Here’s Gwen Stefani’s wild reaction to the Harajuku backlash

Gwen Stefani was given yet another opportunity to address her infamous appropriation of Japanese culture — specifically what she’d learned from the backlash — and completely botched it.

In a bizarre Allure interview meant to promote her new GXVE beauty line, the Orange County-bred No Doubt frontwoman instead repeatedly insisted she was Japanese, sparking conversation about cultural appropriation and her long track record of Embezzlement, which emerged most infamously in its early 2000s Harajuku Girls era.

When asked by Beauty magazine what she learned from her award-winning Harajuku Lovers perfume, particularly the controversy it sparked, The Voice graduate recited an oft-repeated story about her Italian-American father, who after and from Japan traveled 18 years while working for Yamaha Motorcycles.

“That was my Japanese influence and that was a culture that was so traditional and yet so futuristic [with] so much attention to art and detail and discipline, and it was fascinating to me,” she said. Later, when she herself traveled to see Harajuku culture, she added, “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.” When the comment seemed to get the reporter to think, Stefani doubled down and said, “I am, you know.”

The 53-year-old twice called herself Japanese in an interview with Jesa Marie Calaor – who shared that she is an Asian woman who grew up in New Jersey – and the singer rationalized her abusive actions as cultural exchange rather than cultural appropriation. Stefani added that her relationship with Japanese culture is “innocence” and described herself as a “super fan”.

“If [people are] If I were to criticize myself for being a fan of something beautiful and sharing that, I just don’t think it feels right,” Stefani said. “I think it was a beautiful time of creativity… a time of ping-pong between Harajuku culture and American culture. …[It] It should be okay to take inspiration from other cultures, because if we’re not allowed to do that, it divides people, doesn’t it?”

Calaor wrote that Stefani also described herself as “a little bit like an Orange County girl, a little bit like a Japanese girl, a little bit like an English girl” and “Italian American – Irish or whatever I am.” The author questioned what had emerged from the interview and contacted Stefani’s representative the day after the interview and the representative stated that Calaor had misunderstood what Stefani was trying to convey but declined to provide an on record comment or clarification of the remarks .

The singer has repeatedly spoken of her deep love and appreciation for Japanese culture, but, according to the magazine, has not publicly outraged or made statements of support during the recent surge in hatred of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Stefani officials did not immediately respond to Times requests for comment on Wednesday.

Critics took to social media to scrutinize the singer’s remarks, while others defended Stefani’s admiration.

“Gwen Stefani used Asian women as props to help her get rich and her response is… ‘I’m Japanese’????” wrote Olivia Truffaut-Wong, The Cut’s writer and editor tweeted.

“It’s unbelievable that Gwen Stefani did an extended race play act almost 20 years ago that basically nobody would accept today, totally got away with it since everyone has forgotten, and then proactively brought it up again right now has,” said Variety television critic Daniel D’Addario added.

“Being a super fan of something doesn’t make you that thing,” another user wrote.

“I don’t think the intention to be harmful is there, but if AAPI individuals have taken offense at their cultural appropriation, then harm has been done. She can take responsibility for the consequences of her actions, even if they don’t match her intention.” added Another.

“Before reading the article, I assumed that Gwen would note that a recent Ancestry DNA test indicated significant inheritance of Japanese ethnicity… but unfortunately that’s not the case,” one Instagram user commented Stefani post by Allure.

In 2005, Stefani ushered in her so-called Harajuku era when she walked the red carpet at that year’s Grammy Awards with a quartet of “Harajuku girls,” named after the fashionable Tokyo neighborhood she headed to during her 2004 solo Debuts “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” Those are the names she gave and later abbreviated to every woman in her entourage when she launched her high-end clothing line, LAMB, in 2003.

The women also appeared in a Japanese-tinged boudoir scene in their music video “Rich Girl,” in which Stefani sometimes wears a white bustier and a geisha hairstyle. (Stefani also launched a successful Harajuku Mini children’s clothing line in Target starting in 2011.)

“A hit is a hit,” said Stefani. “A hit makes me tick. The more people I reach, the better.”

Harajuku Lovers was the line of fragrances that she launched in 2008 and faced a lot of backlash – each of the fragrance line’s five bottles was sculpted in a caricature of Stefani and the Harajuku girls, and was then called by comedian Margaret Cho.

Previously, in the 1990s, the ska artist-turned-pop star often wore a Hindu bindi and styled her hair in South African Bantu knots. In 2005, Stefani was also accused of assimilating Hispanic and Latino culture in her “Luxurious” music video. Then, in 2012, she and No Doubt were accused of appropriating indigenous culture in their music video for “Looking Hot.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2023-01-11/gwen-stefani-japanese-allure-harajuku Here’s Gwen Stefani’s wild reaction to the Harajuku backlash

Sarah Ridley

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