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Gwen Stefani insists she is ‘Japanese’ in new interview

gwen stefani harajuku
Gwen Stefani and Photo by Chris Polk via Getty Images

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    Before you read:

    Musician Gwen Stefani doubled down on her defense of her “Harajuku Girls” era in a recent interview with Allure, claiming that she realized she was “Japanese” during her first-ever trip to Japan.

    While promoting her new vegan skincare line, GXVE Beauty, Stefani was asked by Jesa Marie Calaor of Allure about her previous fragrance collection, Harajuku Lovers. The fragrances, which debuted in 2008, were distinctive for their doll-shaped bottles, which drew their resemblance from Stefani and her so-called “Harajuku Girls.” 

    These “Harajuku Girls” were Stefani’s entourage and consisted of four Japanese and Japanese American women whom she toured with in the 2000s. 

    The group’s namesake was Harajuku, a district within the Shibuya ward of Tokyo known for distinctive and subversive fashion.

    The women in Stefani’s entourage were Maya Chino, Jennifer Kita, Rino Nakasone and Mayuko Kitayama, also known as Love, Angel, Music and Baby, respectively. They accompanied her to red-carpet events, performances, tours and media appearances. The entourage inspired Stefani’s song “Harajuku Girls,” as well as the aforementioned fragrance collection, Harajuku Lovers. The group was also referenced in better-known Stefani songs, such as “Rich Girl.”

    During the Allure interview, Calaor asked Stefani about the backlash she has received over the years for the Harajuku Lovers perfumes. 

    Stefani responded by discussing her background and her father’s job at Yamaha, a Japanese manufacturing company. She told Calaor that she visited Japan as an adult and had an epiphany: “My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.” 

    Calaor, who is the senior editor at Allure, wrote that the declaration “seemed to hang in the air between us,” before Stefani reiterated, “I am, you know.” 

    Later in the interview, Stefani complained about criticisms she’d received: “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.” 

    On Twitter, there has been a sense of resignation in response to Stefani continuing to double down on her stance. 

    “Gwen Stefani is still on this sh*t, apparently,” tweeted blogger Phil Yu, aka Angry Asian Man. Others praised Calaor, who is Filipino American, for her work unpacking Stefani’s comments. 

    “If you don’t understand why some are taking issue with Gwen Stefani’s grasp of Japanese identity, Calaor very clearly explains in her story,” wrote Rebecca Sun, senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter.

    Stefani has repeatedly justified her usage of Japanese culture. In 2021, she told Paper Magazine that “Harajuku Girls” came from a place of love. She also cited the same story of her upbringing and her father’s job as the reason she fell in love with Japanese culture.

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