Pop singer Gwen Stefani has stepped forward to defend herself against claims of cultural appropriation.
Stefani is defending her 2004 hits “Rich Girl” and “Harajuku Girls” after people have claimed she was appropriating Japanese culture in the songs and throughout her career. She claims that was never her intention in an interview with Paper Magazine on Wednesday.
“If we didn’t buy and sell and trade our cultures in, we wouldn’t have so much beauty, you know?” Stefani said.
Gwen Stefani And The Harajuku Girls
The claims stem from the use of the Harajuku girls, a group of four Japanese girls who accompanied Gwen Stefani on tour and for media appearances.
In the song, Stefani sings, “I’d get me four Harajuku girls to inspire me, and they’d come to my rescue. I’d dress them wicked. I’d give them names, Love, Angel, Music, Baby. Hurry up and come and save me.”
The names are also the title for Stefani’s clothing brand and first album.
Gwen Stefani notes that after being heavily influenced by Japan and its culture, she wanted to integrate the women into her act.
“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.”
Comedian Isn’t Laughing About The Issue
This isn’t the first time this issue has been brought up, however. In 2005, comedian Margaret Cho compared the Harajuku girls to the use of blackface.
“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. “I mean, racial stereotypes are really cute sometimes, and I don’t want to bum everyone out by pointing out the minstrel show. To me, a Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface.”
Cho continued, explaining that due to the lack of representation in the media, she will “take whatever we can get.”
“I think it is totally acceptable to enjoy the Harajuku girls because there are not that many other Asian people out there in the media, really, so we have to take whatever we can get,” said Cho. “I am just in acceptance over it because something is better than nothing.”
According to The Hill, 51-year-old Gwen Stefani performed at the White House state dinner in 2016. On her visit, she allegedly sported Japanese style in her fashion as well as her musical stylings.
She told Paper Magazine that issues like this are ‘dividing us more.’
“We learn from each other. We share from each other, and we grow from each other. And all these rules are just dividing us more and more.”