The young tennis superstar demonstrated her gentle touch with a butterfly at the Australian Open.
On Friday, Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka paused during a match with Tunisia's Ons Jabeur at the Australian Open to escort a butterfly that had landed on her leg safely to the sidelines.
After a fan called out to inform Osaka of her fluttering companion, she dropped what she was doing -- i.e. playing a highly competitive match against one of the other top-ranked Tennis players in the world -- and gently scooped up the butterfly to carry it out of harm's way. But the butterfly wasn't done with it's new friend, flying up to give her some literal butterfly kisses on the nose and cheek.
Naomi Osaka with butterfly in the match with Ons Jabeur ( 大坂なおみ 蝶と) - Australian Open 2021 (2/12/21) www.youtube.com
Okay, it's possible that the butterfly wasn't consciously thanking Osaka for her thoughtful gesture -- it might have just been flapping around in an aimless, almost butterfly-like way. But considering the fact that Osaka can serve a tennis ball at over 120 miles per hour, it definitely should have been thanking her for the assistance in getting out of the line of fire.
Osaka then went on to win her match with Jabeur, placing her in the final 16 in the women's bracket. It remains to be seen whether she'll be able to take on the rest of her competition to add another Grand Slam win to her impressive record.
But a more important question arose from the match and that interaction with the lost butterfly: Is Naomi Osaka a Disney Princess?
A special affinity with animals is considered one of the essential traits of a Disney Princess. And while it's unlikely that the butterfly will start following Naomi around, helping her on adventures -- fingers crossed! -- she has definitely checked that box.
So what are the other requirements for a Disney Princess? Does she qualify?
As a rule, Disney Princesses are young. They represent youthful optimism, a spirit of adventure, and hope for the future. No one embodies those ideals better than Naomi Osaka.
The tennis star first received international attention in 2018 when she won the U.S. Open in an upset match against Serena Williams at age 20. The Williams sisters -- Venus and Serena -- as Black women at the top of women's tennis, had reportedly inspired Osaka's Haitian father, Leonard François, to begin training Naomi and her sister Mari (also a professional tennis player) at a young age.
Needless to say, Osaka's victory over her idol — especially as a result of a contentious judgment from the referee — was bittersweet. When the crowd started booing, the young star was brought to tears.
But as with any great story, when our hero was doubting herself, a mentor stepped in to support her. Williams put an arm around her and whispered some encouraging words before delivering a heartfelt speech in defense of her young competitor as the future of their sport. Osaka has since referred to Williams as her "tennis mom."
Now, at 23, Osaka is around one year younger than Elsa in Frozen II — officially still in the Disney-princess territory. But she's also already serving as a role model with her Play Academy encouraging young girls to stick with athletics.
Once upon a time, Disney Princesses were valued based on their beauty, their gentleness, and the fact that they were actual royalty. In more recent years Disney has shifted away from that model, with more of an emphasis on talent. Mulan is a skilled fighter, Moana a "wayfinder," Tiana in 2009's The Princess and the Frog is a talented chef, and Merida in 2012's Brave is the best archer in the land.
As for Naomi Osaka, her current position at #3 on the Women's Tennis Association's ranking of top players in the world speaks for itself.
She's Animated (or Illustrated, Anyway)
Growing up reading manga/watching anime was something that bonded me and my sister immensely so this is really exci… https://t.co/h1YNWDPvf5— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ) 1606580115.0
She may not be the star of her own Disney film (yet), but Naomi Osaka recently got the cartoon treatment in her own Manga series called Unrivalled Naomi Tenkaichi, published in Japan's Nakayoshi magazine. The first installment was released in December of 2020 and was made with the help of Naomi's sister, Mari.
Compared to a previous, whitewashed cartoon version that appeared in an ad campaign for Japanese ramen company Nissin Foods — for which the company reportedly apologized to Osaka — this is obviously a huge step up.
Okay, not to make too big a deal out of looks, but we all know that Disney Princesses are supposed to be conventionally pretty.
Fortunately our culture is slightly less racist than it was when a character's beauty was so tied to the whiteness of her skin that it was literally her defining characteristic... But there are still obviously some expectations for a Disney Princess to be photogenic in ways that an athlete doesn't really need to be.
So it's basically pure luck that Naomi Osaka also happens to be beautiful. Also, do you see her riding a horse in the ocean? That's such Disney Princess stuff.
She's Dating a Prince
Okay, maybe it's not 100% accurate to call "The Parables" rapper Cordae a prince, but he's young, talented, and successful. He also seems like a good boyfriend, and the two of them are such a cute couple!
One of the baseline criterion for Disney Princessdom -- if she's not actual royalty -- is heroism. Naomi Osaka demonstrated her heroism in August of 2020 when she put her career on the line, sitting out her scheduled semi-finals match in the Western & Southern Open to show her support the Black Lives matter movement following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
And that heroism paid off, with the tournament suspending all play for the day in acknowledgment of the injustice that is still faced by Black Americans. Osaka also showed her support for BLM by wearing face masks that displayed the names of Black victims of police and vigilante violence: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice.
But Is She Too Tall?
According to one Disney Parks insider, "Cast Members" who play Disney Princesses in Disneyland and Disney World are selected according to a strict set of criteria, including their height. They're supposed to be between 5'4" and 5'7." But that's not exactly the ideal height for sprinting across the tennis court to smash the ball at 100 miles per hour.
At 5'11" you could say that Naomi Osaka is too tall to be a Disney Princess. But another way to put it is that Disney is just too small for Naomi Osaka. Disney doesn't deserve to have their mousey-mitts on every part of our lives, anyway.
So, no, Naomi Osaka isn't a Disney Princess — She's a real-life hero.