Gwen Stefani has responded to cultural appropriation claims pitted against her in a new interview. The star has been criticized in the past for using elements of Japanese culture in her music.
The criticism stems from the promo campaign surrounding her 2004 album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Everything about the album—from visuals to merchandise—was heavily inspired by Harajuku culture.
In a new interview with Allure, Stefani was asked what she had learned from the Harajuku Lovers line. In response, she explained that her dad’s job at Yamaha, which saw him travel frequently to Japan, exposed her to the culture from a young age.
“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,” she said.
After going back to the country as an adult, she explained, “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.’ I am, you know.”
The outlet reported that Stefani called herself Japanese twice during the interview and described herself as “a little bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl.”
Elsewhere, she backed up her affinity for the culture by saying, “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. I think it was a beautiful time of creativity… a time of the ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture.”
She continued, “[It] should be okay to be inspired by other cultures because if we’re not allowed then that’s dividing people, right?”
She also commented on the issue in 2021 saying, “If we didn’t buy and sell and trade our cultures in, we wouldn’t have so much beauty, you know? We learn from each other, we share from each other, and we grow from each other. And all these rules are just dividing us more and more… I think that we grew up in a time where we didn’t have so many rules. We didn’t have to follow a narrative that was being edited for us through social media, we just had so much more freedom.”
(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)