Gwen Stefani Says ‘I’m Japanese’ and Defends Harajuku Era
Gwen Stefani is staying true to her Harajuku era, which began with the release of her 2004 debut studio album, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby,” and followed it up with the launch of her fragrance “Harajuku Lovers” in 2008. Stefani was widely accused of appropriating Japan’s Harajuku subculture in her album artwork and marketing. She also traveled with four “Harajuku Girls,” Japanese and Japanese-American backup dancers who served as a kind of public escort for Stefani. The group even inspired the bottle shapes for Stefani’s fragrance.
While Stefani’s Harajuku era began nearly 20 years ago, it’s back in the news thanks 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, which she doubled down on. Stefani said she was introduced to Japanese culture by her father, who worked at Yahama for 18 years and traveled frequently between California and Japan.
“That was my Japanese influence,” Stefani said. “And this was a culture so rich in tradition, yet so futuristic [with] so much attention to artistry and detail and discipline and it was fascinating to me.”
Stefan traveled to the Harajuku neighborhood as an adult. She told Allure: “I was like, ‘Oh 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 during her Harajuku era. “If [people are] will criticize me for being a fan of something beautiful and sharing it, then I just think I don’t feel good,” she said. “I think it was a beautiful creative time… a time of ping-pong between Harajuku culture and American culture. [It] it should be okay to be inspired by other cultures, because if we’re not allowed, then that’s what’s tearing people apart, right?
As reported by Allure: “During our interview, Stefani claimed twice that she was Japanese and once that she was ‘a little Orange County girl, a little Japanese girl, a little English girl.'” (A rep for Stefani reached out the next day, revealing that (I had misunderstood what Stefani was trying to convey. Allure later asked Stefani’s team for an on-the-record comment or clarification on 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 ended up telling Allure that she identifies not only with Japanese culture, but also Hispanic and Latino cultures due to 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 Italian-American—Irish or whatever the hell I am—I became that because they were my people, right?”
Go to the Allure magazine website to read Stefan’s profile in its entirety.