Naomi Osaka’s Complicated Withdrawal from the French Open

After Naomi Osaka hit a backhand winner on match point to defeat Patricia Maria Țig in the first round of the French Open, on Sunday, she smiled as she lowered her head, and then tugged her gray visor down. These were familiar gestures; I’ve seen her half-hide her smile countless times. The following day, after she announced that she would be withdrawing from the French Open for the sake of “the tournament, the other players and my wellbeing,” five tumultuous days after announcing that she would not be speaking to the press during the tournament, my mind went to that moment, the last time that I had watched her. Then I thought of the first time I’d watched Osaka pull her visor over her eyes.

It happened in 2018, during the U.S. Open trophy presentation, after a match marred by controversy surrounding a confrontation between Serena Williams and the umpire. The crowd, which had been on Williams’s side, booed as Osaka was named the champion. Osaka cried, and tried to hide her face. She was twenty years old then, already launched into a life that everyone could see and that no one could possibly imagine. Over the next three years, Osaka won three more Grand Slams, and the publicity surrounding her career and her life grew even more intense. Her image was on the cover of Vogue and on billboards towering over Los Angeles and Tokyo. She became an icon, and she did iconic things. She helped design sneakers for Nike, a salad for Sweetgreen. In May, Sportico estimated that she had earned more than fifty million dollars during the previous year, which made her the highest-paid female athlete in history, breaking her own record. A recent Times feature about her ran under the headline “How Naomi Osaka Became Everyone’s Favorite Spokesmodel.”

She was famous only partly because she was so good at tennis. It mattered also that she was young, that she was Japanese and American, Black and Asian. It mattered that she spoke about her values and seemed to live by them. It also mattered that she was very good with the press—eloquent about social issues, smart about the game, disarmingly funny about the rest. Most of these exchanges have come in press conferences. (She occasionally gives other interviews, some of them to a Japanese broadcasting company called Wowow, which sponsors her.) Press conferences, as a rule, are tedious and outdated. Nobody really likes them—not reporters, who would prefer to speak to athletes privately and at length, and not players, who are asked the same questions repeatedly, sometimes by people whose main motivation is to encourage controversy. Press conferences can seem particularly pointless to players who don’t need the press to promote themselves or reach their fans, which they can do more efficiently, and perhaps more effectively, through social media. The press, particularly at the Grand Slams, can include people who are not well versed in tennis; tabloid reporters; and, not infrequently, people who ask ham-handed and offensive questions, particularly of Black women. Just the other day, a reporter who wanted to get a quote from the seventeen-year-old star Coco Gauff about the possibility of playing Serena Williams began by saying, “You are often compared to the Williams sisters. Maybe it’s because you’re Black. But I guess it’s because you’re talented and maybe American, too.”

Press conferences also typically offer reporters their only chance to ask players questions on any subject, including difficult ones. Without press conferences, it seems quite possible that Alexander Zverev would not have been asked about the allegations of domestic violence against him. Without press conferences, reporters might get to talk to players only under terms established by the brands that sponsor them, or in exchanges that are heavily mediated by layers of managers and agents. And, for all of their obvious problems and weaknesses, press conferences do sometimes yield original insights into both the technical aspects of matches and the people who play them. That often seemed particularly true when Osaka walked into the room—until she declared that she would stay out.

When Osaka first announced that she would not speak to the press during the French Open, she explained that her experience with press conferences had led her to the conclusion that many people have no regard for the mental health of athletes, and that this needed to change. “If the organizations think that they can just keep saying ‘do press or you’re gonna be fined,’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh,” she wrote. She also spoke of wanting to avoid having “doubt” seeded in her mind—“I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” she wrote—leading some to wonder whether she was trying to insulate herself from negativity in order to maintain her focus. A bad loss at the Miami Open had snapped a long winning streak, and Osaka had then been upset in both Madrid and Rome; on Reddit, her older sister, Mari, in a post she later deleted, suggested that Osaka simply didn’t want to be distracted or have her self-confidence damaged. Osaka’s statement was fairly general, and people interpreted it according to their own assumptions about what was really going on. To some, Osaka was speaking her truth about an oppressive system. To others, she was refusing to accept the responsibilities that come with a lucrative career. Her fellow-players, almost to a person, took a more nuanced view: when asked about her stance, they said that they respected Osaka but understood the need for exposure, and that talking to the press was part of their job.

KID CUDI & NIGO® THE ORIGINATORS

After over a decade, NIGO® and Kid Cudi have inspired many of the biggest names in music, fashion, and pop culture. But how did they do it, and what’s next? The two cultural icons get together for the first time since they met 11 years ago and open up about their beginnings, new projects, and legacy.

Kid Cudi was 20 years old when he decided to leave his hometown of Cleveland and move to New York City. He had tried college for a year, but wasn’t feeling it, and even considered joining the Navy, though that didn’t work out, either. Ultimately, he wanted to pursue music, and craved an environment where he could “grow and meet interesting people.” New York, he thought, could be that place.

So one day he bought a one-way ticket to New York, packed up his things—clothes, sneakers, the demo he made in college, and $500 in cash—and left. It wasn’t easy. He still remembers the day his mom dropped him off at the airport. “She was crying,” Cudi recalled during his TEDx talk in 2015. “She was giving me a hug at the airport and leans in and goes, ‘I can always turn back around and we can go back home. You can change your mind. Everything will be fine.’” But Cudi stuck to his guns. “I was on a mission,” he added. “It was bigger than just wanting to be a musician or do movies. It was about finally showing the world what Scott could do.”

Except things didn’t immediately pop off for him. His first few jobs in New York were in retail—at American Apparel, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Dean & DeLuca. He held most of the jobs just to cover his bills and studio time. But there was one that Cudi, to this day, calls a “dream job.”

Shortly after relocating to New York, Cudi learned about A Bathing Ape, the wildly popular and exclusive Japanese brand founded by NIGO® in 1993, and fell in love with its loud graphics and bright colors. At the time, Bape’s two-story, million-dollar flagship in SoHo—the label’s first store outside of Japan, a strategic move by the designer to expand his empire internationally—had just opened in 2004. Cudi desperately wanted to work there, so he applied. And then applied again. And again. Until he finally got hired in 2008.

At the time, Cudi was so broke he didn’t have a bank account (he used his mom’s instead). And for the first few weeks on the job, he wore the same outfit every day or borrowed clothes from co-workers. It didn’t matter, though; he was just happy to be there. “I didn’t own anything [Bape] prior to being hired,” he told Hypebeast. “So it was a dream come true to be able to work at the store I dreamed of shopping in one day.”

But Cudi’s stint at Bape wouldn’t last long. The year before, while he still worked at Abercrombie & Fitch, he met Dot da Genius through a co-worker. They clicked instantly and began making music together, including what wound up being Cudi’s first single, “Day ‘N’ Nite.”

How a Hip-Hop Party Went From a Harlem Basement to Packing Barclays

Inside the rise of D’ussé Palooza.

The party continues to grow and there are plans to go global, with events in Ghana, South Africa, London and Paris.

Kameron McCullough and Nile Ivey were having a rough year.

It was December 2012, and the two friends hatched a plan to simultaneously wash away their troubles and usher in a more buoyant 2013. They settled on hosting a small game night.

Mr. Ivey, a D.J. and music blogger, had been laid off from his job at BET Networks. Mr. McCullough had been fired from his job at Condé Nast just a few months after being evicted from his apartment.

They planned to keep the invite list short, ensure that it included plenty of women and inform attendees that gaining entry required two things: a bottle of Hennessy cognac and a bucket of fried chicken.

“It’s going to be a Henny Palooza,” Mr. McCullough recalls one friend joking.

Seven years later, the event — now known as D’ussé Palooza — has grown from an East Harlem house party attended by barely 50 people to an event that drew 9,000 to Barclays Center in Brooklyn this month, while expanding to more than a dozen United States cities.

The party attracts thousands of fans every year, a group that includes professional athletes like the N.B.A. star Kevin Durant and the New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, music industry luminaries like the New York radio hosts Charlamagne Tha God and Ebro Darden, sports journalists like Bomani Jones of ESPN and Jemele Hill of The Atlantic, and the hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper.

“It’s the best party in America,” Reginald Ossé, a podcaster and onetime Source magazine editor known as Combat Jack, once declared. (Mr. Ossé died in 2017.)

The event’s new name is the product of a multimillion-dollar deal with Jay-Z, the music star and entrepreneur. Mr. McCullough, 34, and his team have entered into a rare partnership with Jay-Z’s music label, Roc Nation. As a result, the cognac brand D’ussé, which the rapper is an investor in, now sponsors the event.

Although Hennessy figured in the party’s origins and some people who attend still call it Henny Palooza, neither Mr. McCullough nor any of his colleagues has ever had any affiliation with, or the consent of, the cognac’s maker, Moët Hennessy USA corporation. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/23/nyregion/dusse-palooza-barclays-center.html

Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard and Cast Open Up About Blindness Coaching for Apple TV+ ‘See’

Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard star in the new Apple TV+ series See, a postapocalyptic drama that takes place in a world where a virus has caused humankind to lose sight. Created by Steven Knight, it is the story of a family in jeopardy after twins are born who can see. In a blind world, the reigning Queen Kane, played by Sylvia Hoeks, is threatened by the twins’ vision and sends her army to capture them. Jason Momoa plays Baba Voss, a fierce warrior and adoptive father of the twins forced to lead his tribe into hiding after news of the twins’ birth spreads.

To ensure the show’s portrayal of blindness was accurate and respectful, cast and crewmembers who are not blind participated in a boot camp. Led by blindness coach Joe Strechay and movement coach Paradox Pollack, Momoa, Woodard and the rest of the cast went through a rigorous program to learn more about life without vision. “I wanted to make sure that the portrayals around blindness in our production were committed to respecting blindness,” explains Strechay. “There have been so many comical portrayals of blindness, and See is not one of them.” In addition to working with the actors, the production team had Apple’s full support to take the measures needed and allocate budgets to ensure every set was fully accessible, even in the heart of rural British Columbia during the dead of winter.

Director Frances Lawrence participated in blindness coaching, spending time wearing sleep shades, developing a basic understanding of echolocation and learning to trust his other four senses to understand what the actors were experiencing. “It was a little bit like learning a language,” he said. “Sight for those of us who can see is such a dominant sense that I think it makes us take for granted the other senses. We don’t feel as in tune with the other senses. I think if you talked to the other actors who went through the training, what ended up happening to them was they felt much more present and much more focused.” Momoa experimented with different techniques to sharpen his focus on his other senses, including limiting his food intake to maintain more awareness of his body. “In order to be a character who is an amazing warrior with no vision, you’ve got to be pretty in touch with your senses, which means those have to be at the highest quality,” said Momoa.

See poses the question of how valuable sight truly is. Alfre Woodard, who plays Paris, a healer and midwife, hopes the show generates deeper questions about how sight orders society. “I hope that people ask, ‘Without how we know sight, what’s the racial dynamic? What’s the sexual dynamic? The gender dynamic?”

THR sat down with Momoa, Woodard, Hoeks, Hera Hilmar, Lawrence, Knight and Strechay to explore how they approached the portrayal of blindness in See, now available on Apple TV+.

Will ‘The Irishman’ Netflix Debut Ding Thanksgiving Box Office?

Martin Scorsese’s high-profile mob pic may have been a boon to movie exhibitors if it had been given a traditional wide theatrical release.

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro star in Netflix’s ‘The Irishman.’ (Courtesy of Netflix)

In late 2013, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street debuted to $34.2 million at the U.S. box office over the five-day Christmas Day holiday on its way to grossing $392 million globally and landing numerous top Oscar nominations.
Six years later, Scorsese’s The Irishman is bypassing a traditional theatrical release and instead will debut on Netflix on Nov. 27, the start of the lucrative Thanksgiving frame. With its pedigree, will the critically acclaimed mob pic keep consumers otherwise occupied and hurt the overall box office?
It’s a complicated question underscored by the fact that — in addition to Netflix’s continued rise — several new high-profile streamers, including Disney+ and Apple TV+, have both launched this month armed with enough original programming aimed at attracting a large subscriber base.
“You have to look at it holistically. I don’t think The Irishman will specifically cause people to stay home and away from movie theaters, but I do think it’s symbolic of a trend toward great content being available on streaming,” says Wall Street analyst Rich Greenfield of LightShed Partners.
Others disagree. “It’s not an all or nothing proposition,” says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore, noting that families and friends spending Thanksgiving together “need to leave the house” at some point.
“Going to the movies remains a vital part of our entertainment diet,” Dergarabedian notes. “And while a major movie release on a streaming platform will certainly draw loads of viewers, this doesn’t spell doom for movie theaters or, for that matter, any other activity outside the home.”
The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the lobbying organization for exhibitors, points to an Ernst & Young study finding that those who stream frequently are also the most frequent moviegoers. Across all demos, the January 2019 survey showed that those who visited a theater once or twice in the preceding 12 months watched an average of seven hours of streaming per week, compared with 11 hours of streaming for those who visited a theater nine or more times.
Netflix is notoriously reticent when it comes to releasing viewership data. Exceptions include El Camino, the streamer’s movie sequel to the TV hit Breaking Bad, which was viewed 25.7 million times in its first week, Oct. 11-18, the company claimed.
And, last year, the Sandra Bullock-starrer Bird Box turned into a water-cooler sensation after debuting on Netflix on Dec. 21. The streamer later reported that 45 million accounts watched the sci-fi thriller over the holidays. Some used that number to suggest that Bird Box could have grossed several hundred million dollars at the global box office.
A Barclays study disputes that assumption, putting the film’s potential box office closer to $98 million. The report stated that the vast majority of the audience “was composed of people who watched it because it was on Netflix and would not have gone to a theater.” Nor did Bird Box seem to ding the 2018 Christmas box office, which turned in strong returns, even without a Star Wars entry.
Netflix also declines to provide box office grosses for those films that get a select run in indie cinemas during awards season, such as The Irishman. Scorsese’s film, similar to the Oscar-nominated Roma last year or this year’s Marriage Story, received an exclusive run in dozens of indie cinemas prior to its debut on the service and by this weekend will be playing in more than 200 locations across the U.S.
The streamer has famously refused to adhere to the theatrical window, focusing instead on making its original programming available to its subscribers as soon as possible. In turn, most cinema chains refuse to carry Netflix titles. Scorsese and Netflix execs tried to reach a compromise with exhibitors, but those talks ultimately broke down.
“The current and growing glut of streaming titles and streaming companies needs to differentiate content for consumers and compete for filmmakers. Theatrical releases with real windows meet both needs,” says Patrick Corcoran, vp NATO.
“Streaming is disrupting the home entertainment market, not theaters,” Corcoran adds. “Transactional home video has declined domestically from $24.7 billion per year in 2004 to $10.3 billion in 2018 — a 58 percent loss of annual revenue.”
Earlier this month, NATO chairman John Fithian said Irishman would have been a boon to theaters had it been given a traditional wide release, judging by the success of Scorsese films such as Wolf of Wall Street.

HARRIET – Official Trailer [HD] – In Theaters November 1st

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Strippers Are Doing It for Themselves

Around 10 most nights, Nikeisah Newton hops into her car for a 10-minute drive into downtown Portland, Ore., so that she can deliver healthy meals that include ingredients like massaged kale to strippers working the evening shift. “One of the best forms of activism is feeding people,” Ms. Newton said. Her company is called Meals 4 Six Inch Heels, and it’s intended to support a community that she feels has been shunned and taken advantage of for too long.

Ms. Newton, whose ex-girlfriend is a former stripper, has joined a wave of dancers and their allies across the nation who are fighting to reform labor practices; put an end to sexual harassment and discrimination in their workplaces; and stifle the stigma around what they believe is as legitimate a profession as any.

Members of this movement are sharing their experiences with the public through podcasts, books and visual arts; using technology to spread information about their industry; and protesting injustices in the streets. They are also finding ways to care for each other, with meal-delivery services, yoga classes, book clubs, clothing lines with slogans of solidarity, financial planning lessons and comedy workshops.

When you use the word “platform” now in the stripping community, it’s as likely to refer to social media as shoes. At V-Live in Los Angeles, guests are encouraged to use their phones to take videos and photos of the dancers. On a recent evening, a photographer circled the dancers, taking images that they could later buy to use on their Instagram accounts.

The water-cooler conversations in the 1980s and ’90s, with the mainstream movies “Flashdance,” “Showgirls” and “Striptease,” may be coming back, as strippers return to the big screen in September with “Hustlers,” about dancers who steal money from their rich customers.

The film features the celebrities Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Constance Wu. Cardi B, a megastar, takes pride in and has spoken positively about her experiences with stripping. Beyoncé’s best-selling album, “Lemonade,” has a song called “6 Inch” about working as a stripper. Magic City and other clubs in Atlanta are well known among hip-hop fans as places where musicians test out new songs.

And across America, the face of stripping, and its audience, is changing. No longer the domain solely of finance bros and the like unwinding after hours, strip clubs these days are also frequented by couples and friends.

“Our audiences in the last 10 years, specific to my home club, have become more diverse, younger, more gender broad,” said Elle Stanger, 32, who has worked as a stripper for a decade and lives in Portland. “It’s not just middle-aged white men anymore.”