Despite all the bops born from him Love.Angel.Music.Baby. time, we have to recognize that Gwen StefaniThe objectification, fetishization, and infantilization of the Japanese people is really, really amazing. But what’s even more surprising is that nearly two decades later, the No Doubt singer still stands by her overwhelming Harajuku obsession — going so far as to declare herself Japanese in a rare new interview with Persuasion.
For readers who may have been too young at the time, “Love,” “Angel,” “Music,” and “Baby” weren’t the only words Stefani combined for the title of her solo debut; those were the nicknames she gave to the “Harajuku Girls,” Stefani’s crew of four Japanese-American dancers who appeared with her on stage, in music videos, and… .
Stefani said Persuasionby Jesa Marie Calaor that she first fell in love with the Harajuku subculture after hearing about it from her (Italian-American) father, who travels between the States and Japan for his job at Yamaha. It wasn’t until the pop star had grown up that he was able to travel to the neighborhood of Tokyo to witness it for himself: “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I don’t know this,'” Stefani recalled of her first visit.
“If [people are] criticize me for being a fan of something beautiful and sharing that, then I just think that’s not right,” Stefani continued. “I think it’s a beautiful time to be creative… [It] It’s OK to be inspired by other cultures because if we’re not allowed, that’s dividing people, right?”
Calador wrote in the article that during this interview, “Stefani stated 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 a you English girl.’ In addition, the singer also acknowledged the Latinx culture of his hometown of Anaheim, California, citing its music and fashion signatures: “Even if I’m Italian American – Irish or whatever mutt that I – that’s what I did because that’s my people, right?”
Appreciating a culture different from your own is one thing, but throughout her career, Stefani has openly commodified Japanese culture with her many fashion lines, perfumes, and even a TV show. Sure, some of that money went to good reasonsbut to be white and call yourself Japanese — especially in the shadows of widespread Asian-American hatred — is, to say the least, bananas.