‘Social Anxiety’ Sufferer Naomi Osaka Becomes SI Swimsuit Cover Girl

Naomi Osaka
Yu Tsai/Getty Images

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who has spent months telling the world that she must shun the spotlight for her mental health, has once again posed for the cover of a major magazine.

This year, Osaka pulled out of both the French Open and the UK’s Wimbledon, claiming that she needed to “isolate” herself for the sake of her “mental health.” Osaka said she had shunned the big competitions because she did not want to participate in the mandatory press conferences with the sports media.

But even as she claimed she needed to take a step back, the 23-year-old player has appeared on the covers of several magazines, sent out an open letter in Time magazine, and given multiple interviews about how she wants to be left alone.

This month, Osaka appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which hit the newsstands on Monday.

“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,” SI Swimsuit editor-in-chief M.J. Day said, according to USA Today. “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.”

The issue comes with three different cover shots. In addition, Osaka shares the issue with two others, including rapper Megan Thee Stallion and left-wing trans activist Leyna Bloom.


But even as she tells the world how she needs to be left alone for her mental health, Osaka has jumped into several promotions, interviews, TV appearances, and even a documentary.

As she has pleaded for time to deal with her “social anxiety,” Osaka has engaged in a flurry of media, including:

  • Osaka gave an extensive interview to Japan Vogue and served as its cover girl for the issue.
  • She appeared in the Netflix series entitled simply Naomi Osaka.
  • Osaka lent her image to a Barbie Doll and helped promote it.
  • She jumped into a series of deals with various fashion companies to promote her brand.
  • And now the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is on the stands.

This is a lot of media attention for a self-proclaimed “introvert” who feels she must eschew the press for her “mental health.” Indeed, only last week, Osaka demanded that the media afford her more “privacy and empathy.”

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