Carrie Ann Inaba Praises Naomi Osaka for SI Swimsuit Cover: ‘Creating Her Own Path’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Carrie Ann Inaba, who is on her self-described mental health journey, loved the Naomi Osaka cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Inaba and Osaka, the international tennis star, can be called kindred spirits. Both are vocal about mental self-care. And both women have significant ties to Japan. Osaka, in fact, was born in Japan and will represent the country in the Tokyo Olympics. She moved to the United States when she was three. Inaba, who was born in Honolulu, started her professional career in Japan.

Carrie Ann Inaba shared her thoughts about Osaka in a Tuesday Instagram post. She posted the Osaka cover and captioned it:

“I have so much respect for this beautiful and courageous soul. Naomi Osaka is creating her own path in this world in such a bold yet sensitive way. There is no box for her to fit in. She lives free and follows her heart. And it’s a beautiful life that she has created, telling her truth and living in true authenticity.
Congratulations Naomi.

SI Released Osaka Cover This Week

Sports Illustrated released the Osaka cover this week. It’s the first time a Black female athlete has graced the cover of the extraordinarily popular SI swimsuit edition. Osaka, who sported a one-piece suit with cutouts, posed for the cover, Dec. 10, in Malibu, Calif.

But Carrie Ann Inaba likely was applauding Osaka for what the tennis star did earlier this summer. While competing at the French Open in Paris, Osaka decided not to participate in post-match press conferences. She explained that she suffers from anxiety and depression. And she said her condition is aggravated by media questions, causing her “overwhelming” anxiety.

Osaka withdrew from the French Open, then Wimbledon. At the time of her withdrawal from the French Open, Osaka ranked second in the world rankings. A year ago, she was the highest-paid female athlete in the world, earning more than $55 million.

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Osaka has kept a low profile since then. But in the lead-up to the Olympics, which start Friday, she’s been featured more in the media. She appeared on the covers of Vogue and Time. A documentary about her premiered on Netflix. And Mattel released a Naomi Osaka “Barbie” doll last week. It sold out almost immediately.

There’s a 30-year age gap between Carrie Ann Inaba and Osaka. But like Osaka, Inaba recently took a medical leave of absence as a co-host of The Talk. She said she needed to do so because of chronic pain from old injuries and an auto-immune condition. It all impacted her mental health.

She’s obviously feeling better. Inaba already announced that she’s returning as a judge for season 30 of Dancing with the Stars. She’s worked the judges’ panel since the show’s premiere as a summer reality series in 2005.

Meanwhile, she said she’ll announce something soon on whether she’s returning to The Talk. She left the show in April, a few weeks after Sharon Osbourne and the talk show parted ways. The daily talk show announced that Jerry O’Connell is replacing Osbourne.

Stay tuned.