Photo Credit: Getty Images
After Haiti Trip, Naomi Osaka Will Donate Barbie Endorsement Money To School
Written by Victoria M. Walker
Naomi Osaka is proud of her Haitian heritage, and she isn’t shy about showing it.
Osaka’s father hails from Jacmel, a port town of roughly 40,000 three hours away from the capital of Port-au-Prince. When she made the trip to her father’s homeland last November, she spent five days connecting with the country.
She was given a hero’s welcome, according to a Miami Herald report. She was welcomed by President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant. A parade in her honor drew hundreds, and the tennis star was also given the key to Jacmel.
It’s apparent the trip had a profound impact on the star.
Endorsement fees she received through a partnership with Barbie will be donated to the IOA center, an elementary school founded by her parents, according to the Herald report. Barbie honored Osaka and other stars including Yara Shahidi during Women’s History Month as it celebrates the brand’s 60th anniversary. The money will be used to expand the center and for tennis courts for Haitian children.
“Feels surreal because I played with barbies as a kid, never imagined to have one modeled after me,” Osaka wrote on Instagram.
While Osaka has spoken openly and fondly about her Haitian roots, not everybody has embraced her mixed-race heritage.
Osaka, who was born in Japan, is of mixed-race heritage. She’s been confronted with racism on her meteoric rise to stardom.
After defeating Serena Williams at the U.S. Open Final last September, Osaka broke down in tears as her victory was overshadowed by a heated argument between Williams and the umpire. Williams comforted the star, who said she began playing tennis because of Williams. But the match — and its aftermath — was widely proclaimed as unfair to the two players.
An ad for an instant-noodle company also faced backlash in January for portraying Osaka as having lighter skin with straighter hair. “Making her look white just tells these people that what they are isn’t good enough,” a Japanese writer told the New York Times.
While some critics attempt to bush aside her Haitian lineage, Osaka appears comfortable with her heritage. “[The trip to Haiti] was really one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever had, if not the warmest,” Osaka told the Herald.