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Interview BuzzFeed.News

Buzzfeed.News Interview July 18, 2018
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Part 5

To do so, however, Stefani had to do what all celebrities must do in order to turn themselves into a brand: flatten whatever edges might prove alienating to mass marketing. Young rock stars can be opinionated, but the face of a major makeup brand or a credit card company signs away that ability or, at the very least, works to deemphasize anything that might seem controversial about them. For Stefani, that meant bending the mom/rock star dichotomy to focus directly on the mom; the tomboy glamour, the girlish grunge, turned, at least in most public appearances, mostly girlish and glamorous.

Stefani's vision of feminism, like those of others who reject the term, has always hinged on its personal ramifications: If you're happy and successful, who needs it?

The Stefani brands edginess might have been blunted, but its meaning was still strong and, as evidenced by Stefanis continued popularity as a brand ambassador, lucrative. She might not have been threatening or controversial, but that didnt mean she, or what she had come to represent, was boring. For the millions of Americans who watched The Voice every week or bought Stefanis clothing for their kids at Target, Stefani was an example of a woman whod maintained her individuality, even through marriage and the birth of her children. Shed taken the mommy track and the music track and the businesswoman track. For many people whod grown up alongside or just behind her, she was a testament equal parts heartening and aspirational that women could have it all. And she not only had it all, she had it all while being cool.

Like all celebrity images, the lingering idea of Stefani as a scrappy, DIY kind of girl worked to elide the things that made having it all possible: the money and the child care and trainers and private chefs it funds that makes a body like hers possible; the whiteness and domesticity that rendered her a safe choice for brands; the extent to which her success was built on appropriating fashion from other cultures and, as the years went by, continuing to ignore calls to reckon with that practice. In 2014, when asked if she regretted her employment of the Harajuku Girls, her answer was unequivocal. No, she said. For me, everything that I did with the Harajuku Girls was just a pure compliment and being a fan. You cant be a fan of somebody else? Of another culture? Of course you can. Of course you can celebrate other cultures.

Stefani had it all, but also, like many white women, she refused to apologize for the privileges that accompanied it or to interrogate past decisions, like her rejection of the word feminist, even after it had ceased to hold the f-word connotation it had back in 1995. When Pharrell described her 2014 song Spark the Fire as feminist, Stefani balked. He calls it a feminist anthem, Stefani told Time. I would never call it that! Because its just not. Thats what he sees in me I dont see that. I see it as a personal song that is really a positive message about dont mess with my vibe.

Stefanis vision of feminism, like those of others who reject the term, has always hinged on its personal ramifications: If youre happy and successful, who needs it? Stefanis appeal hinged on this sort of confidence the type, not coincidentally, enjoyed by many rich white women from suburban Orange County. And like so many women in that position, it took a personal calamity, not a larger, societal one, for her vision of herself to be threatened. In this case: divorce.

In interviews since her August 2015 separation from Rossdale, Stefani has remained opaque but pointed about the details. I performed at the Grammys, she told Cosmopolitan in 2016. I came home, and the next day, I found out what everybody knows. Nobody would believe it if I could really say what happened. I went through months and months of torture. What everybody knows, presumably, is what was published on the cover of People magazine: that Rossdale had been sleeping with the familys nanny. Stefani later described the following period in her life as marked by an overarching loss of confidence in her musical ability, in herself. She receded briefly from public view but was expected back on The Voice within weeks, to do a job that, as she told Entertainment Weekly, helped restore some of what had been lost: Being on The Voice made me go through my Rolodex of life and go, Oh, I did that! I wrote that song! It restarted me, in a way.

It restarted her, too, in a different, unanticipated direction: toward country star Blake Shelton. Shelton had served as Stefanis fellow judge on The Voice, but the two had little in the way of interaction. But just as Stefani and Rossdale were separating, so were Shelton and his wife, Miranda Lambert, whose marriage had rendered them country royalty for a decade. The respective divorces were equally visible and equally devastating to fans whose understanding of each of their celebrity images hinged, in some part, on their seemingly happy marriages.

When Shelton told the crew of The Voice that his divorce was forthcoming, Stefani sought him out to commiserate. The romance proceeded, cautiously, from there. For weeks, the two hinted at a relationship on social media, making it official as Season 9 of the show drew to a close in the fall of 2015. The seemingly mismatched coupling was framed by tabloids as a sort of giddy, glorious second chance at love. At the Vanity Fair Oscar party, one source told People, they were just like teenagers at a high school dance.

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