Words by Smiley Team
Diversity in the media we consume is important in that it offers perspectives outside one’s own and helps people see themselves represented in the characters and stories they see. To accomplish just that goal, four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka is partnering with four-time NBA champion LeBron James to start a new production company, Hana Kuma.
Hana Kuma, which translates to “flower bear” in Japanese, will produce stories that are “culturally specific but universal to all audiences” and already has multiple projects lined up, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“There has been an explosion of creators of color finally being equipped with resources and a huge platform,” said Osaka, in a press release. “In the streaming age, content has a more global perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe, and Latin America that the unique can also be universal. My story is a testament to that as well. I’m so excited for what we are building at Hana Kuma. We will bring stories to life with this goal in mind: to make unique perspectives feel universal and inspire people along the way.”
The first piece slated to be released by Hana Kuma is MINK!, an upcoming New York Times Op-Doc from director Ben Proudfoot about Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress, and the author and sponsor of Title IX, which prohibited sex-based discrimination in schools that receive government funding.
The production company will be a part of LeBron and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company which will serve as financing, operations, and producing partner for Hana Kuma. The goal of SpringHill is “to center athletes as creators” and “to act as an incubator for athletes who want to create and story tell beyond their sport in creative, impactful and thought-provoking ways,” the company says.
This is another step for Osaka, who has been expanding her brand outside of tennis, including her skincare line KINLÒ, and sports agency EVOLVE.
“I think role models are really important, just to see somebody do something – and it makes you feel like you can do the same thing, too,” Osaka said when asked about Evolve at Roland Garros. “I found it really interesting that there wasn’t a female athlete that’s done this before, but there have been so many men. So I think it’s a journey, and I feel like I’m going to learn a lot on the journey.”
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