Gwen Stefani Claims She’s ‘Japanese’ Despite Cultural Appropriation Criticism

It seems the No Doubt singer *still* doesn't think she's part of the problem.

Gwen Stefani is getting heat for comments about her cultural identity, that she herself made in a recent interview with Allure magazine. The “Hollaback” singer has been accused of cultural appropriation throughout her career, and in her own words, she won’t apologize for it. 

“’I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it,'” she declared to a reporter at a promotion event for her new vegan skincare line, GXVE Beauty.

Don’t rush to send Stefani a 23andMe test to figure out her ethnic identity, though. She explains that she became enamored with Japanese culture from stories of her father’s work travels to Japan, as well as her own experiences there when she was a teenager — which apparently was enough to consider herself part of the centuries-old history.

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In response to the reaction of Jesa Marie Calaor, senior editor at Allure and a self-identifying “Asian woman living in America,” Stefani continued to defend her statement, repeating that she is Japanese “you know,” and that her work contributed to “a ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture.” 

Being young, curious, and uneducated about white privilege is one thing — but Stefani has been accused of capitalizing on nearly two decades of culturally appropriating Asian cultures, most notably during her “Harajuku era,” during the release of her 2004 album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

Despite the consistent pointing out of these facts by news media over the years, Stefani still tries to contextualize her identity and use of Asian appropriation in her career choices.

“[It] should be okay to be inspired by other cultures because if we’re not allowed then that’s dividing people, right?” she responded in her defense.

Calaor explained how Stefani’s words and actions feel markedly different coming from a white, upper-class female, alongside the constant and often violent racism that Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) face every day.

“I envy anyone who can claim to be part of this vibrant, creative community,” Calaor writes, “but avoid the part of the narrative that can be painful or scary.”

Calaor also wrote that Stefani didn’t back down from her association as Japanese during the interview, or apologize for her misappropriated ethnic history. She even went as far as to describe herself as “a little bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl.”

Even more confusingly, Stefani admitted to also identifying with the Hispanic and Latinx communities she grew up around, even though she is a self-professed “Italian American — Irish or whatever mutt that I am” based on her actual DNA.

Japanese street fashion really came into its own in the 1990s, when youth would gather in the Harajuku district of Tokyo to show off their eclectic taste. Japanese streetwear brands and fashion models were widely popularized on their own, but oftentimes Stefani is associated with this popularity because of her music and product lines, including the Harajuku Mini children’s clothing, and the Harajuku Lovers perfume.

The Allure profile does acknowledge that, while Stefani has been able to make money from the Harajuku name, she has given back to the culture she continues to align herself with, including a $1 million donation to Save the Children’s Japan Earthquake-Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund in 2011. 

Calaor’s profile digs much deeper into the repercussions faced with interviewing celebrities with low self-awareness, helping readers make their own decisions as to whether Stefani is taking cultural identity to the limit or she’s just a “super fan.”

Whatever the case, we’re pretty sure The Voice judge is about to be judged for her direct statements — ones she hopefully won’t be able to sing her way out of this time.


Katka Lapelosova
Kat is a born and raised New Yorker exploring the world as she writes, eats, and everything in between. Read more