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Serena Williams slams gender imbalance in sports as she retires from tennis to focus on her family

A 27-year-long career, 23 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals, $450 million in earnings: winning her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17, Serena Williams, alongside her older sister Venus, has been widely credited with changing the face of tennis and women’s sports.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour back in March 2022, the sisters admitted that they were aware of entering an “all-white sport” when they became professional tennis players, but they relished the challenge of redefining the same. “We changed it from being two great black champions to being the best ever, period,” the younger Williams said.

“And that’s what we did. We took out colour and we just became the best… It is what it is, we changed the sport, we changed the fashion, we changed how people think, we changed how people think in business.”

Fast forward to Tuesday 9 August, Williams has now announced her plans to move on from tennis after the 2022 US Open.

“I have never liked the word ‘retirement’,” Williams wrote in a column for Vogue. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is ‘evolution’. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.” The athlete then went on to detail the struggle of maintaining a work-life balance as a woman, which ultimately prompted her to make the decision.

“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” she penned. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labour of expanding our family.”

“Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity,” she added.

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In an op-ed for CNN back in 2018, the tennis star admitted how she “almost died after giving birth” to her daughter Olympia with her partner Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. She also highlighted how black women in the US are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.

“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete,” she wrote for Vogue. “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.” The star also admitted how she had never thought about having kids earlier in her career, but when it comes to Olympia, “nothing is a sacrifice.”

“It all just makes sense,” Williams continued. “I want to teach her how to tie her shoes, how to read, where babies come from, and about God. Just like my mom taught me.” Tennis, by comparison however, has always “felt like a sacrifice” for the athlete, although it was one she enjoyed.

“I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic. I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry,” she admitted. “I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way.”

Williams also mentioned how she would love to stick around and try to beat retired Australian player Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles. “The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams,” she wrote. “But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”

KINLÒ is professional tennis player Naomi Osaka’s new skincare brand for melanated skin

If you’ve never heard of Naomi Osaka before, then you’re probably not into sports or tennis more specifically. As the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles—whatever that means, am I right?—Osaka has made a name for herself as the reigning champion at the US Open and the Australian Open as well as a four-time Grand Slam singles champion. In other words, she’s a badass.

But Osaka is now making headlines for another amazing announcement: the Japanese tennis player who was born to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother is about to launch her very own skincare brand KINLÒ, which will solely consist of products specifically created for those with darker skin tones.

“What drew me toward this project is having memories of being a kid and not knowing how to protect my skin,” Osaka said in an interview with Business of Fashion. “I only started wearing sunscreen recently.”

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While an exact launch date hasn’t yet been announced, it has been revealed that the brand is set to arrive this autumn and debut with multiple products, which will all retail for less than $20 each. The complete collection will be available for purchase online, and Osaka has already given fans a preview of what’s to come. Along with an SPF 40 tinted face lotion, there will be a body spray, lip balm, eye cream, and an SPF 50 tinted face lotion made specifically to withstand physical activity—duh.

As Osaka explained in her interview with BoF, to her, KINLÒ is more than an opportunity to offer customers with darker skin tones skincare products that don’t leave behind a white residue on their skin. “This is a public health need. I used to tell people that I didn’t need to wear sunscreen—but even if you have melanin, you need to take care of your skin, and I am passionate about that,” she said.

Osaka is not the first person to fall victim to poor knowledge surrounding the importance of wearing sunscreen. In fact, the question of whether people with darker skin tones are less likely to get sunburnt or skin cancer is one that is still heavily argued to this day. A simple search on Google will serve you a variety of articles on the matter such as one published in 2019 by The New York Times titled Should Black People Wear Sunscreen?—which, by the way, was written by Kendra Pierre-Louis, a dark-skinned black woman.

In truth, as Pierre-Louis explained herself, anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race. And that’s more reasons to celebrate Osaka’s upcoming skincare brand, which could hopefully spread awareness on what remains a widespread issue. In preparation for KINLÒ’s launch, the tennis player has been working closely on the collection with dermatologist Doctor Naana Boakye to create products that are beneficial and moisturising rather than harsh on the skin.

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Sharing news of the brand with her Instagram followers, Osaka wrote “I never thought I would ever start my own company … I hope these products can help a lot of people and potentially save lives because I really feel that we aren’t protecting ourselves as much as we could.”

Make sure to keep an eye out this upcoming autumn for Osaka’s KINLÒ, and in the meantime, tell your loved ones to apply sunscreen every day.