Noodle Company In Hot Water Over Whitewashed Depiction Of Biracial Tennis Player
EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images
A Japanese noodle company has some explaining to do after a now-retracted video ad featuring U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka whitewashed the tennis player’s skin. The anime-styled depiction of Osaka does very little to capture the 21-year-old’s Haitian and Japanese heritage, and has prompted a backlash in both the US and Japan. As reported by The New York Times the cartoon illustration was drawn by Takeshi Konomi, a well-known manga artist with a popular anime series in Japan. Noodle company Nissin said Konomi worked with the young tennis player’s team to develop a character that was “in line with his series.” However, his clear erasure of Osaka’s ethnic features has led to disappointment from fans online. A Nissin spokesman said, “There is no intention of whitewashing,” but also added, “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issue in the future.”   Baye McNeil, an African American author who has lived in Japan for 15 years is one of the people pushing back on the image. He shared his disappointment in the Japan Times where he is a columnist and often writes about multiculturalism, saying, “Many Japanese still believe deeply in the notion of the [pure] Japanese race. And so, she’ll never truly be Japanese.” He also added that he believed the whitewashing of Osaka was an intentional act by the noodle company to help her be perceived as “more desirable.” Osaka, who originally wished to stay out of the controversy, weighed in on Thursday and said,  “I don’t think they did it on purpose to be, like, whitewashing or anything. 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.”

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