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Gwen Stefani Talks Cultural Appropriation Claims Over Her Controversial Harajuku Girls Era

Gwen Stefani Talks Cultural Appropriation Claims Over Her Controversial Harajuku Girls Era

It’s no secret that Gwen Stefani has been accused of cultural appropriation for the Harajuku Girls era of her solo career — but it turns out the 51-year-old singer still has no regrets despite the controversy.

In a recent chat with Paper Magazine, the Grammy winner slammed the long-standing backlash for using Japanese street fashion and backup dancers on stage and in media appearances, 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, we grow from each other. And all these rules are just dividing us more and more.”

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Even more so, the Just A Girl performer thinks social media has affected artists’ freedom to express themselves and share others’ cultures, explaining:

“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.”

C’mon, Gwen, there is a BIG difference between restricting creative freedom and rightfully calling out harmful and offensive stereotypes. People aren’t saying we can’t appreciate other cultures; they’re simply saying it’s not cool for people to profit off it while centering themselves, perpetuating stereotypes, etc. — all reasonable and valid points that society has evolved to understand more. Just saying!

As you may know, the No Doubt front woman first appeared with a group of dancers, composed of Maya Chino, Jennifer Kita, Rino Nakasone, and Mayuko Kitayama, early in her solo venture in 2004. She also began to wear fashion inspired by styles popularized in Tokyo’s Harajuku district and even created a clothing brand called Harajuku Lovers around this time. Over the years, Stefani has been criticized by many for profiting off Japanese culture. Comedian Margaret Cho has even compared her performances with the Harajuku Girls to a “minstrel show,” writing:

“Even though to me, a Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface, I am just in acceptance over it because something is better than nothing.”

Despite the call outs, the Voice alum maintained that she only wanted to honor the culture that inspired her youth and tour in the ‘90s:

“I never got to have dancers with No Doubt. I never got to change costumes. I never got to do all of those fun girl things that I always love to do. So I had this idea that I would have a posse of girls — because I never got to hang with girls — and they would be Japanese, Harajuku girls because those are the girls that I love.”

She then added:

“Those are my homies. That’s where I would be if I had my dream come true, I could go live there, and I could go hang out in Harajuku.”

You would think since it is still AAPI month, the performer would take a second to acknowledge the problematic behavior within her appreciation — or at the very least, recognize many peoples’ issues with it, but we guess she’s rejecting the opportunity to learn and grow here. We really don’t know why it has to be such a defensive game. Nobody thinks Gwen is intentionally trying to harm anyone, but if people point out how something is negatively affecting them, wouldn’t you want to listen more?

Thoughts on Stefani’s response to the Harajuku Girl controversy?? Let us know in the comments (below).

[Image via Nikki Nelson\WENN & Adriana M. Barraza/WENN]

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May 28, 2021 12:48pm PDT