Gwen Stefani says ‘I’m Japanese’ while defending controversial Harajuku era

Gwen Stefani’s had many style iterations throughout her decades-long career,but the Harajuku era spurred backlash as critics accused her of culturalappropriation. During an interview with Allure , The Voice coach calledherself a “super fan” of Japanese culture and said her relationship with thecountry in East Asia is innocent.

Stefani’s father, who is Italian American, worked in marketing for Yamahamotorcycles. He traveled back and forth between California and Japan for 18years.

“That was my Japanese influence and that was a culture that was so rich withtradition, yet so futuristic [with] so much attention to art and detail anddiscipline and it was fascinating to me,” Stefani shared, while promoting hernew vegan line, GXVE Beauty. As an adult, she traveled to Harajuku and was inawe of Japanese culture. “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t knowit.'”

Allure ‘s senior editor Jesa Marie Calaor, who’s first-generation FilipinaAmerican, conducted the interview and noted Stefani’s “words seemed to hang inthe air between us.”

“I am, you know,” Stefani added.

In 2004, Stefani released her album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. which featuredthe song “Harajuku Girls.” The entertainer hired Japanese and JapaneseAmerican backup dancers named Love, Angel, Music and Baby as part of thealbum’s promotion. The Harajuku Lovers Tour kicked off the following year, theNo Doubt singer’s first solo concert tour. The Harajuku Lovers fragrance linelaunched in 2008 and has been part of her brand for years. Looking back at theera through a 2023 lens, it doesn’t sound like Stefani finds it problematic asshe was asked what she may have learned from Harajuku Lovers.

“If [people are] going to criticize me for being a fan of something beautifuland sharing that, then I just think that doesn’t feel right,” Stefaniexplained. “I think it was a beautiful time of creativity… a time of the ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture.”

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The singer added: “[It] should be OK to be inspired by other cultures becauseif we’re not allowed then that’s dividing people, right?”

Calaor claims Stefani asserted twice she was Japanese and once that she was “alittle bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a littlebit of an English girl.” Allure ‘s social media associate, who is Asian andLatina, was present for the 30-minute interview as well.

A representative for Stefani purportedly reached out to the magazine the nextday indicating they misunderstood what the singer was trying to convey;however, the spokesperson declined to provide an on-the-record statement, per_Allure_. Yahoo Entertainment reached out to Stefani’s representative as well,but did not immediately receive a response.

Stefani has previously spoken about where she’s drawn inspiration from for herbeauty lines, like her upbringing in Southern California.

“I’d see these girls in Anaheim with this makeup on. It was literally likethey airbrushed their face,” she said in October on Dax Shepard’s podcast_Armchair Expert_. “They would sit in class and they would have a mirror andthey would just be picking their eyelashes apart because they never took theirmascara off and I was just fascinated by their beauty, you know? I wanted tobe like that, so I became my version of it. I plucked my eyebrows out, and itwas a combination of those girls and a combination of watching old movies.”