Gwen Stefani has responded to long-running claims of cultural appropriation over her ‘Harajuku Girls’ dancers.
The former No Doubt singer has also been accused of appropriating South Asian, Black, and African cultures, and perpetuating stereotypes of Native American culture at various points throughout her career.
When Stefani was still a member of No Doubt, she wore a bindi in music videos including ‘Just A Girl’, while the group’s 2012 reunion saw them pull a video for the track ‘Looking Hot’ over its depiction of “cowboys and Indians”.
In her solo career, she has also faced backlash for appropriating Black culture in her fashion and videos, as well as African culture during a performance on The Voice. Stefani’s use of Japanese culture in her work is perhaps most famous of all, thanks to her ‘Harajuku Girls’ dancers who joined her during her ‘LAMB’ era. She also released a ‘Harajuku Lovers’ fragrance line and ‘Harajuku Mini’ fashion range.
Speaking to Paper, the star said she had a “deep fascination” with Japan and was “inspired” by the culture.
“If you read the actual lyrics [in ‘What You Waiting For?’], it talks about being a fan of Japan and how if I do good, I get to go back there,” Stefani said. “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. 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.”
When comedian Margaret Cho’s criticism of Stefani’s dancers, comparing them to a minstrel show, was put to the singer, she responded: “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… 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.”
Last month, Stefani teamed up with Saweetie for an updated version of her latest single ‘Slow Clap’. It arrived a month after the original, which was co-written with songwriter/producer Ross Golan and songwriter Luke Niccoli.