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Gwen Stefani: Just A Girl About to Take Over Las Vegas

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Posted on 17:03, Monday, May 21

Social Magazine - Gwen Stefani spent her childhood and adolescence in Anaheim, California, a suburban girl living just a stones throw from Disneyland. It was her older brother, Eric, who founded No Doubt, the hybrid ska/punk/rock band that would help Stefani make her way into the musical limelight with their 1995 breakout album, Tragic Kingdom. The bands unique sound coupled with Stefanis platinum blonde hair, red lips and punk rock fashion sensibility, brought the singer to Rockstar status in the 1990s.

With lyrics torn from the pages of Gwens personal diary about falling in love, breakups, makeups and mending a broken heart, her music has always drawn in listeners with its raw vulnerability. Her down-to-earth nature and self-deprecating sense of humor helped to seal the deal with fans, making her one of the most successful female recording artists of the past twenty-three years.

Her first solo album, 2004s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and L.A.M.B. fashion label, catapulted her into the music and style icon stratosphere in the early 2000s. Follow up albums like 2006s The Sweet Escape and No Doubts 2012 reunion album, Push and Shove capped off two decades of non-stop recording and touring for the Grammy winning artist, as she focused on raising her three sons with then husband, Bush lead singer, Gavin Rossdale.

In the summer of 2015, the California girl experienced a seismic 8.5 earthquake in her personal life when her marriage to Rossdale imploded amidst a cheating scandal. An unexpected romance came in the form of country crooner, and Gwens The Voice costar, Blake Shelton, whom the Hollaback girl began dating later that same year. Gwen then did what she does best, pouring her emotions into her most personal music to date, with 2016s This Is What the Truth Feels Like album and a subsequent tour.

This summer the hitmaking mom of Kingston, 11, Zuma, 9, and Apollo, 4, is preparing to embark on her Las Vegas Residency at Zappos Theatre at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Its called, what else? Gwen Stefani: Just A Girl an homage to her first single to make the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and her own personal anthem that she says still holds true today.  I sat down with Gwen to discuss this new chapter in her life and career.

Allison Kugel: Was this Las Vegas Residency a family decision? Did you sit down with your three boys and say, Moms going to perform in Las Vegas instead of touring. What do you think about that?

Gwen Stefani: Honestly, my kids dont really have too much of a say on what the schedules going to be. But as a mom, if you look at my touring for the last ten years, I havent really toured. In the past, I did tour for seven years. Its hard with the kids, because theyre in school and Im not home schooling, and you cant pull them out. Its not fair on them. I did my last tour because I had this unexpected life crisis and then the music came pouring out of me from that. I didnt even plan on making any music. It was such a lifesaver and a beautiful moment for me to be able to write again. I put that tour on at the last minute (referring to her This Is What The Truth Feels Like tour) and went on a summer tour with the kids. It was so much fun for them. They love touring, but it isnt realistic. So, Ive been thinking about doing the Vegas show for a while now. The Las Vegas Residency will really work for me as a mom, because its these little chunks of time where you can fly in and out, and its workable.

Allison Kugel: Its a shifting of priorities.

Gwen Stefani: Yes. After that last tour, I felt like, God Ive toured a lot in my life! I love it, but it takes so much out of me as far as being able to focus on the rest of my life with the kids. I have three kids and its a big deal! Any parent would probably go, How does she do it? Its almost impossible to do and its a lot of balancing. The Las Vegas Residency is just perfect for where Im at right now.

Allison Kugel: What does performing live give you, personally and energetically?

Gwen Stefani: Being on stage for me, I always forget how much its a part of who I am. Ive done it for my whole life, pretty much. I always think I dont want to do it. I always think its fine if I never do it again. Then when I get on stage, even when Im sound checking, Im like, Oh My God, I love this! I love my music, I love being up there, I love the attention and I love being able to share that love with people and get that exchange. I dont understand why I like it so much.

Allison Kugel: It feeds your soul. Youre connecting with source and youre in a zone.

Gwen Stefani: Its my gift. Its what Im here for. Im obviously at the end of my journey of being a musician

Allison Kugel: Why would you say that?

Gwen Stefani: Well because of my age, and Ive been doing it for thirty something years. Its perfect for me to be able to do a Las Vegas show, because not only does it work for me as a mom, but it also works creatively. Its a new challenge. Its going to be a way to express myself and do my whole catalog of music that defines every single period in my life; all the crises and all the joys. Creatively, I couldnt have done it any sooner. I had to have all these songs. It just feels like the perfect next chapter for me.

Allison Kugel: Youre taking the audience on a journey of your life, and to do that you have to have lived.

Gwen Stefani: Exactly! And I also think people who are going out for that weekend in Las Vegas, its so different from, for example, if Im performing in Philly and its about Philly culture, and the audience is just coming out for that one night and getting a babysitter. You know what I mean? This Vegas show is a bigger commitment for people. Theyre going for the weekend and theyre making a memory. Youre competing with the Las Vegas nightlife, youre competing with the gambling, the partying and with the hotels and all the expenses. Its a big commitment for people, and theyre coming to me from all over the world.

Allison Kugel: And theyre going to get a more intimate experience with you than they would in a stadium setting.

Gwen Stefani: It is a much smaller audience than Im used to, under five thousand people. Its going to be so different and thats something I need. When youve toured for however many years I have, its super awesome, but lets do something new! Thats why even doing The Voice for the last couple of years was so inspiring for me. I think everybody wants something challenging and new to look forward to.

Allison Kugel: You went to see Jennifer Lopezs Las Vegas show, All I Have. Im assuming the two of you discussed her Las Vegas Residency. Did she give you any advice?

Gwen Stefani: Me and Jennifer, Ive always looked up to her in the sense that were exactly the same age, and I remember when No Doubt was coming out and she hadnt done Jenny from The Block yet, but she had that song out, Waiting for Tonight. At the time I was working with Prince and he started comparing me and Jennifer, and at that time I didnt even see how I was in the same category with her. She was Jennifer Lopez and I was in a band called No Doubt (laughs). But now here we both are doing these residencies all these years later, and weve known each other through the years. Shes always invited me to her kids birthday parties and things like that. She is a crazy worker. I cannot believe how much she works! I know I do, but I look at her and Im like, Wow!

Allison Kugel: It doesnt seem human, right? Multiple television shows, Las Vegas Residency, albums

Gwen Stefani: I know. I dont understand it. Going to see her, and Id never seen her do a performance live, I was studying the production of her show. The show was incredible, and she works so hard on stage. I admire her a lot and it was so inspiring to see and scary! When I came backstage to talk to her afterwards, she comes out of the dressing room looking like a Barbie Doll. She was breathtaking on stage, but when you see her up close, its like, What?! Its not possible. You are so gorgeous! She was just so glamorous. We talked for awhile and she was like, Yeah, Ive just done 100 shows And Im like, Whoa, thats a lot of shows! (Laughs) And she still has forty more to go. Shes really enjoyed it, but she said it is challenging.

Allison Kugel: I think youll find it challenging, but one of the best experiences of your life.

Gwen Stefani: It is challenging, and as performers we have a completely different perspective on doing a concert than the audience. The challenge isnt about us. Were going to be us every time we get up there. We may have that one night where were off because of whatever might be going on. A lot of times, you just never know what youre going to be like on stage. But at the same time, were pretty much consistent. Its really about the audience. What are they going to be like and are they into it or not?

Allison Kugel: What are you presenting to the audience, artistically, with your Just A Girl Las Vegas Residency? Youre also a fashion designer and you have a strong aesthetic vision. Between the sets and the costumes, how will everything tie together on stage?

Gwen Stefani: Ive really tried to put together a show that has a nostalgic feel. The show is full of hit songs that are recognizable and take you back to that time period in your life. And of course, the real reason for doing Vegas is the costumes. Im working with Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn who Ive been working with now for, I dont know how many years. They are just incredible. They did Jennifer [Lopezs] show, and theyve also worked with Jennifer for years. They really get me. I think theres going to be about five costume changes, which is a lot for me considering that with No Doubt I never did any.

Allison Kugel: I remember. With No Doubt, it was just you out there with your cut off t-shirts (laughs).

Gwen Stefani: (Laughs) Yeah. But now Im working with designers to see what they come up with. There are different chapters as far as what I want to look like, and I basically have it all worked out. Now its just putting it all together.

Allison Kugel: The title of your Las Vegas show, Just A Girl, is the title of one of your biggest hits, but it has a double meaning for you. Youre always saying, Im just a girl from Orange County Is that your way of keeping yourself grounded?

Gwen Stefani: Honestly, I think if you really knew me or saw my family and how I grew up, I am 100% the same person I have always been. When I wrote that song, Just A Girl, I was twenty-five years old, going to college, still living at my parents house, and I was very nave. I had a boyfriend at the time that lived at his parents house. I was driving one day and Im thinking, Wow! I really have a different position in this world, being that Im a female.

Allison Kugel: Did something happen that made you stop and think, Im going to be treated a certain way because Im a girl.?

Gwen Stefani: It was just more of a realization that I had. I think we all do as females. Im walking down the street and some guy just whistled at me? What does that even mean? Suddenly, youre aware of your sexuality and that youre ascribed a certain value because of it. It was when that hit me, that I wrote the song, Just A Girl. Nobody was paying attention at the time. Nobody was ever going to hear the song. I didnt even know how to write a song. It was just so nave. I guess I wanted to figure out a way to say, This is my DNA. And really, my DNA is I am just a girl from Anaheim [California]. Im just me, and Ive never been anything else. I know thats what got me to this point, by being honest, real and sharing my story with people. Thats all we can do in this life, and Im nothing more than that. But at the same time, by using my gift, being aware of it, trying to respect it and being confident in it, Ive gotten this far. Music is so powerful, and for a song like that to still be relevant twenty years later? In a way, its even more relevant now. We have so much going on with female empowerment and whats our place? When I read the lyrics of that song I think, My gosh, that must have been a Godsend, because I know I didnt think that up on my own. I always thought it would go out of fashion, or Id be too old to say just a girl but it still works.

Allison Kugel: Has Blake had any creative input with this Las Vegas show?

Gwen Stefani: Obviously hes my best friend, so Im bouncing stuff off him all the time. Hes one of those people in my life thats super supportive and gets me motivated. Theres a whole bunch of songs about him in the show, so thats fun. Like anybody with their best friend, we share everything together. Ill tell him, I picked my dancers. There were 500 girls that tried out! And Ill send him videos. Just things like that.

Allison Kugel: Did you choose Planet Hollywood as the venue?

Gwen Stefani: I feel like they chose me, and whats really cool about it is that Planet Hollywood is also the Zappos Theatre now, and the Zappos team is just incredible. Theyre taking over the theatre with their creativity and it has a very futuristic feel. I also give $1 of every single ticket sold to the childrens charity, Cure 4 The Kids Foundation. Its going to add up to be a crap load of money! Its something Im going to be really proud of. You get very motivated about giving and helping, and making a difference, but you really dont think as one person youre ever going to in your life. I feel that to be able to get up there and share my story, and then make that kind of money to give away is amazing. I feel so proud of that.

Allison Kugel: Whats your routine before you step out on stage? Do you pray? Do you meditate? How do you gear up to give your best performance?

Gwen Stefani: I dont meditate. Im a prayer. I pray, but first I do my makeup (laughs). My makeup is huge for me. I have this song called War Paint. Putting on my makeup and getting ready, there is a kind of meditation in the preparation. Makeup is art, and its like getting into character when I put it on. Ive always done my own makeup for shows. And the praying for me is really important. We do a group prayer circle. In the last few years, and when I toured for the last show, the payer is not just before, but also during [the show]. When I think about how ordinary Ive always been, and to think that Ive created all these songs, I dont know where they come from. I always think that its got to be a channeling and it just comes through me. Its a spiritual thing that has been given to me to share. When Im in the music, the music takes me right back to those moments in my life. And some of those moments are sickening, you know what I mean? Certain memories are upsetting. Thats why I say this is not just a show for me, its my life. Its real for me and I think thats why Im very anxious about it.

Allison Kugel: Its going to be a tremendous spiritual, emotional and physical undertaking.

Gwen Stefani: And Im very lazy (laughs). I like to not have to work out and not have to be committed to something. And I love to be with my children, of course. But it is such an amazing opportunity and they dont just hand them out to everybody. I feel really honored to be able to do it. Im thrilled to see whos going to show up and its going to be a lot of fun. Im going to look back on this and say, I cant believe I did that!

Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl Las Vegas Residency opens June 27th at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casinos Zappos Theatre. Order tickets at https://www.caesars.com/planet-hollywood/shows/gwen-stefani.

Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture journalist, and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel.

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