Editor’s note: More than 15 years ago, I drove over to Fort Worth to see No Doubt in concert. I was glad I went — not because of No Doubt, which gave a kind of programmatic concert that felt robotic and uninspired — but because that was my first introduction to the opening act: Cake. I’ve been a huge Cake fan ever since. No Doubt? Not so much. Gwen Stefani has never stood out to me as any kind of icon worthy of gay devotion … and I have to say, I feel even more strongly about that after reading Chris Azzopardi’s interview with her, below. What are your opinions about Stefani? And are they changed after reading this?
From bed in her Los Angeles home, Gwen Stefani insists she doesn’t mind doing her first gay press interview in a decade on her day off. “I love talking about myself,” the No Doubt frontwoman says, giggling.
Set to release her third solo album this spring, Stefani rang to open up about her “late in life” introduction to the gay community, the lesson she’s teaching her boys when she paints their nails and how hubby Gavin Rossdale has broadened her worldview.
Dallas Voice: You were raised Roman Catholic in infamously conservative Orange County. Considering this upbringing, what was your introduction to the gay community? Gwen Stefani: That’s a really good question. I’m going back in my brain. When did I get introduced? I think my first friend that I had was Mathu Andersen — that was pretty late in life. He’s a makeup artist that I met doing the “Ex-Girlfriend” video [in 2000], and he was with this guy Zaldy, a designer who’d eventually work on L.A.M.B. with me. Then Mathu introduced me to Danilo, who ended up being my hairdresser, who introduced me to Gregory Arlt, my [current] makeup artist.
These guys have become some of my closest friends over the years, and also the team that have helped me creatively on so many levels. It’s interesting how it feels. All the people that I’ve met in the gay community in my particular life have just been very creative people and people that have just been friends to me in a way that I haven’t had in my life before that. It’s hard to put into words. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s interesting because we can talk about so many things that we are all interested in and yet it’s different from having a guy friend or a girlfriend. It’s like having a creative partner.
When No Doubt first hit the scene, you were known for your tomboy image. Because of your style, were there times you were mistaken as a lesbian? I don’t remember there ever being too many rumors about that. I think everybody knew my story, because when Tragic Kingdom came out I had broken up with Tony [Kanal], so everybody knew that “Don’t Speak” and all those songs were about that, so I think that’s probably why [there weren’t rumors]. I was so young when all that started. I mean, I started the band when I was 17.
The way you’ve personally subverted gender norms seems to have influenced your three boys. You’ve gone with your oldest, Kingston, to get manis; also, he wore a tutu on his birthday. As a parent, what importance do you place on showing your kids about self-express? It’s one of those things where, it’s not like I don’t think about it, but they’re used to being around me, and I’m always doing my hair, makeup, nails. Their whole life is, like, sitting on my lap while I’m doing that surrounded by three gay men who are on me the entire time. [Laughs] It’s just normal for them. What I like to say is that being unique and original is what makes me happy, and I think that rubs off on them. My sons did nails just the other day, and the only reason was because their nails were so disgusting! Like, they were in the mud and I was like, “We have got to do your nails!
I literally have 400 bottles of nail polish, so they took them all out and put them all over the bathroom. We … did tiger stripe nails. I said to Kingston, “Are you sure you wanna do pink, because you’re gonna go to school tomorrow? Are you sure you’re not gonna be embarrassed?” He said, “No, I don’t care; it’s a cool color.”
I just love that. It’s really important more than anything else to not be talked into something, to stand your ground and to be able to be strong about what you feel. That’s what I like and that’s what I want them to learn — that being individual and being unique is important. Don’t be scared of that. I don’t want them to try to be like everyone else, and at that age, everybody just wants to have the same shoes everybody else has, and I don’t really like that. If they do want to, I’ll support that as well. You just want them to be happy. It’s a short life and it goes by so quick.