Japanese tennis star is part of Barbie’s ‘Shero’ campaign. From left to right: Maya Gabiera, Surfer, Brazil; Naomi Osaka, Tennis Player, Japan; Kristina Vogel, Cycling Champion, Germany; Tessa Virtue, Ice Skater, Canada; Yara Shahidi, Actress, United States; Adwoa Aboah, Activist and Model, United Kingdom; Dipa Karmakar, Artistic Gymnast, India; Chen Man, Photographer, China; Ita Buttrose, Journalist, Australia. Photo courtesy: Mattel
CALIFORNIA — Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has literally become one of the new faces of Barbie.
To celebrate Barbie’s 60th anniversary, Mattel has honoured nine global female role models with Barbie’s created in their likeness. This includes the 21 year old Japanese tennis star.
“It’s a little bit surreal because last year nothing like that would have come my way, but this year I have opportunities like that,” Osaka told reporters during a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open on March 11.
The Japanese tennis star has had an incredible last year. Osaka became a household name when she defeated her idol, Serena Williams, in a controversial and dramatic U.S. Open Finals in September. This made Osaka the first Japanese tennis player ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. Now the young star has two grand slam titles under her belt and is the No. 1 tennis player in the world.
Osaka has also become a champion for hapa or mixed race communities around the world, and the growing community in Japan. Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian, was born in Japan and raised in the United States.
Since her rise to fame, parents have come up to her to tell her that their kids look up to Osaka and children have approached her for her autograph. The experience has been a reminder for Osaka of how important her own role models were to her when growing up.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) March 7, 2019
“Having that chance to represent people that might not think that they could be represented, that’s a really important goal of mine,” said Osaka.
The new line of Barbie’s are meant to show the unlimited potential of girls, the company said in a statement, and aims to close the “dream gap.” The term comes from a study that found starting at the age of five, girls start to doubt their potential because they are girls. The study was conducted by researchers at New York University, the University of Illinois and Princeton University.
“The Barbie brand believes girls should never know a world, job, or dream women haven’t conquered. Through our global platform, we are igniting a movement to help close the ‘dream gap’ and further establish Barbie as the ultimate girl empowerment brand,” said Lisa McKnight, General Manager and Senior Vice President at Barbie.
For the second week of March, a dollar from every Barbie doll sold will go to the Barbie Dream Gap Project Fund, up to $250,000. Other global female leaders who now have Barbie counterparts include Canadian ice-dancer Tessa Virtue, American actress and activist Yara Shahidi and Chinese photographer Chen Man.