Why Makeup — Not Music — Is Gwen Stefani’s First Love

Photo: courtesy of GXVE.
Gwen Stefani doesn’t give a fuck if you like her new makeup brand GXVE (pronounced give) Beauty. She hopes you do, and she thinks you will, but ultimately, Stefani doesn’t need your approval to know that she put out what she believes is some of the best beauty products currently on the market. “You can fight me on this,” Stefani points at me, each of her long, manicured fingers decked out in diamonds. "I’ve never really felt as confident as I do with this project. Any journalist can come in and say, oh another celebrity beauty brand. They’re never gonna touch this. This shit is so real, it’s so authentic, and I don’t mean that in a cocky way, I just mean this is the truth."
It is true. Makeup is and has always been a huge part of Stefani's image — I am reminded as I look around Mama Cozza's, the restaurant we're sitting at, which is a childhood favorite her parents had their first date at. Across the room, there are framed photos of Stefani hung on the walls and arranged on the dining tables, all from different eras of her life. The short bleached blonde cut, thin brows, and crimson lips from the early beginnings of No Doubt in the '90s. The hot pink hair from the Return of Saturn album. Her space buns and bindi phase.
"I would always get a lot of shit for [wearing makeup]. People would say, you’re wearing a mask, what are you trying to hide? No, I just love makeup. I just think I look better when I have it on. And when I look at you, you’re wearing makeup by the way, it means you made an effort. Your art looks good. I love the creative process behind it," she says.
Even before these photos were taken and Stefani emerged into the spotlight with her unique beauty style, the Southern California native was working at makeup counters in Anaheim Plaza and doing her friend's makeup in high school.
Photo: courtesy of GXVE.
"Listen to my songs. I [have always] talked about makeup. I wrote a song called "Magic's in the makeup" 20 years ago. There’s a song called "Orange County Girl" I wrote with Pharrell and there’s a line in it that talks about how I used to sell makeup at the mall. I forgot I even put it in a song. It’s just a huge part of who I am," Stefani says. Since it's always been an integral piece of the Grammy award-winning musician's life, I had to ask — why now? Why not 10 or even 20 years ago when celebrity beauty was less of a trend? "I didn’t know you could have a makeup line. I was naive. Makeup was just there," she says.
To be fair, Stefani also had a lot of other things going on in her life. There are the six studio albums she made with No Doubt, the four she did on her own, her fashion line L.A.M.B, the world she created around Harajuku girls, raising her three children. Stefani did go on to collaborate with beauty brands like L'Oreal, Revlon, and Urban Decay, but she tells me that it wasn't until her divorce in 2015 that sparked the fire in her to start GXVE.
"When I think about this chapter of my life, which just feels fucking surreal, it’s almost like everything I’ve ever done has led up to this. I know this sounds crazy and it somehow dismisses the music, but it’s like, ever since I was a little girl, dressing up and playing and singing and then leading up to being a makeup artist, working at Borghese and Ultima II in Anaheim Plaza, I was just always a makeup person."

"Because music is music and I’m always going to do that, but this is bigger than that. I think it’s going to reveal itself. Because it’s not just makeup. It’s way more powerful. It’s a community."

Gwen Stefani on Gxve Beauty
Stefani takes a moment to collect herself. Speaking about this time in her life makes her emotional, she shares with me.
"Long story short, by the time I got to my family breaking up a few years ago, which was horrifying and unexpected and so traumatic, that’s when I tried to start picking the pieces up and that’s when I said, I want to do something. When you start to get mid-age, you start to think, Okay, how many more summers do I have left? You start to count. And you’re like, do I want to be working, do I want to be doing this?, but truly, my heart is all about what is my purpose. I can’t be this blessed and not do something to give back. I have to figure out what the rest of my life is, through prayer and just trying to really decide — what is it?"
After four years of working and developing her signature products, Stefani concluded that "it" was GXVE Beauty. According the brand, GXVE was created for the community of creative people who love makeup and find their inspiration there, just like Stefani. "It offers artistry for all and embraces the 'GXVE' and take that happens between beauty lovers when they share their unique forms of makeup self-expression," the press release reads. And the GX represents the way Gwen has forever signed her name — G and x — a kiss.
The brand launched with a series of products that are "quintessentially Gwen" and includes her trademark red lipstick shade in three finishes — a matte lipstick, a satin lipstick, and a matte liquid lipstick. There's eyeshadow quads, a waterproof gel eyeliner, two brow pencils, and an oil primer. The collection ranges from $24 to 48 and is available now on gxvebeauty.com and sephora.com. Expect more to come, because this isn't just a one hit wonder, Stefani insists.
"Music is music and I’m always going to do that, but this is bigger than that. I think it’s going to reveal itself. Because it’s not just makeup. It’s way more powerful. It’s a community. It’s just really exciting because I had an idea probably given to me by God and I just followed through and here I am today. It’s beautiful and weird and so cool... and it’s just going to be so awesome."
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

More from Makeup

R29 Original Series