Gwen Stefani declares herself Japanese and defends her Harajuku era
“I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.'”
Gwen Stefani has once again addressed longstanding accusations of cultural appropriation pertaining to her Harajuku era, this time declaring that she has been so inspired by the culture of Japan that she considers herself Japanese.
In an interview with Allure about her new beauty line, the singer and The Voice judge looked back on her work inspired by Japan’s Harajuku subculture, including her 2004 album Love. Angel. Music. Baby., its track “Harajuku Girls,” and her 2008 fragrance line Harajuku Lovers. Stefani said it “should be okay to be inspired by other cultures.” She also stated, “I’m Japanese.”
Stefani prefaced the declaration by explaining that her introduction to Japanese culture came courtesy of her Italian American father, who worked for Japanese corporation Yamaha. (Her mother is Irish American.) “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, adding that her father would share stories from the vibrant streets of Harajuku.
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Stefani soon traveled to the district — which is located in Shibuya, Tokyo, and known as a hub of fashion and youth culture — and “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.'” Per Allure, she reiterated, “I am, you know.”
She called herself a “super fan” of the culture and said, “[It] should be okay to be inspired by other cultures because if we’re not allowed then that’s dividing people, right?”
Allure reported that Stefani “asserted twice that she was Japanese and once that she was ‘a little bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl.'” The magazine also said that a day after the interview, a representative for Stefani declined to provide further comment on the record.
Reps for Stefani didn’t immediately respond to EW’s request for comment Tuesday.
Stefani has faced cultural appropriation accusations for much of the past decade, including backlash about her usage of a South Asian bindi, Latinx aesthetics in her “Luxurious” music video, and dreadlocks in Sean Paul’s “Light My Fire” video. She told Allure that she also identified with the Hispanic and Latinx communities as a result of her upbringing in Anaheim, Calif.
“The music, the way the girls wore their makeup, the clothes they wore, that was my identity,” Stefani 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?”
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