Naomi Osaka could be on the verge of becoming a cultural icon.
It seems crazy to think that the once shy, awkward, and unassuming Osaka would blossom into one of the most likable athletes in all of sports. But after only a few years into her career and four Grand Slam Titles, Osaka is claiming her spot.
She’s one of only three tennis players ever to win their first four Grand Slam Finals in the open era. She joined that exclusive club after a victory in straight sets over Jennifer Brady in Friday’s Australian Open Final. The 23-year-old Osaka has also gotten the best of Serena Williams three times over the past few years and holds the lead 3-2 in head-to-head matchups against Williams — herself one of the best athletes to ever play a sport, and an inspiration for Osaka. Not to mention Osaka is ranked number 3 in the world right now.
It’s no question that her success on the court has contributed to her cultural relevance, but one could argue that Osaka’s off-the-court swag has had just as big an impact in turning her into the powerhouse she is today. Quietly, Osaka has become one of the swaggiest young athletes we’ve witnessed in recent memory.
She’s already the highest-paid female athlete in the world and broke the record for 12-month earnings for a female athlete in 2020. Her social media presence has started to attract more people as she invites them into her day-to-day life. She now has 2 million Instagram followers, more than any other relevant young women’s tennis star and also more than legend Venus Williams. Osaka has been featured in GQ, Wall Street Magazine, and Highsnobiety all within the past year.
She currently dates Cordae, an up-and-coming rapper whose last album, The Lost Boy, peaked at number six on the Billboard charts in 2019. Their relationship has been applauded by many on social media and deemed the next true power couple.
Osaka, who is of Japanese and Haitian descent, made powerful statements this past year after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. She has never run from her identity as a Black and Asian woman. She wore masks highlighting the names of the victims of racial injustice and even dropped out of a tournament to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake.
So many people have fallen in love with Osaka’s persona. She presents both an innocence, power, and swagger that feels refreshingly genuine.
Because of Osaka’s polite demeanor, it might be easy for some to overlook her as an influential figure who transcends sport. But when you look deeper at how she has captured the attention of the world, you can understand just how much impact she truly has.
She is truly a cultural icon in the making.