Gwen Stefani faces backlash over ‘I’m Japanese’ comment | Gwen Stefani

The singer and TV host Gwen Stefani faced widespread backlash after claiming: “I’m Japanese.”

In an interview with Allure magazine released on Tuesday, Stefani, who is of Irish and Italian descent, was promoting her GXVE beauty brand when she said: “My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it.”

The 53-year-old described the influence Japanese culture had on her childhood, when her father, who is Italian American, worked for Yamaha and traveled between California and Japan.

“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,” Stefani told the Allure editor Jesa Marie Calaor, who is Filipino American.

Stefani described her father’s stories of Japanese street performers cosplaying as Elvis Presley and women with colorful hair and said that when she grew older, she traveled to Harajuku, a district in Shibuya, Tokyo, known for eclectic clothing stores and cosplay shops and which eventually served as the inspiration for her fragrance line, Harajuku Lovers.

“I said, ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know it,'” Stefani said.

Calaor wrote that Stefani’s words “seemed to hang in the air” between them.

“I am, you know,” Stefani said.

Stefani also said she considered herself a “super fan” of Japanese culture.

Stefani has long faced claims of cultural appropriation, beginning with the release of her 2004 album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

A tour in support of the album featured four Japanese backup dancers: Maya Chino, known as Love, Jennifer Kita, known as Angel, Rino Nakasone, known as Music, and Mayuko Kitayama, known as Baby.

Calaor wrote: “Like Stefani, I am not Japanese. But I am an Asian woman living in America, which comes with sobering realities during a time of heightened Asian American and Pacific Islander hate.

“I envy anyone who can claim to be part of this vibrant, creative community but avoid the part of the narrative that can be painful or scary.”

Calaor wrote that Stefani said she was Japanese multiple times but also said she identified with Hispanic and Latino communities and was “a little bit of an Orange county girl, a little bit of a Japanese girl, a little bit of an English girl”.

Stefani’s comments generated widespread backlash online.

One commenter wrote: “The white culture of thinking you can identify as a person of color simply because you like something about that culture. It is not appreciation. It is exactly the theft and erasure that live at the origin of genocide, enslavement, and colonialism.”

Another wrote: “God, imagine being an Asian American editor and hearing Gwen Stefani repeat over and over again, ‘I’m Japanese.’

“People like Gwen Stefani can adopt all the cool things they want from Asian cultures, yet won’t have to worry about being pushed off a [New York City] subway platform because of her race.”

That was a reference to an Asian woman killed last year.

The author Roxane Gay tweeted: “Gwen Stefani’s publicist must be busy today.”

According to Allure, a representative for Stefani indicated Stefani’s comments had been misunderstood. Asked for an on-the-record comment or clarification, Stefani’s team declined to provide a statement, the magazine said.

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