What Would ’90s Gwen Stefani Think Of The Woman She Is Now?

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In 1995, a 26-year-old Gwen Stefani — the singer, songwriter, and platinum-blonde front woman of the California pop-ska band No Doubt — asked the world, 'I'm just a girl, what's my destiny?' as she thrashed around onstage with her fellow bandmates. Stefani had been performing since she was only 17, a high-schooler in Anaheim, CA. She never fit into any particular clique. She wasn't a cheerleader or a hardcore punk. She wasn't a nerd or a stoner. She was just Gwen: the girl who started singing because her older brother, Eric, forced her into it. Now, 30 years later, Gwen is still singing — and defying being categorized into a specific clique or genre. Think you have her pegged? Hear me out. On the eve of the pop star's 47th birthday on October 3, it's tempting to wonder if the rebellious '90s icon would be pleased with her current, more buttoned-up life as a mother of three, recent divorcée, and host of The Voice who still puts out music (albeit of the more pop, less punk persuasion). Would the old Stefani have even liked this new Stefani? Was that girl with the red, glittery cornrows really destined to play it safe on a primetime television show with no cursing, no stage dives, and — seemingly above all else — no controversy? The gut reaction to Gwen these days is that she's too predictable, too passive. She rides horses. She wears tacky Christmas sweaters. Her image is veering toward basic — and fast. The 26-year-old belting out "Fuck you, I'm a girl!" would never approve of such a boring life, right?
But, looking back at Stefani's career, values, and interviews from the peak No Doubt days, a different story reveals itself: If you look closely, it seems as though, all this time, Stefani has actually been a chill suburban gal at heart. Need proof? You got it. Her favorite movie of all time is The Sound Of Music. She grew up in Orange County — yes, Marissa Cooper's O.C. She has said that, before she joined No Doubt, she would sit on the couch and watch The Brady Bunch — a family she apparently wanted to model her future after. And so, the cracks in her subversive, punk-rock-princess image begin to show. Personally, I remember Stefani as as the archangel of ska-punk, sporting flashy outfits and flaunting even flashier abs (just so ripped). She was edgy, off-beat, provocative — but still a chill girl who could hang with the guys. Her fresh face and femme voice contrasted with her rough-and-tumble stage presence; she was an anomaly that epitomized a certain kind of rock. But if Stefani wasn't trying to be some controversial punk-rock figure, then has she really always been this "normal" girl? In her own words, she and her band were never even cool (gasp!): In 1996, she went so far as to tell Jill Kopelman in Interview that she felt like a certain vanilla, curly-haired child star. "We were always the dork band from Anaheim," she said. "We never were cool enough or tough enough... I always felt like Shirley Temple — just this little lollipop out there."

If you look closely, it seems as though all this time, Stefani has actually been a chill suburban gal at heart.

Gwen Stefani not knowing that she is cool?! The woman oozes cool — hell, she practically ushered in a new era of what it means to be cool. Then again: Maybe, even as she's been seen as someone whose priority is breaking free from the patriarchy and starting shit, Stefani has been honest with us about who she is all along. Maybe she really is just a girl, singing about her feelings, bleaching her hair a different blonde. I don't buy that, TBH. I would rather cast her as a master chameleon — her wild-child mode one way to get over heartbreak while winning music fans, her fashion sense not nearly a complete reflection of who she is on the inside. Her sound and her appearance have always seemed in step: From her ska roots to her Harajuku days to her current country kick, her personal aesthetic seems to pivot with each new life milestone. Those around for her early days were lucky enough to to witness her rebellious period, but now she’s settling back into her more conservative roots. As Gwen's destiny has changed, so has her lifestyle (but never that signature red pout, nor the ice-blonde hair). She's as sensitive as she is tough, and that's what makes her able to stay relevant.

But anyway, getting back to the original question: Would the old Stefani be into who she's become? The 2016 Stefani is raising her children as best she can (even though she has to split custody with Rossdale); she is writing, singing, performing, and loving better than she has since she first broke out in the music world three decades ago. She is the new and improved Stefani who rebuilt her life to be bigger and better after unforeseeable heartbreak. Nope — 17-year-old Stefani would not like the new Stefani. She would fucking love her.

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