Gwen Stefani is standing by her Harajuku era, which started with the release of her 2004 debut studio album, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby,” and continued with the 2008 launch of her “Harajuku Lovers” fragrance. Stefani was widely accused of appropriating Japan’s Harajuku subculture in her album’s artwork and marketing. She also traveled with four “Harajuku Girls,” Japanese and Japanese-American backup dancers who served as a kind of public entourage for Stefani. The group even inspired the bottle shapes for Stefani’s fragrance.
While Stefani’s Harajuku era launched nearly 20 years ago, it’s back in the news due to an interview the singer gave to Allure magazine to mark the launch of her new vegan beauty brand, GXVE Beauty. Stefani was asked about what she learned from her Harajuku era, to which she doubled down on defending it. Stefani said she was introduced to Japanese culture by her father, who worked at Yahama for 18 years and frequently traveled between California and Japan.
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“That was my Japanese influence,” Stefani said. “And that was a culture that was so rich with tradition, yet so futuristic [with] so much attention to art and detail and discipline and it was fascinating to me.”
Stefani traveled to the Harajuku district as an adult. She told Allure, “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.’ I am, you know.”
Declaring herself a “super fan” of Japanese culture, Stefani defended herself against the backlash she’s faced over her Harajuku era. “If [people are] going to criticize me for being a fan of something beautiful and sharing that, then I just think that doesn’t feel right,” she said. “I think it was a beautiful time of creativity…a time of the ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture. [It] should be okay to be inspired by other cultures because if we’re not allowed then that’s dividing people, right?”
As reported by Allure: “During our interview, Stefani asserted twice that she was Japanese and once that she was ‘a little bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl.’ (A representative for Stefani reached out the next day, indicating that I had misunderstood what Stefani was trying to convey. Allure later asked Stefani’s team for an on-the-record comment or clarification of these remarks and they declined to provide a statement or participate in a follow-up interview.)
Variety has also reached out to Stefani’s representative for further comment.
Stefani concluded by telling Allure that she identifies not just with Japanese culture but also with Hispanic and Latinx cultures because of her upbringing in Anaheim, California. “The music, the way the girls wore their makeup, the clothes they wore, that was my identity,” she said. “Even though I’m an Italian American — Irish or whatever mutt that I am — that’s who I became because those were my people, right?”
Head over to Allure magazine’s website to read Stefani’s profile in its entirety.
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