Like any good girlfriend, Gwen Stefani spills her secret style resources, her favorite chic cheapies and what she loves about her new Harajuku Lovers fragrance collection. She even hangs with GLAMOUR to talk about the husband and kids. Listen in—she’s as cool as she looks.
She’s like living pop art—against the white walls of the studio where Glamour’s cover shoot is under way, Gwen Stefani’s famous red lips, heavy black lashes and platinum hair stand out vividly. In fact, her style is so iconic, so crafted, so utterly Gwen Stefani that when she says hello and shakes my hand, I’m almost surprised she’s an actual talking, smiling person. I’m definitely surprised to realize that behind her twisted pinup-girl look, this rock star (married to another rock star, former Bush front man Gavin Rossdale) is kind of shy. Later, as she quietly breast-feeds her son Zuma, now one (she’s also mom to son Kingston, three), it’s hard to imagine her electrifying stadiums filled with screaming fans on the band No Doubt’s first tour in five years.
But electrify she does. Developing that front-woman persona didn’t come easily to the singer. As a teenager in Southern California, Stefani was too absorbed with her high school boyfriend to think that the songs she wrote just for herself would one day make her a superstar. And even when she became the singer for No Doubt in 1987, she still thought of it as her brother’s band. But when the group hit it big in 1995 with the release of Tragic Kingdom, Stefani’s talents were too big to downplay. Between her work with No Doubt and her solo career (launched in 2004 with her platinum album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.), the blond powerhouse has sold millions of albums. And on top of that music career, she now runs two wildly successful fashion lines: L.A.M.B., the five-year-old high-end label, and Harajuku Lovers, her Japanese-inspired clothing and fragrance line. They ring up a combined profit of more than $200 million annually. Yeow—that’s a lot for anyone to manage, especially someone as naturally California laid-back as Stefani.
The No Doubt reunion tour has Stefani, 40, wondering how long the ride can last. “It’s very emotional,” she says. “I feel like I’m going to wake up sometime soon from this weird journey.” Sorry, Gwen, not likely. Keep reading to see what else Stefani has to say about style, shopping, moguldom, motherhood and her long road to success.
I’ve been spending a few weeks learning about the Gwen Stefani universe of fashion and style and music. They’re all one.
It all comes from the same place. I remember back when No Doubt was just starting out: We didn’t have a record out, and I was in school. I would spend my time daydreaming about what I was going to make for my costumes. That’s something I’ve always done. As soon as I knew we had a show, I’d be off to the fabric store. And I’d be really excited. It’s just something I’ve always, always done.
You have such original style. Where did it come from?
The whole Tragic Kingdom thing started with Disneyland, which I grew up near. I loved everything from Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music to Bob Marley to ska bands. A little bit English, a little bit rock.
But your glossy hair and the red lips—that’s not ska to me.
No. That’s my whole obsession with old Hollywood. I always loved watching all those old movies, and still do—if I had time.
Who is your favorite designer?
I love Vivienne Westwood. So much. Every time I go to London, first thing I do is go in there. It’s ridiculous! She just knows—her line always evolves. It’s the same and yet always different. I also love John Galliano. I like the mixture of his kookiness and the straight-up craft.
And now you’ve got a huge fashion company. Is that your backup plan?
Yes. Because I know that I need to feel passionate and be creative to have a feeling of self-worth. So when the music part goes away, I want to be able to still feel the power I feel when I write songs. If I didn’t have that, I don’t really know how I would survive, because I’m so addicted to that feeling.
What do you think has made L.A.M.B. so successful?
I’m still so blown away that we’ve gotten this far. When I first started, I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. I mean, I’ve made clothes my whole life, but I was just naive about the fashion world. But I think it’s [successful] because I’ve been really involved, you know? Picking the samples, inspirations, color palette. I have a great team of people helping me.
You’ve said that you grew up in a really close family. How has that strong bond influenced you?
I grew up in a normal family. I have sweet parents, who are still married. They’re watching my child right now. But my life is so different from how I thought it would be. Yesterday was the craziest day ever—I managed to accomplish so many things. And at the end of the night, I was there with [Kingston] putting him to bed, reading all his books, getting his diaper on and putting him in his crib. Then I got [Zuma], nursed him, put him to sleep. Then I went to a Hollywood party! [Laughs.] It is extremely different from how my parents raised me.
What surprises you most about yourself as a mother?
How hard it is. I’ve always worked really hard, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done is have kids!
But hard how? Hard to be an example?
All of it—everything from getting up in the morning to trying to be consistent to trying to have the right feelings. But, of course, the rewards are so great.
So when Zuma comes home and tells you he’s going to be the drummer in a band, what are you going to say?
Well, Kingston walked into a room the other day with a guitar, singing his song. I was thinking, Oh my God. [Laughs.] But whatever. Everything that we were passionate about, my parents supported it. But they always made it really clear that those kinds of things, those dreams, never come true. And then you have your backup plan. You go to school. That was the way I was taught—[making it big] doesn’t happen to people. And then it did.
It’s awesome! And then I bought my parents a house. So that’s rad.
But was [the success] ever scary? Did you feel like it was a train coming at you?
No. Even when we were getting commercially successful, it was very slow to build. We got on the radio after nine years of being a band. And once you’re on the road for a long time, you’re in a whole other bubble. One moment I always think about is when I came home from the first tour and I was still living with my parents. I was gone for two and a half years on this tour.
How old were you?
And I know it’s weird to live at my parents’ when I was 26, but…
No, it’s weird that you were on the road for two and a half years!
Well, that was weird too. But yeah, I came home, and I remember walking in the house, and the entire dining room table was filled with layers and layers and layers of things for me to autograph that people had given to my parents. I was like, “What am I supposed to do with all this?”
My poor parents—they didn’t know what to do. And then I went into my bedroom with my single bed. I remember getting under my covers…thinking, Oh my God, who am I?
And now you’re a married lady with two kids! What do you see in Gavin as a father that you didn’t know about before?
I always thought he’d be a good dad. [Laughs.] And he has basically lived up to that and beyond, beyond. He’s very, very passionate, and he’s very intense. He’s made to be a dad. I’m very lucky.
I know this is a really crass question, but I have to ask. Your husband has a great career, but you are more famous. Is it hard on a marriage when a woman is more visible than a man professionally?
I don’t really like talking about Gavin because, why would I do that? It’s the one place you need to really protect yourself: your family and your marriage.
Let’s talk about writing music. Are you writing now?
No, I can’t do all these things at one time. Right now it’s all focused on the tour, the costumes, the fun part. I won’t write on tour. There’s no way. How am I supposed to be a mom to two kids, a wife and do a show every night? It’s impossible!
You’ve spoken a lot about how you found your singing voice and your own voice as a person at the same time. There’s something lovely about it. I was curious about that experience.
I clearly remember writing songs [when I was young] and the power that it gave me of feeling like somebody. My whole life changed when I wrote those songs, even before anyone ever heard them. It wasn’t a commercial thing.
No, it was just you.
It was just me and the song and showing them to my dad and him listening to the demo while driving. He’d come home and say, “Now, that one was really good. You shouldn’t change anything.”
Does writing still empower you like it did when you were a kid?
Oh my God. I mean, it’s really exciting to design, but writing a song is…
There’s nothing like it?
If it’s a hit, oh my God. And you know right away. Like when I wrote “Hollaback Girl” at 3:00 A.M. after writing three songs already. We were jumping on the couch!
What’s it like being with the band again?
There’s a lot of water under the bridge. And it’s very emotional. I went out last night to a party with Tony [Kanal, the No Doubt bass player and Stefani’s former boyfriend] and his girlfriend and with, you know, the guys. There’s just so much that we’ve done.
Twenty years of being a band. How did that happen?
I don’t know. You tell me. I feel like I’m going to wake up sometime soon from this weird journey. I mean, honestly, there’s no way this happened to me! [Laughs.]
Look, you’re a huge star. You’re arguably one of the biggest female stars on the planet. But we never read about Gwen Stefani being a drug addict or getting arrested or falling down a staircase.
Maybe my crazy time is coming up. Let’s see what happens. Maybe I’m just a late bloomer. But I think it’s also just my nature. I was thinking today when I was driving, How am I going to make sure that Kingston never does anything bad and doesn’t get arrested? I was thinking, How did I stay out of trouble? And I know it’s just ‘cause my parents are so strict. I mean, I’m still scared of them. [Laughs.]
Drawing from your own experience, what advice would you give to young women who are struggling to find their voice in the world?
I’ve never been good at giving advice. The only advice I ever gave people was to find something that you are passionate about. But I hate giving advice, because, who am I? I’m just a girl. I was like anybody else. Do you think that I ever thought I would be doing this right now? No! Never, never, never, never.