23, was photographed practicing at Ariake Tennis Center in Tokyo on Monday, July 19

Lookin' good! Naomi, 23, was photographed practicing at Ariake Tennis Center in Tokyo on Monday, July 19

Lookin’ good! Naomi, 23, was photographed practicing at Ariake Tennis Center in Tokyo on Monday, July 19

Hair fun: Naomi showed off long, thick braids that went down the length of her back

Hair fun: Naomi showed off long, thick braids that went down the length of her back

Hair fun: Naomi showed off long, thick braids that went down the length of her back

Eye-catching: The colors were a mix of her natural black hair and bright red, with a few strands of white and gold mixed in

Eye-catching: The colors were a mix of her natural black hair and bright red, with a few strands of white and gold mixed in

Eye-catching: The colors were a mix of her natural black hair and bright red, with a few strands of white and gold mixed in

Less than a week before the tennis tournament kicks off this Saturday, Naomi was getting in some last-minute practice Monday morning when fans first spotted her new look.

Naturally, she dressed in a full outfit by her sponsor, Nike, donning pieces from her own collection including a $40 unisex T-shirt with a red and orange camo pattern. 

She also wore black leggings, wristbands, and bright orange sneakers.

But it was the star’s hair that was the most eye-catching, since it marked a big chance since the last time she appeared publicly, at the ESPYs on July 10.

In Japan, Naomi showed off long, thick braids that went down the length of her back. The colors were a mix of her natural black hair and bright red, with a few strands of white and gold mixed in.

Pushing them out of her face to practice, she kept them tied back with a trendy lilac scrunchie at the crown of her head, a simple black hair tie further down, and a black Nike visor.

Workout clothes: She dressed in a full outfit by her sponsor, Nike, donning pieces from her own collection including a $40 unisex T-shirt with a red and orange camo pattern

Workout clothes: She dressed in a full outfit by her sponsor, Nike, donning pieces from her own collection including a $40 unisex T-shirt with a red and orange camo pattern

Workout clothes: She dressed in a full outfit by her sponsor, Nike, donning pieces from her own collection including a $40 unisex T-shirt with a red and orange camo pattern

Out of her face: She kept her braids tied back with a trendy lilac scrunchie at the crown of her head, a simple black hair tie further down, and a black Nike visor

Out of her face: She kept her braids tied back with a trendy lilac scrunchie at the crown of her head, a simple black hair tie further down, and a black Nike visor

Out of her face: She kept her braids tied back with a trendy lilac scrunchie at the crown of her head, a simple black hair tie further down, and a black Nike visor

Fun to watch: Her braids had plenty of movement as she ran around the court

Fun to watch: Her braids had plenty of movement as she ran around the court

Fun to watch: Her braids had plenty of movement as she ran around the court

Fun to watch: Her braids had plenty of movement as she ran around the court

Fun to watch: Her braids had plenty of movement as she ran around the court

The whole look: She also wore black leggings, wristbands, and bright orange sneakers

The whole look: She also wore black leggings, wristbands, and bright orange sneakers

The whole look: She also wore black leggings, wristbands, and bright orange sneakers

Naomi also showed off her braids on the cover of Vogue Hong Kong this month, thought they were a uniform black color.

However, she was still showing off curly, natural hair when she posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the photos from which were revealed online today.

She modeled a black one-piece with sheer panels for her cover shoot, striking a power pose that puts her athletic figure on full display.

While Naomi has her own cover, transgender model Leyna Bloom, 27, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 26, also have their own covers this year.

According to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, MJ Day, the three women were chosen to show that ‘beauty comes in many forms’ and to ‘solidify’ Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s commitment to featuring more ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ in its pages. 

‘If there’s one thing that our cover models have in common, it’s that they don’t have one thing in common,’ MJ said in a statement. ‘They look different, have different upbringings, have different passions and inspirations. But each is a reminder that beauty comes in many forms. 

Cover girl! She was still showing off curly, natural hair when she posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the photos from which were revealed online today

Cover girl! She was still showing off curly, natural hair when she posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the photos from which were revealed online today

Cover girl! She was still showing off curly, natural hair when she posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the photos from which were revealed online today

Big deal: She modeled a black one-piece with sheer panels for her cover shoot, striking a power pose that puts her athletic figure on full display

Big deal: She modeled a black one-piece with sheer panels for her cover shoot, striking a power pose that puts her athletic figure on full display

Big deal: She modeled a black one-piece with sheer panels for her cover shoot, striking a power pose that puts her athletic figure on full display

'We celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health,' said MJ Day

'We celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health,' said MJ Day

‘We celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health,’ said MJ Day

While Naomi has her own cover, transgender model Leyna Bloom, 27, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 26, also have their own covers this year

While Naomi has her own cover, transgender model Leyna Bloom, 27, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 26, also have their own covers this year

While Naomi has her own cover, transgender model Leyna Bloom, 27, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 26, also have their own covers this year

While Naomi has her own cover, transgender model Leyna Bloom, 27, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 26, also have their own covers this year

Trio: While Naomi has her own cover, transgender model Leyna Bloom, 27, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 26, also have their own covers this year

‘Leyna Bloom makes history as the first transgender cover model in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s history, and the first trans person of color to appear on our pages, solidifying the fact that the more diverse and inclusive a community, the stronger it becomes. 

‘We celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health. 

‘As for Megan Thee Stallion, she is a magnetic powerhouse taking the world by storm. Together these women represent three of the most powerful voices of today.’

Naomi is certainly making headlines this week, and will likely continue to do so as the games kick off this weekend.

The athlete —who was born in in Chūō-ku, Osaka to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father and was raised in the US — will compete for Japan, as she has done since she was a teenager.

‘I’ve been playing under the Japan flag since I was 14. It was never even a secret that I’m going to play for Japan for the Olympics,’ she says her Netflix docu-series, which premiered last week.

Naomi moved to New York from Japan at age three, but she has always chosen to represent Japan in any international competition, a decision that was made when she was still just a child. 

Tennis star: The 23-year-old, who was born in in Chūō-ku, Osaka to a Japanese mother and Haitian father but was raised in the US

Tennis star: The 23-year-old, who was born in in Chūō-ku, Osaka to a Japanese mother and Haitian father but was raised in the US

Tennis star: The 23-year-old, who was born in in Chūō-ku, Osaka to a Japanese mother and Haitian father but was raised in the US

'I don't choose America and suddenly people are like, "Your black card is revoked." And it's like, African American isn't the only black, you know?' she said

'I don't choose America and suddenly people are like, "Your black card is revoked." And it's like, African American isn't the only black, you know?' she said

‘I don’t choose America and suddenly people are like, “Your black card is revoked.” And it’s like, African American isn’t the only black, you know?’ she said  

Her mother, Tamaki, told the Wall Street Journal: ‘We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age. 

‘She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture. Quite simply, Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale. 

‘It was never a financially motivated decision nor were we ever swayed either way by any national federation,’ she added.

Plus, Naomi is no longer an American citizen. She retained dual American and Japanese citizenship for her entire childhood, but Japanese law mandates that anyone with dual citizenship born after 1985 must choose one by their 22nd birthday. 

So ahead of turning 22 in 2019, Naomi publicly announced that she would be renouncing her US citizenship. 

‘It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan,’ she told the Japanese broadcaster NHK. ‘I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional.’ 

Yet she says that some of her fans were angry with her decision to play for Japan this summer.

‘I don’t choose America and suddenly people are like, “Your black card is revoked.” And it’s like, African American isn’t the only black, you know?’ she said. 

‘I don’t know, I feel like people really don’t know the difference between nationality and race because there’s a lot of black people in Brazil, but they’re Brazilian.’ 

Her mother (pictured), said: 'We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age... Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale

Her mother (pictured), said: 'We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age... Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale

Naomi is pictured with her dad

Naomi is pictured with her dad

Her mother (left), said: ‘We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age… Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale

'I've been playing under the Japan flag since I was 14. It was never even a secret that I'm going to play for Japan for the Olympics,' Naomi said in her new docu-series

'I've been playing under the Japan flag since I was 14. It was never even a secret that I'm going to play for Japan for the Olympics,' Naomi said in her new docu-series

‘I’ve been playing under the Japan flag since I was 14. It was never even a secret that I’m going to play for Japan for the Olympics,’ Naomi said in her new docu-series 

Naomi also took the opportunity in her Netflix series to talk about her decision to withdraw from the French Open in May after refusing to take part in her press obligations, citing her struggles with depression and anxiety, which began after she beat Serena Williams in the US Open final in 2018.

Naomi won the match 6-2, 6-4, but her victory was overshadowed by the bitter controversy that erupted over Serena’s on-court arguments with chair umpire Carlos Ramos of Portugal, who issued her with a string of fines.

As a result of the on-court drama, Naomi found herself thrust into the center of a media frenzy and she has remained very much in the spotlight ever since.

‘I think the amount of attention I get is kind of ridiculous — no one prepares you for that. I always have this pressure to maintain this sweet-pea image, but now I don’t care what anyone has to say,’ she said.

In May, Naomi announced that she would not fulfill any media obligations at the French Open, releasing a statement on Twitter in which she cited her mental health as the reason for her decision not to speak to press. 

‘I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros,’ she said. ‘I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. 

‘We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me. 

‘I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.  

‘Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament and a couple journalists have interviewed me since I was young so I have a friendly relationship with most of them. 

‘However, if the organizations think that they can just keep saying “do press or you’re gonna be fined”, and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh. 

‘Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity,’ she concluded.

Naomi was, in fact, fined $15,000 by officials for refusing to appear in front of the media after her first-round match, with organizers saying she would face ‘more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions’ if she continued her boycott.

Stepping back: Naomi first announced that she wouldn't do press at the French Open citing mental health concerns as the reason behind her decision

Stepping back: Naomi first announced that she wouldn't do press at the French Open citing mental health concerns as the reason behind her decision

Stepping back: Naomi first announced that she wouldn't do press at the French Open citing mental health concerns as the reason behind her decision

Stepping back: Naomi first announced that she wouldn't do press at the French Open citing mental health concerns as the reason behind her decision

Stepping back: Naomi first announced that she wouldn’t do press at the French Open citing mental health concerns as the reason behind her decision

Penalty: Naomi was fined $15,000 by officials for refusing to appear in front of the media after her first-round match  (pictured May 30 after her win)

Penalty: Naomi was fined $15,000 by officials for refusing to appear in front of the media after her first-round match  (pictured May 30 after her win)

Penalty: Naomi was fined $15,000 by officials for refusing to appear in front of the media after her first-round match  (pictured May 30 after her win)

So on May 31, she announced that she was stepping away from the tournament entirely.  

‘I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,’ she said.

Revealing her struggles with depression and anxiety, she said: ‘I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.’       

The star’s sponsors, including Nike and Mastercard, backed her decision. Her multiple sponsors have helping her to rake in $55.2 million in the past 12 months. 

Only $5.2 million came from tennis winnings, while the rest came from endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Beats by Dre, Mastercard, and Nissin. 

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