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Gwen Stefani defends herself against longtime cultural appropriation claims

Singer Gwen Stefani addressed accusations that she’s appropriated Japanese culture throughout her career in a new interview with Paper Magazine.

“If we didn’t buy and sell and trade our cultures in, we wouldn’t have so much beauty, you know?” Stefani said of her Harajuku girls, a group of four Japanese girls who accompanied the “Hollaback Girl” singer on tour and for media appearances.

The former “No Doubt” frontwoman explained what sparked her interest in having the girls become part of her stage act, which she said was richly influenced by Japan.

“I had this idea that I would have a posse of girls — because I never got to hang with girls — and they would be Japanese, Harajuku girls, because those are the girls that I love. Those are my homies,” she told Paper. “That’s where I would be if I had my dream come true, I could go live there and I could go hang out in Harajuku.”

In 2005, comedian Margaret Cho slammed Stefani’s idea, comparing it to the minstrel shows of the Jim Crow era.

“I want to like them, and I want to think they are great, but I am not sure if I can,” Cho wrote on her website of the Harajuku girls. “I mean, racial stereotypes are really cute sometimes, and I don’t want to bum everyone out by pointing out the minstrel show.”

She added, “To me, a Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface.”

Stefani, who performed at a White House state dinner in 2016, also incorporated Japanese style into her music and fashion. “The Voice” judge defended her decisions to Paper, arguing, “We learn from each other, we share from each other, we grow from each other.”

She continued, “And all these rules are just dividing us more and more.”

Tags Blackface Gwen Stefani Harajuku Harajuku Girls Hollaback Girl L.A.M.B. Paper
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