Gwen Stefani Says She’s Japanese Because Her Dad Worked There
Gwen Stefani is raising eyebrows for telling an Asian reporter that she considers herself “Japanese” after being introduced to the culture.
By Unseen Japan
Pop singer Gwen Stefani is raising eyebrows with multiple comments that she considers herself “Japanese” based on her father’s time working in the country.
Stefani made the comments to Allure, which delved into . In particular, Stefani defended her “Harajuku Girls” era, which some say appropriated Harajuku street fashion culture for profit.
The former No Doubt singer recounts how her dad, who worked for Yamaha, would travel frequently between Yamaha’s headquarters in Japan and the family home in California:
Then, as an adult, she was able to travel to Harajuku to see them herself. “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.’”
The pop star insists multiple times during the interview that she considered herself “Japanese”. The interviewer, Jesa Marie Calaor, senior editor at Allure, writes frankly about how gobsmacked she and other Allure staffers were:
I spent 32 minutes in conversation with Stefani, many of them devoted to her lengthy answer to my question about Harajuku Lovers. In that time, she said more than once that she is Japanese. Allure’s social media associate (who is Asian and Latina) was also present for the interview and we were left questioning what we had heard. Maybe she misspoke? Again and again?
Calaor is Asian and recounts the numerous incidents of racism she and her family have faced due to their heritage.
“I don’t believe Stefani was trying to be malicious or hurtful in making these statements,” Calaor writes. “But words don’t have to be hostile in their intent in order to potentially cause harm.”
Stefani went on to say she also identifies with the Hispanic and Latinx communities of her hometown of Anaheim. The article is unclear on whether she also considers herself Hispanic.
Stefani drew criticism with her Harajuku Girls backup singers for appropriating what was originally a cultural rebellion in Japan and replacing it with stereotypes of giggly schoolgirls. The dancers were also reportedly forced contractually to speak Japanese in press interviews even though rumor has it they’re all American-born and fluent in English.
The artist also came under fire previously for dressing up as a Frida Kahlo-like figure for her music video “Luxurious”.
The incident recalls the controversy that Kim Kardashian drew a few years back when she attempted to call her new leggings line “Kimono”. The backlash was so widespread that even many in Japan called on her to change the product name. Kardashian eventually relented and changed the name to SKIMS.
What to read next
Japan’s Whiteness Problem, Part 3: The Diaspora and Whiteness
Gwen Stefani: “I Said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese’”. Allure
Sadly, Gwen Stefani Has Been Problematic This Whole Time. Vice