Naomi Osaka First Ever Black Athlete on Sports Illustrated | 22 Words

Naomi Osaka has made history as the first-ever Black female athlete to pose for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover.

Osaka is representing Japan at the 2021 Olympics and was photographed for the magazine's swimsuit issue as part of their 3 covers.

Osaka said in a conversation with Tyra Banks: "I wouldn't have thought that I would have been the first one." Banks was the first Black woman to star on the cover of the magazine alone.

"I'm glad that this barrier is being broken," Osaka admitted. "I hope there are many, many more people to come, and I'm sure there will be."

The twenty-three-year-old released her American citizenship so she could compete for Japan this year.

In an essay for Time, the athlete detailed how she withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon, saying that she needed to prioritize her mental health, and "recharge" for the Olympic games.

"I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo," she said. "An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud."

According to Today, the editor of Sports Illustrated, MJ Day, said in a press release that Osaka's advocacy for mental health is what made them ask her to be on the cover.

"We celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength, and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice, and mental health," Day said.

"For me, I feel like I've always been one to not want to use my voice," Osaka said to Banks. "But then I feel like there's also a lot of things that have happened, and over the past year I just felt like, you know, there has to be someone that speaks up about uncomfortable things."

However, Osaka wasn't the only cover star to make history...

Megan Thee Stallion is the first rapper to be on the front cover, and model and actress Leyna Bloom is the first transgender model to feature on the cover.

"If there's one thing that our cover models have in common, it's that they don't have one thing in common," Day said. "They look different, have different upbringings, have different passions and inspirations. But each is a reminder that beauty comes in many forms."

"Leyna Bloom makes history as the first transgender cover model in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's history, and the first trans person of color to appear on our pages, solidifying the fact that the more diverse and inclusive a community, the stronger it becomes," Day went on to say.

"As for Megan Thee Stallion, she is a magnetic powerhouse taking the world by storm. Together these women represent 3 of the most powerful voices of today," she said.

In an interview with People, Stallion described the shoot as "perfect," "magical," and "one of the best experiences in my life."