Music and fashion icon Gwen Stefani is facing serious backlash after controversial comments she made during an interview. In an interview to promote her new vegan beauty brand GXVE, Stefani straight out said “I’m Japanese.”
Stefanfi’s 2008 fragrance collection Harajuku Lovers line was released right after her solo album, “Love.Angel.Music.Baby..” The fragrance line and album borrowed heavily from Japan’s colorful Harajuku culture. There was even a time when Stefani was followed by an entourage of four Japanese backup dancers nicknamed after her album. Maya Chino (“Love”), Jennifer Kita (“Angel”), Rino Nakasone (“Music”), and Mayuko Kitayama (“Baby”) were effectively human props to promote the album.
While there were cries of cultural appropriation at the time, the criticisms of this period in her career have only grown stronger.
“That was my Japanese influence 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 said. She went on to explain how her Italian American father would often travel to Japan and would return with tales of stylish women with colorful hair.
It was on a trip to Japan to see the Harajuku culture for herself that Stefani had an epiphony. “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it,'” she said, in a rather shocking claim. “I am, you know.”
Later in the interview, she described herself as simply being a fan of the culture. “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 tried to clarify. “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?”
Allure interviewer Jesa Marie Calaor is an Asain-American woman. For the session, Calaor was accompanied by a social media associate, who is Asian and Latina. Both were perplexed by Stefani’s remarks, and hoped for more clarification. Comments like “a little bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl,” seem pretty clear cut, though.
In the same interview, Stefani told Calaor she also heavily identifies with the Hispanic and Latinx communities of 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?”
A representative for Stefani reached out to the magazine the next day, insisting their client’s comments had been misunderstood. But in an even more bizarre move, they offered no clarification as to what Stefani was actually trying to say. No further comments have been offered, despite repeatedly being contacted by Allure and other news outlets.
“I don’t believe Stefani was trying to be malicious or hurtful in making these statements,” Calaor clarifies in her piece. “But words don’t have to be hostile in their intent in order to potentially cause harm, and my colleague and I walked away from that half hour unsettled. I wanted to better understand why.”