Naomi Osaka ‘whitewashed’: Japanese noodle company pulls ad after uproar

The maker of Cup Noodle and Top Ramen pledged to pay more attention to respect for diversity in its public relations campaigns.

U.S. Open women’s singles champion Naomi Osaka smiles during a press conference prior to the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Osaka defeated Serena Williams of the U.S. on Saturday, Sept. 8, to become the first Grand Slam singles champion from Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A Japanese noodle company on Wednesday pulled an online ad campaign featuring Naomi Osaka after complaints that the tennis champ’s image was whitewashed, according to The Washington Post.

The Nissin Foods animé-style ad showed Osaka, 21, who is Japanese and Haitian, with lighter skin and a narrower nose, the Post noted.

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After pulling the campaign, Nissin pledged to pay “more attention to respect for diversity in our PR activities,” a spokesman told the Japan Times.

The campaign was drawn by manga artist, Takeshi KonomiThe Post noted. Nissin said the campaign consulted with Osaka’s Japanese representatives, but failed to do the same with her reps in the United States.

When asked about the controversy, the tennis star said she talked to the company and they apologized. She said she didn’t think the company intended to “whitewash” her.

According to Sports Illustrated, Osaka said, “I’m tan. It’s pretty obvious.”

”But I definitely think that the next time they try to portray me or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it,” she revealed, speaking to reporters in Melbourne while preparing for the final at the Australian Open, PEOPLE wrote.

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Osaka signed with Nissin in 2016, before defeating Serena Williams in one of the biggest sports upsets in 2018. The win over Serena marked the first Grand Slam singles title for a player representing Japan. Seeking consecutive Grand Slam titles,  she defeated Karolina Pliskova Thursday in the semifinals of the Australian Open. On Saturday, she moves on to play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova for the Australian Open title; the winner will become the world’s top-ranked player.

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