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Naomi Osaka: The Voice of a Generation

By Lily Spencer

Image via Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated

Nine days after her documentary was released on Netflix (June 16, 2021), Naomi Osaka won her first-round match of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics against Zheng Saisai of China. On July 25, Osaka won a second-round match against Viktorjia Golubic of Switzerland. On July 27, Osaka lost a third-round match to Markéta Vondroušová of the Czech Republic.

Though her 2020 Olympic run ended with a third-round loss, Naomi Osaka nevertheless put her stamp on the international competition. She was the face of the games for host country Japan and was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony. This honor followed her win in June of the 2021 ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete, and the July 16 release of the documentary on Netflix, Naomi Osaka.

As viewers were able to see in her documentary, Osaka has dealt with a host of things since winning the U.S. Open in 2018. Osaka’s documentary took viewers from seeing her as a baby in Japan, to watching her play tennis with her older sister Mari as they were growing up on Long Island, to being catapulted into the spotlight, to moving to Los Angeles, to visiting Japan and Haiti with her family.

The documentary also took us through her mind as she experienced all of this--the transition from young girl to Grand Slam champion. Every step of the journey, the audience was able to see how Naomi was feeling through it all, and she is one powerful person. She talked about how amazing it is to have the platform she does so that she can use her voice to advocate for mental health and Black Lives Matter.

Naomi has faced backlash for standing up for herself and what is right. People told her that her “Black card” is revoked because she represents Japan as an athlete. And Megyn Kelly mocked her mental health on Twitter. Netflix’s Naomi Osaka shows just why we need to continue pushing for conversations about mental health in the mainstream media, and why our generation needs people like Naomi Osaka.

Netflix’s Naomi Osaka is a brilliant piece that anyone who watches will take away something important from it. Osaka is a light that will continue to shine brightly, illuminating the world with her presence, grace, courage, talent, and determination.

Written by Arts + Pop Culture Co-Editor Lily Spencer

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