At this point, it’s old news that, over the past couple of years, there has been a Y2K revival in the fashion world and pop culture at large. Juicy Couture is back! Being rail thin is in again! Katie Holmes wore a dress over jeans on the red carpet! You might have not paid much attention to this trend — no, you will not be taken out to pasture for wearing high-rise jeans — but I must alert you to what may be the most earth-shaking blast to the past proving that 2004 is back in a big way: Gwen Stefani has, in the year 2023, gone on the record to say, “My god, I’m Japanese.”
If you are old enough to have ever watched an episode of classic TRL, you know what this major callback means. During the aughts, back before the public came together and made an official ruling that yellowface is to be frowned upon, Stefani went through her iconic Harajuku phase, in which she dressed up like a young Japanese girl and was constantly being followed around by a gaggle of actual Japanese and Japanese-American girls (her backup dancers and de facto photo props) who were about a foot shorter than her.
Any normal person who has been present in society sometime in the past five years or so would have maybe done some reflecting on this chapter. Maybe they’d come to terms with the fact that they were uneducated, and that their transracial-inspired cosplay had actually been a little something called cultural appropriation. Instead, Stefani has doubled down.
In a new interview with Allure ostensibly about her makeup line/possible MLM GXVE Beauty, Stefani was asked about her relationship with Japanese culture. The Voice coach — who is 51, by the way — explained to writer Jesa Marie Calaor that since her father worked for Yamaha and traveled to Japan a lot for work, she was exposed to the culture. Here’s how Calaor wrote it up:
"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 said, explaining how her father (who is Italian American) would return with stories of street performers cosplaying as Elvis and stylish women with colorful hair. Then, as an adult, she was able to travel to Harajuku to see them herself. "I said, 'My God, I'm Japanese and I didn't know it.'" As those words seemed to hang in the air between us, she continued, "I am, you know." She then explained that there is "innocence" to her relationship with Japanese culture, referring to herself as a "super fan."
Stefani then goes on to say that it “doesn’t feel right” for people to criticize her for “being a fan of something beautiful and sharing that” and that it should be okay to be “inspired by other cultures because if we're not allowed then that's dividing people, right?"
Sure, fine, she’s clearly about one step away from asking, “Why do they get to say it but if I do it’s offensive?”, but whatever. Let’s circle back once more to the Japanese thing: In Calaor’s 32-minute conversation with Stefani, the singer apparently repeated “more than once that she is Japanese.” In case it needs to be stated, Stefani is obviously not Japanese. She does, however, appear to be a full-blooded idiot.
Elsewhere in their conversation, Stefani somehow manages to dig herself an even deeper hole straight past the earth’s core, saying that she also identifies with the Latinx community in Southern California. “The music, the way the girls wore their makeup, the clothes they wore, that was my identity.”
Calaor writes that after the interview, Stefani’s rep reached out to her, saying that the singer’s words had been misunderstood, but when Allure asked for clarification, apparently none was provided. Probably because it’s impossible to spin something out of Stefani saying unequivocally, “I’m Japanese.” The only course of action is for Stefani to stop talking to the press, and come back when she feels compelled to embrace her actual culture. Maybe an Italian restaurant named after her nonna or a line of hair dye for mature follicles.