'Culture vulture': Gwen Stefani faces backlash for cultural appropriation as singer claims she's Japanese

'Culture vulture': Gwen Stefani faces backlash for cultural appropriation as singer claims she's Japanese
Gwen Stefani attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: American singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani is once again in the middle of the cultural appropriation conversation. The 53-year-old raised several questions as she repeatedly insisted she was Japanese while speaking about her now-controversial Harajuku Lovers fragrance line, which launched in 2008 and frequent use of Japan's subculture over the years. Despite being a daughter of an Italian-American father and an Irish-American mother, the performer claimed to identify as part Asian. 

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In an interview with Allure, Jesa Marie Calaor asked the performer what she learned from creating the Harajuku Lovers brand, "considering its praise, backlash, and everything in between." She replied, "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." The mom of three also spoke on how her trip to Tokyo felt like home after years of hearing her dad recall his work trips to Japan as a Yamaha marketing executive. 

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"I said, 'My God, I'm Japanese and I didn't know it,'" Stefani raved. As the author, who is Filipina, noted a bit of awkwardness "in the air between" them, Stefani, said, "I am, you know." She then went on to say that there is "innocence" to her love of Japanese culture. The "super fan" of Japan said it "doesn't feel right' to her when she receives criticism for being an admirer 'of something beautiful and sharing that". "I think it was a beautiful time of creativity… a time of the ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture," the Hollaback Girl continued. 

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Gwen Stefani attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Gwen Stefani attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

The wife of country star, Blake Shelton, then asked, "It should be okay to be inspired by other cultures because if we're not allowed then that's dividing people, right?" Stefani additionally said that she was influenced by the Hispanic and Latinx communities of her hometown of Anaheim, California. "The music, the way the girls wore their makeup, the clothes they wore, that was my identity," she explained, according to Daily Mail. "Even though I'm an Italian American — Irish or whatever mutt that I am — that's who I became because those were my people, right?"

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Gwen Stefani attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Gwen Stefani attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

While the interviewer said she doesn't believe "Stefani was trying to be malicious or hurtful in making these statements," they did make her feel "unsettled". Calaor pointed out the former The Voice judge "asserted twice that she was Japanese and once that she was 'a little bit of an Orange County girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl'" during their conversation. 

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Stefani reflected she received in her career when she faced claims of cultural appropriation in 2021 when she faced claims of cultural appropriation around her 2004 solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. during an interview with Paper magazine. She was frequently accompanied by Japanese-American backup dancers called the Harajuku Girls during this time.  

Gwen Stefani attends the 2022 Matrix Awards at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on October 26, 2022 in New York City.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Gwen Stefani attends the 2022 Matrix Awards at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on October 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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"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", Stefani said in the interview. "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."

"Gwen finally admitting to being a culture vulture"

Stefani also got slammed for cultural appropriation by Twitter users. One user said, "Not Gwen finally admitting to being a culture vulture…" while another wrote, "Gwen Stefani you'll never be Latina, no matter how hard you wish and pray to God on your knees or on your birthday candles which have melted all over your cake, you'll forever always be jealous of us mama's, find some self respect." One tweeted, "I grew up with a foreign exchange student from france, i didnt start dressing like marie antoinette". One opined, "Ariana will have the same answer if she get asked the same question in 2030." "She’s clearly someone who is easily and heavily influenced by things around her - when she was with Gavin she’d be in Vivienne Westwood and into English punk, now she’s with that country guy she’s suddenly a cowgirl", wrote another Twitter user. 

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This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online.

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