(NEW YORK) — When tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open in May 2021 to protect her mental health, the move shook the tennis world and put mental health in the spotlight.
As Osaka, then 23 and the No. 2 player in the world, walked away from the Grand Slam event at the top of her game, she shared her struggles with depression and anxiety with her fans. The move was unprecedented in the sport and deeply relatable for many.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka wrote. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”
Osaka, who has returned to tennis competition, most recently competing in the Australian Open, is now reflecting on that moment and why she chose to speak about her mental health.
“It was important to me to be public because … I think it gives me clarity,” Osaka, 24, said in an interview with Good Morning America. “Just saying out loud that I’ll take a break and I’ll come back when I am truly in love with the sport and I know what I want to do here; it gave me time to reset myself.”
Journaling has become a regular part of her self-care routine, she said.
“Lately, I’ve been writing in my journal, and I think that that keeps my thoughts in order,” she said. “I feel like it gives me clarity on what I want to do and what I want to accomplish.”
Osaka said her ambitions extend beyond the court to being an entrepreneur and the founder of KINLÒ, a beauty brand designed for melanin-rich skin. The company launched in September 2021 with natural skin care products and sunscreen.
“KINLÒ was made for people with melanated skin,” she said. “Because we found that there wasn’t that many sunscreen products available for them.”
Osaka said she hopes through KINLÒ she can bring awareness that skin cancer affects people of all skin tones and help everyone embrace their beauty and health inside and out. Her idea of beauty centers on celebrating our individuality with our skincare needs and rituals.
“I think to me, beauty is a uniqueness,” she said. “Just embracing your uniqueness and your individuality is what makes you beautiful to me.”
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