Gwen Stefani Defends ‘Harajuku Girls’ Amid Cultural Appropriation Criticism 15 Years Later

Gwen Stefani is defending her era of the “Harajuku Girls”, 15 years later.

The hit song appeared on her studio album Love. Angel. Music. Baby., and even inspired a line of perfume and a tour. But now, it’s being criticized for cultural appropriation.

Stefani, 50, chatted with Billboard and defended herself, “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.”

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She continued, “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. It was almost like a joke, because I thought that could never happen to me. So it was my fantasy. 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 insisted the girls were hired as dancers, “So when people asked me about it during radio interviews, I told them this was all a concept and we were having fun. By the way, the girls were cast to be dancers — that’s all.”

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She added, “I wanted to write a song that talked about my love for Harajuku. When you’re from Anaheim and never traveled outside of your city until you’re 21-years-old, it was really crazy to go to Japan. 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. 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.”

Love. Angel. Music. Baby. came out in 2004.

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