Blasian Named MVP of Maui Invitational

Rui Hachimura, the son of a Beninese father and Japanese mother, has exploded on the college basketball scene. Gonzaga University – known for seeking international talent for its athletic teams – first discovered Hachimura during the 2014 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Under-17 Basketball World Cup in Dubai. He also led his high school, Meisei High School, to the All-Japan High School Tournament title. Now he is the best player on the No. 3 NCAA basketball team.

Hachimura grew up in Toyoma, a coastal town about a five-hour drive west of Tokyo. He was often questioned about his Japaneseness. Now he is easily mistaken for African American but experienced confusion due to his inability to speak English. Prior to attending Gonzaga, he had been to the US only once for a family trip to New York when he was 12 years old, and he didn’t speak any English. Now, in his Junior year, he is a fluent English speaker. This is no small feat, as English is extremely difficult for Japanese native speakers to learn.

He was Most Valuable Player of the Maui Jim Invitational All-Tournament. Gonzaga beat Duke 89-87 in the championship game. He averaged 22.7 points and 6 rebounds in 3 games.

He is the 5th Japanese-born player to play Division I Men’s Basketball, and he is the 1st Japanese native to play in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. He is projected to be a 1st Round NBA Draft Pick in 2019. Should that happen, he would be the 2nd Japanese-born player to ever play in the NBA. The 1st was Yuta Tabuse in 2004, but he only played for the Phoenix Suns for 3 months before he was cut from the team. There have been several Japanese-American basketball players, starting in 1947 with Wataru Misaka (who was first introduced on Blasians Defined in 2012 in the post “Asians & Basketball“). After Misaka, there wasn’t another Asian player for 40 years (although there was a Blasian player selected in 1978, Raymond Townsend).

Selected Sources:
* Gonzaga Bulletin, “Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura is Gonzaga’s X factor“, February 21, 2018.
* ESPN, The Education of Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura“, November 16, 2018.
* Sports Illustrated, “Rui Hachimura Is Thriving as Japan and Gonzaga’s Best Hope for Basketball Glory“, November 27, 2018.

Advertisements

Naomi Osaka Wins U.S. Open

In October of 2015, Blasians Defined featured Naomi Osaka as the WTA Rising Stars Invitational Champion. Since then, Naomi was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2016. She had a breakout year, making it to the 3rd round of all of the Grand Slam tournaments that she played in 2016 (Australian Open, French Open & US Open). The WTA Newcomer of the Year award is decided through votes submitted by members of the media and fans, with initial nominees chosen by the WTA based on players’ achievements throughout the year. Naomi was the 1st Japanese player to ever win the award.

CvSrnuBVUAAp71B.jpg-large

And now Naomi has just won the 2018 US Open! She is the 1st Japanese woman to contest a Grand Slam singles final and the 1st Japanese Grand Slam singles champion. (It is believed she is also the 1st Haitian Grand Slam champion.) Now ranked in the top 10, she is the highest ranked Japanese player in history. 

Naomi’s parents, Tamaki Osaka (from Hokkaido, Japan) and Leonard Maxime Francois (born in Haiti, raised in New York), met when her father was visiting Hokkaido while he was attending college in New York. Naomi and her sister, Mari (also a professional tennis player) were both born in Osaka, Japan.  The girls were given their mother’s maiden name for practical reasons when the family lived in Japan.

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 16.25.50.png

Naomi with her parents and sister

Naomi has dual American and Japanese citizenship. Although the girls were largely raised in the United States, their parents decided that their daughters would represent Japan. Osaka’s parents have said that, “We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age. She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture. Quite simply, Naomi and her sister, Mari, have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale. It was never a financially motivated decision nor were we ever swayed either way by any national federation.”

Her Haitian grandparents only spoke to her in Haitian Creole because they did not know English, while her mother spoke to her in Japanese. Her sister, Mari, speaks almost fluent Japanese. While Naomi can understand Japanese, she is not very confident to speak the language. At press conferences, she can take questions in Japanese but usually answers in English.

Some fans feel like her black identity is being erased. However, Naomi has repeatedly reminded reporters that she is Japanese and Haitian.

 

Selected Sources:

* The Wall Street Journal, Naomi Osaka: The Tennis Star Who Was Overlooked by Everyone“, September 12, 2018.
The New York Times Magazine, “Naomi Osaka’s Breakthrough Game”, August 23, 2018.
* YonexUSA, “Naomi Osaka Named 2016 WTA Newcomer of the Year“, October 24, 2016.

Blasian Makes Top 10 of Miss Universe

1422c-kid

Ariana Mamiko Miyamoto (宮本・エリアナ・磨美子) was born in Nagasaki to a Japanese mother and an African American father (Bryant Stanfield). Her father met her mother while stationed in Sasebo with the United States Navy. Her parents married but divorced when Ariana was an infant.

962d2-with2bmom

Ariana as a child with her mom

2b49b-with2bdad

Ariana as a teen with her dad and half-sibling

n 2015, Ariana won Miss Nagasaki and went on to represent her prefecture in the Miss Universe Japan pageant. She was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2015 in March. She is the 1st hāfu to win the pageant. Upon her selection, she faced criticism for not appearing to be Japanese. There were comments that her face was too “gaijin”, literally “outside person”. Ariana is a Japanese citizen, born and raised in Japan and fluent in the Japanese language. She identified as Japanese and even holds a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy. Ariana wants to represent the new face of Japan. “International marriages are happening. There will be [more] biracial children. I want them to be as accepted in Japan as they would be in the U.S. I want society to get used to that idea.”

59352-nagasaki

Miss Nagasaki 2015

a2589-slide_422326_5409768_compressed

Miss Japan 2015

When Ariana was 13, she moved to Arkansas with her father to attend two years of high school in the United States. As a child in Japan, she was often called “kurombo”, the Japanese equivalent to the N-word. She says she felt normal for the first time in Arkansas, although she was still treated as a foreigner. In the US, she came to speak of , while in Japan, she still calls herself hāfu (biracial in Japanese). As Miss Japan, she presents herself as an ethnically mixed Japanese person.

6fd94-kimono

Ariana went on to compete in Miss Universe 2015 in December, where she made it to the Top 10. Having represented Japan globally, reigning as the 1st half black Miss Japan, she serves as a role model for multiracial Japanese people and challenges the idea what it means to be Japanese.
Selected Sources:
* CBS News, Beauty queen brings light to Japan’s racial issues“, April 13, 2015.
* New York Times, “Biracial Beauty Queen Challenges Japan’s Self-Image,” May 29, 2015.

Blasian Wins WTA Rising Stars Invitational

Naomi Osaka is the WTA Rising Stars Invitational Champion. The WTA Rising Stars Invitational is a showcase event in Singapore that brings together 4 WTA Rising Stars age 23 and under through a fan vote to compete alongside the best of the best at the WTA Finals.

Born in Osaka, Japan to a Haitian father (Leonard Francois) and Japanese mother (Tamaki), Naomi was raised in the United States and speaks very little Japanese, but she has always played tennis under the Japanese flag. Her father registered Naomi with the Japanese Tennis Association, rather than the United States Tennis Association, due to her dual passport. Her diverse background and strong tennis skills could make Naomi the next big thing in tennis.

WTA Tennis, “Osaka Wins WTA Rising Stars International“, October 25, 2015.

Titi Branch, Blasian Co-Founder of Miss Jessie’s, Dead at 45

The blasian community is mourning the loss of one of its hair care inspirations.  Titi Cree Branch, one of the co-founders of the natural hair care line, Miss Jessie’s, died on December 4, 2014.  Born June 10, 1969, Titi died in what online media publication NV Magazine is calling an apparent suicide due to asphyxia.  She was 45 years old.  Titi is survived by her parents, sister, and nephew.

Titi

The daughters of an African American father and a Japanese American mother, Titi and Miko Branch launched Miss Jessie’s in 2004 with a mission to meet the needs of women with textured hair.  Miss Jessie’s products are on the shelves of Target, CVS, Duane Reade, and Walgreens.  The salon and the curly hair care products were named for their paternal grandmother, Jessie Branch.

Miko shared a moving video tribute to celebrate and honor the life of Titi.  The video includes family photos of the sisters as Stevie Wonder’s “As” plays in the background.

To learn more about the Branch sisters and Miss Jessie’s, check out Miko Branch’s book, Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch — Naturally.

First Blasian Contestant on AsNTM2

Marie Nakagawa with the flags of Senegal & Japan

Season 2 of Asia’s Next Top Model featured blasian contestant, Marie Nakagawa, of Japan.  Born to a Senegalese father and a Japanese mother, Marie has often been mistaken for a non-Japanese due to her mixed heritage.  Marie was often bullied by her peers during her childhood in Tokyo.  In her Intro video for AsNTM, Marie discusses the difficulties she experienced as a blasian child in Japan.

Filmed in Malaysia, Asia’s Next Top Model (cycle 2) premiered on January 8, 2014 on STAR World Asia and Fox Asia.  Sixteen women from across the Asia-Pacific region participated in the televised contest.  prior to her elimination.  She was in the bottom 3 in Episode 2 and was the first to be given a second chance.  She was the first call out, selected for best photo in Episode 4, Episode 7, and Episode 8.

Episode 4: The Girl That Embraces Change
Episode 7: The Girl Who is in the Spotlight
Episode 8: The Girl Who Makes a Splash

Marie posted the following on her Facebook page on January 22, 2014, discussing her desire to help Japan recognize the diversity of beauty.

“Japan really needs to realize that FASHION should be equal to any races and I’m hoping that Japanese fashion industry will be more open mind to those colored race as well. Trust me, I am giving my all to change Japan for all those young girls looking up to Japanese Fashion Industry Which They only Have Either white or light Skin tone Damn too skinny and cute Eyes Big Girls That says and Represent and Being told as the definition of World’s Standard BEAUTY” Which IS Totally not. Their only to BE Admire.
We Live in Japan, but we ALSO Live in the World.
non of US in the World IS Same. We all Have Different skin color, we all have different eye color hair colors and everything and WE ALL DIFFERENT that’s exactly why we should accept the beauty each other and we NEVER EVER have to set the definition of beauty by skin color or the size of the eyes or big teeth Small teeth skinny or Chubby or whatever the reason Stupid Which we should Never Compared to and by Judges.
DIFFERENT AND WE ALL BEAUTIFUL IN OUR OWN WAYS.”

The Newest Blasian Reality TV Star…

Dina Ruiz Eastwood!

Dina Eastwood began starring in a reality television series on the E! network about her life called Mrs. Eastwood & Company in May of 2012.  The show focuses on the lives of Dina, wife of actor/director Clint Eastwood, and their daughters, Francesca and Morgan.  Mrs. Eastwood manages the six-person a cappella group Overtone, who also live with the Eastwoods in their Carmel-by-the-Sea, California mansion.  The season finale aired on July 23rd.

Television news anchor Dina Ruiz* was assigned an interview with Clint Eastwood in 1993.  Three years later, the couple married in a surprise private ceremony planned by the groom.  Following the birth of the couple’s daughter, Morgan, in 1996, Dina left her anchor spot at KSBW-TV.

While in South Africa with her husband for the filming of Invictus, Dina discovered Overtone.  The group sang the soundtrack for the 2009 film.  Dina was so impressed by their talent and potential that she relocated the entire sextet to California and has been managing them ever since.

In the Spring 2007 issue of Carmel Magazine, Dina spoke about growing up multiracial. –
” I was the darkest kid at my elementary school.  I used to get called ‘nigger’ in grade school.  I had a real problem with my looks until I was about 20.  Now everyone is mixed.  It’s no big deal.  My dad is black and Japanese.  And my mom’s Irish, German and English.”

LEFT: Dina’s dad, Michael
RIGHT: Dina’s mom, Mary Lou

* Although Dina’s family name is Hispanic, she is not Hispanic at all.  Dina’s father was adopted by a Portuguese American / Puerto Rican family named Ruiz.

Selected Sources:
* E! Online, “Mrs. Eastwood & Company“.
* Dina Eastwood, Twitter.
* Carmel Magazine, The Simple Things: Dina Eastwood Prefers Substance Over Style“, Spring 2007.