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Naomi Osaka Becomes First Female Black Athlete On Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover

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Naomi Osaka Becomes First Female Black Athlete On Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover

Tennis player Naomi Osaka has become the first black female athlete to make the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The Japanese star features on the front cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, an annual magazine that sees female athletes and celebrities modelling swimwear - with Osaka also joined by rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Leyna Bloom, who is also the first transgender cover model in the magazine's history, and the first trans person of colour to appear.

Osaka, 23, holds four Grand Slam titles and is heading to Tokyo to compete in the Olympics, with Sports Illustrated saying her 'strength and power off the court' are what make her a 'true legend'.

Credit: Sports Illustrated
Credit: Sports Illustrated
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SI Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day said: "There's no question that Naomi is one of the best athletes in the world, and a cover spot felt obvious.

"She's spent her formative years racking up titles and is headed to the Olympics.

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

In a video accompanying the issue, Osaka was interviewed by model Tyra Banks in, who told her she was 'so proud' of the tennis superstar after watching her progress.

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Credit: PA
Credit: PA

When Banks said Osaka was the first female black athlete to grace the cover, she said: "I wouldn't have thought that I would have been the first one, but I'm glad that this barrier is being broken.

"I hope there are many, many more people to come and I'm sure there are going to be.

"For me, I feel like I've always been one to not want to use my voice, but then I feel like there's also a lot of things that have happened and over the past year I just feel like there has to be someone that speaks about uncomfortable things."

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Osaka, who released her American citizenship in 2019 so that she could compete for Japan in the 2021 Olympics, withdrew from both the French Open and Wimbledon this year, saying she needed to prioritise her mental health.

As for Osaka's fellow Sports Illustrated cover stars, Day continued: "If there's one thing that our cover models have in common, it's that they don't have one thing in common.

Credit: Sports Illustrated
Credit: Sports Illustrated

"They look different, have different upbringings, have different passions and inspirations. But each is a reminder that beauty comes in many forms."

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Credit: Sports Illustrated
Credit: Sports Illustrated

Describing Megan Thee Stallion as a 'magnetic powerhouse', Day said of Bloom: "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."

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue goes on sale on 22 July.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Celebrity, News

Jess Hardiman
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