Gwen Stefani’s deep brown eyes light up her recent press photos, emerging from the contours of her high cheekbones and painted cherry red lips offset by porcelain skin and peroxide locks.
Stefani has “it,” that mojo juice, that stardust, that spell-inducing superpower. She is compelling in that her classic beauty is the stage for self-expression, but she doesn’t coast on her looks — she ornaments, augments, stylizes and wears them as an accessory for her artistry. And what an assortment of talent she’s amassed since the early ‘90s, when she set the charts ablaze as the singer of third wave ska band No Doubt while adorning herself with bindis, shiny belly shirts and wallet chains. In retrospect, some of these fashion choices were a bit tragic even if they were bold. But Stefani has always managed to reinvent herself in an authentic way.
What is it about reinvention that suits pop queens such as Stefani and Madonna so well? Perhaps it’s perpetual self-discovery that spurs these icons on.
It is said the most inspired art comes from pain. That pain begets beauty is a paradox inherent in Stefani’s work, and the singer uses her external beauty to channel her interior struggles, which buoys her above a lackluster sea of shallow pop starlet swine
In the case of Madonna, the tutu-clad, 1980s Meat Packing District club-girl Jezebel gave way to the fallen-virgin-in-a-white-wedding-dress look. Then, the Jean Paul Gaultier cone-shaped bra emerged before (and after) the Marilyn Monroe-inspired “Material Girl” satin and pearl days. Next, the biker jacket-wearing butch bad girl devolved into defiled gothic Catholicism, taken over by the coffee table book-bondage maverick and the Sari-wearing disciple — a constant remaking that mirrored the odyssey of adolescence. The subtext: remain fresh, and stay controversial.
Both Stefani and Madonna have evolved throughout decades of chart-topping glamor and grandeur. Stefani emerged from magazine pages throughout the years as a paparazzi darling. The genius to behold was not how flawless Stefani appeared, but instead her constantly evolving entrepreneurial spirit. Stefani is a musician, solo artist, judge of The Voice, L.A.M.B. clothing designer and now a designer of children’s clothing. She’s also recently collaborated with Urban Decay makeup and juggles it all, including being a mother to her three children, with a sense of ease. And through all of this, Stefani endured the heartbreak of her former husband’s affair with the nanny, the subsequent divorce, and acquisition of a new beau in country musician Blake Shelton. It’s been a busy year.
Stefani’s latest designs for L.A.M.B blend plaids and military vests with thick epaulets reminiscent of the iconic garb Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten wore when he donned Vivienne Westwood or his own debauched designs of ripped finery. She mixes high-brow with low-brow, deriving inspiration from sources as varied as the boombox-toting and gold chain-wearing hip-hoppers of the ’80s, 1940’s Hollywood vamps, uniformed sailors, gothic Lolitas and the anime-inspired characters of Shibuya’s Harajuku confections.
Her recent fashion choice while attending a Keita Maruyama event in Tokyo (as seen inPopsugar) merged high drama and bold choices with a strikingly effortless appeal, pairing a simple black silk strapless romper with a pink and purple floral jacket and accented with fishnet stockings and fire engine red nails. She commands the look of 1940’s pinup with a black and white polka dotted dress and severe red lips, and then in the next instance, with ripped jeans, a “wife beater” tank with bra straps showing — and looks equally polished in either getup.
After a 10-year hiatus, Stefani’s solo album This Is What the Truth Feels Like, finds the star re-emerging after the aforementioned very public year of fame-versus-infamy. The album finds her exploring ties that bind, love and loss amid bubbly pop. Clean production merges hints of reggae and ska with pop, but solidifies Stefani’s departure from the sound of No Doubt.
Stefani toldUSA Today, “It’s really the first time I’ve written a record about being happy.” But many of the songs are about the tragedy of her split with Gavin Rossdale, as well.
“I don’t know what else to call it. The horrible thing that happened… I found out my life was going to change forever. Instead of wanting to die, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to go down. I’m going to turn this into music’.”
It is said the most inspired art comes from pain. That pain begets beauty is a paradox inherent in Stefani’s work. The singer uses her external beauty to channel her interior struggles, which buoys her above a lackluster sea of shallow pop starlet swine and makes her a true icon of the era.