Gwen Stefani raised eyebrows in a new interview while reflecting on her love for Harajuku culture. The topic came up when the pop star looked back on her original beauty brand Harajuku Lovers, which she unveiled four years after the release of her debut solo album Love.Angel.Music.Baby, in 2004.
Speaking to Allure, she explained that her genuine interest in all things Japanese came from her dad, who spent much of his professional career traveling between Anaheim, Calif., and Tokyo while working for Yamaha.
“That was my Japanese influence and that was a culture that was so rich with tradition, yet so futuristic [with] so much attention to art and detail and discipline and it was fascinating to me,” she told the magazine, adding that she then traveled to the country on her own as an adult. “I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.’ … I am, you know.”
Whether that statement is hyperbolic, Stefani insisted there was nothing but “innocence” in her devotion to Harajuku culture and went on to describe herself as a “super fan.” Her Love.Angel.Music.Baby era was filled with Tokyo street fashion, and she even enlisted four Japanese backup dancers as Harajuku Girls that trailed her on red carpets, at photo shoots, in her music videos and on tour. The top five Billboard 200 album even contained a cut called “Harajuku Girls,” on which she sang, “Harajuku girls, you got the wicked style/ I like the way that you are/ I am your biggest fan.”
However, in the decades since, Stefani, who is Italian-American, has been blamed by some fans for appropriating the culture rather than innocently finding inspiration in it for her music and fashion.
“If [people are] going to criticize me for being a fan of something beautiful and sharing that, then I just think that doesn’t feel right,” she added in the interview. “I think it was a beautiful time of creativity… a time of the ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture… [It] should be OK to be inspired by other cultures because if we’re not allowed then that’s dividing people, right?”
Allure reports that, prior to publication, Stefani turned down the opportunity to add any “on-the-record comment or clarification” to her interview. Read Stefani’s full sit-down with Allure here.