Musician Gwen Stefani has come under fire for remarks she made in an interview with Allure magazine to promote her beauty line GXVE that alluded to her passion for Japan.
In the story that was released on Tuesday, 53-year-old Stefani spoke extensively about her inspirations from Japan. At one point, while reflecting on a trip to Japan, she told writer Jesa Marie Calaor, “My goodness, I’m Japanese and didn’t realize it.”
Stefani made the remark in response to a question regarding her earlier attempts at cosmetics, particularly her “Harajuku Lovers” scent collection from 2008. Her solo album “Love.Angel.Music.Baby” was followed by the perfume “Harajuku Lovers,” whose marketing and artwork significantly referenced the vibrant Japanese underground scene.
Early in the new millennium, Maya Chino (nicknamed “Love”), Jennifer Kita (“Angel“), Rino Nakasone (“Music“), and Mayuko Kitayama would frequently accompany Stefani on red carpet appearances (“Baby“).
Stefani with her Japanese backup dancers during the 2004 American Music Awards.
Stefani with her Japanese backup dancers during the 2004 American Music Awards. Image courtesy of Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty
In recent years, Stefani has come under fire for allegedly appropriating Japanese culture in the 2000s. Stefani was questioned if she had learned anything from this time in her career by Calaor, a Filipina American. In response, Stefani explained that her father frequently traveled to Japan on business and that she found the stories he brought back to be “fascinating.” She then told Calaor that when she first went to Tokyo’s Harajuku district, she mistakenly believed she was Japanese. Later on, she also described herself as a “superfan” of the scene.
Why Japanese-meets-Scandi design is popular on the internet: “Japandi”
She defended her Harajuku period to Calaor by saying, “If (people) are going to condemn me for being a fan of something beautiful and sharing it, then I just believe that doesn’t feel right.” Stefani said, “I think it was a great time of creativity…a time of the ping-pong match between American culture and Harajuku culture. We wouldn’t have as much beauty, you know, if we didn’t exchange and trade our cultures.
When CNN contacted Stefani’s representatives for comment over the piece and the accompanying social media backlash, they did not immediately answer.
In light of the “sobering” trend of rising racism against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups in the United States, Calaor expressed her unease with Stefani’s remarks. I envy anyone who can say they are a member of this thriving, creative community while avoiding the potentially upsetting or frightening parts of the story, she wrote.
Stefani’s interview has gotten mixed reviews online, with everything from amusement to rage. American author Roxane Gay tweeted ironically, “Gwen Stefani’s PR must be busy today,” while The Cut reporter Olivia Truffaut-Wong charged Stefani with using “Asian women as props to help her get rich.”
investigating the ‘genderless’ society in Japan
In an email sent the day following the interview, Stefani’s team claimed Calaor had “misunderstood” what Stefani was attempting to communicate, but they did not respond to a request for a second interview or provide an official explanation of the remarks, according to Allure.