The early 2000s were a vastly different time, so Gwen Stefani parading around with a bunch of Japanese backup dancers (pictured above) didn’t draw much criticism.
In the wake of today’s ‘woke’ culture, Gwen is having to speak on being accused of ‘cultural appropriation.’
The 50-year-old entertainer addressed this topic in a recent interview with Billboard, in which she reflected on her 2004 debut solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. The 15-year-old project also marked the beginning of Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls” era, in which she was regularly accompanied by four Japanese backup dancers at concerts and promotional events. The singer-songwriter was clearly a fan of the forward Harajuku district in Tokyo, as she would incorporate its various sub-styles in videos and her own clothing line.
Many people have accused Stefani of appropriating the Harajuku subculture and simply using it as a marketing tool; however, she told Billboard that her Harajuku era was rooted in her admiration and appreciation for the culture.
“When it first came out, I think people understood that it was an artistic and literal bow down to a culture that I was a superfan of,” she said. “This album was like a dream. I went in thinking I’m going to make something that could never be possible—me doing a dance record—come true … When the Harajuku Girls came out, it was like, you’re not even real, you’re a dream. It wasn’t like, ‘You’re not real because you’re Asian.’ Are you kidding me? That would be horrifying!”
Stefani went on to say she became a fan of Harajuku style when she visited Tokyo for the first time when she was 21. She said she immediately felt a connection with the residents.
“My dad went there a lot because he worked with Yamaha motorcycles, so I had a fascination from a young age. When I got there and saw how fashion-obsessed they were, I thought they were my people, because my style was so unique,” she explained. “I get a little defensive when people [call it culture appropriation], because if we didn’t allow each other to share our cultures, what would we be? You take pride in your culture and have traditions, and then you share them for new things to be created.”
At least she didn’t get four white girls and have them emulate Harajuku culture. You can read Gwen Stefani’s full Billboard interview here.