Tennis star makes first comment regarding Cup Noodle ad that’s drawn accusations of whitewashing.

It took a couple days for Cup Noodle maker Nissin’s recent anime-style ad featuring an illustrated Naomi Osaka to attract international attention, but once it did, overseas commenters were quick to denounce the video for portraying Osaka with far lighter skin than the half-Haitian, half-Japanese athlete has in real life. Since then, Nissin has removed the ad (drawn in the style of hit anime/manga series The Prince of Tennis) from its YouTube channel, and also deleted tweets containing the video or stills taken from it that were previously sent through the official Cup Noodle Twitter account.

▼ Naomi Osaka

At the same time, Osaka has been competing, and winning, in the Australian Open. After her most recent victory over Karolina Pliskova earned her a trip to the singles’ final, Osaka spoke at a press conference, where she fielded questions about the match and her upcoming contest against Petra Kvitova. However, one reporter also took the opportunity to ask her about the Cup Noodle controversy. “Let me just take it off tennis for a little bit,” he began. “Yesterday and overnight there was a little bit of controversy about one of your sponsors whitewashing a promotional campaign in Japan and I was wondering if you had an opinion on that.”

Osaka, who’s previously shown a preference for keeping her interviews focused on the sport she plays, responded with “Uh, yeah, I mean for me I’m just focused on this right now. Like I’ve gotten to the final of a slam, and that’s sort of my main priority so…”

As Osaka’s sentence trails off, the reporter hops back in with “As a socially conscious person are you content with this…that the campaign has been taken off the media now?”, to which she replies:

“Yeah I mean um, like, I’ve talked to them and they’ve apologized, and, for me, like it’s obvious, like, I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious, um, so, I’m not, I don’t think they did it on purpose to be, like, like whitewashing or anything, um, but I definitely think that the next time that they try to portray me or something I feel like they should talk to me about it, so…”

▼ The exchange between the reporter and Osaka

While Osaka’s statement doesn’t explicitly say she didn’t see the controversial character design prior to the ad’s release, it seems to imply that that was the case, and that the design’s approval came from her managers, not her directly. At the same time, her mention of “the next time hat they try to portray me” suggests that Osaka isn’t anywhere near as upset by the anime ad as to sever her ties with Nissin over it, or to bar the company from every showing her in animated form again.

After the pair of questions from the reporter, the topic quickly shifted back to tennis, which seems to be the only thing on Osaka’s mind right now.

Source: YouTube/Australian Open TV via Mainichi Shimbun
Top image: YouTube/日清食品グループ公式チャンネル