On October 3, 1969, Gwen Renée Stefani took her first breaths as a member of this world in Fullerton, California. Formative years were accomplished over at Anaheim. Her name is an eclectic mix of influences in hr parents life. Her first name Gwen, was chosen by her mother based upon a character of the same name in the 1968 novel Airport while Renée washer father’s choice taken from the song “Walk Away Renée”. She is of a mixed Italian – American – Irish – Scottish descent on her father’s and mother’s side respectively. Gwen comes from a family that includes 3 other siblings named Jill, Eric, and Todd. A 1987 graduate of Loara High School, Gwen was a socially active student who was a member of the swim team and marching band. She attended California State University, Fullerton. She held various jobs while trying to make her career take off. She scrubbed floors at Dairy Queen and even worked at a make up counter at one time.
At the age of 17, she was into all sorts of music but was strongly influenced by Ska bands of the time such as Selector and Madness. Ska originated in Jamaica and takes its influences from Caribbean beat and Calypso with a tinge of American Jazz and rhythm and blues Together with her brother Eric, her love for music grew with every Ska band they watched together. The influence of Ska bands Fishbone, The Untouchables, and other bands, led her to accept an offer from hr brother to join the Ska band he was forming with his friend John Spence. The band was No doubt. After Spence committed suicide in 1987, Gwen found herself singing solo for the band instead of the usual shared vocals with Spence. Unfortunately, Eric left the band as well, choosing instead to pursue an animation career related to the animated comedy show The Simpsons. The remaining members of No Doubt were Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, and Adrian Young. After a string of hit albums with No Doubt, the year 2003 saw the band diversifying in their individual musical interests and have taken a breather from touring as a group but have not formally disbanded yet. Gwen is so far the most successful member of No Doubt in regards to establishing a solo career.
During a No Doubt concert in 1995, Gwen met and fell in love with fellow musician Gavin Rossdale of the band Bush. They married under the laws of 2 countries back in 2002. The couple had two wedding ceremonies in the United Kingdom and the U.S. respectively in order to make sure that both families would be a part of the happiest event in their lives. They began a family with Gwen’s pregnancy in 2005. Their son, Kingston James McGregor formally joined the family on May 26, 2006 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Gwen began her solo career in the year 2000 after No Doubt decided to take a break from group performances. With the help of her ex boyfriend Kanal, they created her first solo effort that mixed the influences of her non ska favorite artists such as Prince, The Time, Club Noveau, and most specially, that 80’s icon and music legend, Madonna. Early in her career as a part of No Doubt, there was rumored to be a rift brewing between Stefani and the pop icon due to Stefani’s almost blatant copying of the Madonna’s image. Gwen Stefani has been vocal in saying that Madonna was one of her biggest musical influences and copies her style to the point that it is almost a xerox copy of the original. Rumors aside, the truth is that the two share a friendship because of the similarities they share in real life. Some of these similarities are; they both married English men, both have first born sons by the men, both women have semi relocated to England as well.
By 2004, “What you Waiting For?” had hit the airwaves with a matching music video on MTV. Gwen Stefani has had to battle the typical stereotyping of women in the music industry. While everyone expected her to fade into the distance after No Doubt went their separate ways, she instead continued her career. Giving her music a more classy and danceable, yet experimental beat vibe that served to become the trademark of her music.
Wanting to prove that she was more than just a pretty face and she was not the typically thought of dumb blonde, she began auditioning for film work in 2004. Known mostly as a performer and without any experience in making films other than top ranked music videos, she had to tirelessly pursue this new avenue in her career even when no film producers would give her a first look. After much patience, she finally got her big break playing the legendary Hollywood actress Jean Harlow in the big budget, Oscar nominated film The Aviator, produced by Leonardo Di Caprio. She has no film work lined up at present as she is busy touring promoting her new album “Sweet Escape” worldwide.
Outside the music industry, Gwen has proven that women are more than the typically objectified subjects of music videos and rap music are. She successfully created and launched her own clothing line L.A.M.B. which she is often seen wearing in public. Last year, she tried her hand at doll creation and came up with the limited edition doll series “Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Fashion dolls.” The name of the line was taken from the album of the same name. The line has continued to expand and now includes product lines such as cameras, baby clothes, and underwear.
Although she is often accused of mimicking Madonna’s dress and fashion sense, Gwen Stefani can still be said to have her own surprisingly different appearance. She is a style chameleon who manages to project physical images the way she sees fit for that point in time. For example, During the early music videos of No Doubt, she chose to wear a Bindi, an Indian forehead decoration that she popularized along with her bare midriff look which were quite popular during the height of the band’s popularity.
She was born as a brunette but decided to change her hair color all the way back in elementary school, dying it to platinum blonde. She has also dyed her hair two other colors for two other music videos. In 1998 and 2000, she dyed her hair blue and pink respectively.
She recognizes her role as an image model in young children’s lives and often speaks out on issues that she feels a deep concern for. In January of this year, she spoke of her concern regarding rapid weight loss. Any woman who has given birth knows what a struggle it is to lose the so called “baby weight”. Gwen admitted to working out and dieting but was worried when she found herself obsessing over becoming a size 0 again which is the current affliction affecting women mostly in show business like her. She advocates a healthy diet, an exercise plan, and patience in losing the weight. She frowns upon artificial weight loss. She also guards her private life and along with her husband, goes through great lengths to protect their family from the prying eyes of the public and paparazzi.
Gwen believes that her music should be a positive influence on people aside from being an emotional release in certain instances. She recognizes that her fan base is composed of mostly adolescent young women who look to her as their life model and she should therefore be mindful of her movements. Her rise to stardom is more of an exception to the rule of women trying to get a break in the music business. She struggled in the beginning with No Doubt as they performed small gigs and tried to bag that coveted record deal. But as a solo artist, everything was different, easier for Gwen to accomplish. To quote her music producer for the album “Love, Angel, Music. Baby”, Mark Williams in his interview for A& Interscope Records:
Gwen Stefani didn’t start from scratch. She was a known personality. People were eager to hear what she had to do. But the music had to be interesting, innovative and a reflection of whom she was. Gwen has a lot of variety in terms of her musical style and taste.
Gwen Stefani realizes that all her success are present may be considered a fluke. This is why she continues to strive for creativity and music that tends to reach across a wider base of music listeners. It is important to keep her sounding new all the time otherwise the audience will tire of her.
This is one lucky woman who has not had to battle for musical acceptance in the world. She came in at the start of a revival of an influential musical trend with her highly successful band and went on to become a big solo headliner. In all her music videos, she has portrayed a strong and capable woman who does not need a man to feel complete. Her music while with No Doubt spoke of heartbreak, recovery, and moving on with life. As a solo artist, her music has taken a more whimsical and danceable turn. With the birth of her son Kingston, her music has reflected the mother in her by incorporating elements that she knows her adolescent fan base, and other children will enjoy watching or listening to.
Women like Gwen Stefani have helped to end the male dominance of the music market. Gone are the days when women were merely portrayed as sex symbols whose music was not to be taken seriously. The diversity of Stefani’s music has proven that as long as the music is made to be fun and enjoyable, there is no music that people of any age will not enjoy listening to. She is an educator in a sense because she shows different facets of life and cultures in her music videos. From wearing the Bindi during her time in No Doubt, to the fairy tale Rapunzel hair in the video for the song “Sweet Escape” she has proven to be a diversified music artist. She is successful proof that musicians should not afraid to try something new when the chance presents itself.
“Escape Artist”. Elle Magazine Online. February 2007. May 24, 2007 <http://www.gwenstefaninews.com/interviewes/gwen-stefani-elle-magazine-interview-21.html>
Gwen Stefani. 2007. May 25, 2007 <http://www.answers.com/topic/gwen-stefani>
“Interview – Mark Williams, A&R at Interscope Records USA” Hit Quarters. April 16, 2006. May 25, 2007 <http://www.hitquarters.com/index.php3?page=intrview/2006/April17_0_0_2.html>