On women?”

Glamour (South Africa) - - Glamour Goddess -

wen Ste­fani has been mak­ing mu­sic since 1987, way back when she was just a teenage mall rat in Cal­i­for­nia who de­cided to start a ska band, No Doubt, with her brother Eric. Gwen led the group to pop glory and then carved out her own ca­reer as a solo artist, sell­ing more than 30 mil­lion al­bums com­bined. The Grammy win­ner also branched out into fash­ion, glam­ming up wardrobes with her LAMB cloth­ing line. And yet even with her in­cred­i­ble success, Gwen, like all of us, doubts her abil­ity at times. The star re­calls that when she be­gan ad­vis­ing singers on The Voice in sea­son seven, “I had to talk about my story and try to con­vince peo­ple how good I am. And I was like, Wait a minute – yeah, I did that, I did that, I did that. Wow! It gave me all this con­fi­dence. It helped me write again, helped me recog­nise my gift.”

That con­fi­dence boost kicked off a se­ries of new mile­stones for Gwen: there’s her third solo al­bum This Is What the Truth Feels Like, her first in a decade, not to men­tion her first to de­but at num­ber one on the Bill­board 200. She wrote it in the wake of her di­vorce from hus­band Gavin Ross­dale, trans­form­ing heart­break into a set of pul­sat­ing, dance-your-butt-off pop songs. Armed with those hits, Gwen went out last July on her first ma­jor tour in years, with her three boys – Kingston, 10, Zuma, eight and Apollo, two – join­ing on the road. Mean­while, she over­saw the ex­pan­sion of her fash­ion em­pire into two new eye­wear col­lec­tions and a line of high-end kids’ clothes. And as the world knows, she also found a new love: coun­try mu­sic singer and The Voice coach Blake Shel­ton. In May, the two per­formed their coun­try song, ‘Go ahead and break my heart’ – Gwen’s first foray into the genre – prompt­ing fans to beg for an al­bum of duets.

But the best thing about Gwen Ste­fani is that she does her own thing – al­ways, every year, every decade. She has thumbed her nose at so­ci­etal re­stric­tions placed on women (lament­ing, “I’ve had it up to here!” in the 1995 song ‘Just a girl’). She has cham­pi­oned ec­cen­tric­ity with her let-your-freak-flag-fly fash­ions. And by writ­ing un­com­pro­mis­ing mu­sic, in­clud­ing her heartrend­ing new songs, she’s shown us how to sum­mon strength through self-ex­pres­sion. “Some­times to be wo­ken up again in life, you need to go through some re­ally hard times,” she says. “I feel like I got wo­ken up this year.”

Your new al­bum de­buted at num­ber one, your fash­ion line is ex­pand­ing and your work on in­tro­duced you to a whole new au­di­ence and a new love. Are we miss­ing any­thing?

GWEN I got to go on tour! I never thought that would hap­pen again.

Why not? God­dess

Be­ing a mom – I think I over­did it. The time­line’s crazy: I got preg­nant with Kingston, my old­est, on tour for Love. An­gel. Mu­sic. Baby. I stayed on tour ’til I was four and a half months, gave birth, went into the stu­dio, made The Sweet Es­cape and went back on tour when he was eight months. When I got home, I got preg­nant with Zuma. Went on tour with No Doubt when he was four months and when I got home, I felt bad. There were too many plates spin­ning.

Then you had your third son, Apollo. How did tour­ing come to feel man­age­able again?

I needed to tour for my own tri­umph! To be like Rocky at the top of the steps, like, “I just did three shows in a row. I’m that men­tally healthy, phys­i­cally healthy, strong and I can do it with three boys on a tour bus!” And I did it!

Is life on the road still as fun for you as it was start­ing out?

Yeah. And it’s amaz­ing with the boys. I thought they’d want to go off and, you know, go to Dis­ney World. But they all wanted to be at the venue, work­ing. Zuma lit­er­ally worked every night: he had a light, and he walked me on and off the stage, and opened the cur­tain when I’d run back to change out­fits.

Speak­ing of out­fit changes, let’s talk about LAMB. How did you first get into fash­ion?

It’s in my blood! My mom was al­ways mak­ing me clothes. We’d go to the fab­ric store, pick out pat­terns and it was a cre­ative process. I heard that word a lot grow­ing up: cre­ative. You should have seen my room. It was a pigsty with a sewing ma­chine. I would get stuff and then I would al­ter it. My mom would help me. But grow­ing up in Or­ange County, I didn’t know any­thing about fash­ion. I just knew about it through mu­sic, how ska bands dressed.

In No Doubt, you had a tomboy­ish look, and you poked fun at gen­der re­stric­tions in songs like ‘Just a girl’. It seems like part of the sub­text of how you dressed was re­ject­ing how a woman ‘should’ pre­sent her­self to the world.

Peo­ple tell me, “You’re such a punk rebel,” but I wasn’t that grow­ing up. I was ac­tu­ally a su­per-shel­tered, con­ser­va­tive girl. Now, there was prob­a­bly a bit of me that was like, “Why do I have to be like that?” Be­cause when you dis­cover your sex­u­al­ity – when you’re lit­tle – you don’t no­tice it. Then sud­denly you’re walk­ing down the street and you’re whis­tled at. And you’re like, “Oh, I have this power I didn’t know about.” And you also dis­cover you’re kind of prey, and you’re like, “Wait, that’s con­fus­ing”, so I wrote ‘Just a girl’. I think that song is still rel­e­vant. There are lim­its put on women, but why should there be?

Zoom­ing out, when you take stock of the past year, how do you place it within the course of your life?

Mind-blow­ing. I don’t un­der­stand my jour­ney. It’s so crazy. But one thing I learnt is, that’s what life is. We all have to go through hard times. Tragedies. Those are given to us to see what we’re go­ing to do with them. How can we give back? How can we im­prove when we have these chal­lenges?

In read­ing what you’ve said about your di­vorce, you used the word ‘em­bar­rassed’ a lot. Why did shame en­ter into the equa­tion for you?

I don’t think you’ll talk to one per­son who didn’t make it in a mar­riage who’s not go­ing to feel that way. The in­ten­tion of be­ing mar­ried is the vow, right? You want to put ev­ery­thing into it to make it a success. And all I had to look at was the huge success of my par­ents: they just had their 50th an­niver­sary. I had to work re­ally hard at mar­riage, like ev­ery­body, but ours was ex­tra hard, when you add that we’re from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, both are in mu­sic, and celebs. [Mar­riage] was the one thing I didn’t want to fail at. Peo­ple can say what­ever they want about me, and I don’t get too af­fected. But I didn’t want them to think I was a fail­ure. There’s noth­ing odd about that.

You’ve re­ferred to that pe­riod as sev­eral months of hell and tor­ture.

[Laughs] But you know what? I’m in a dif­fer­ent place now, that is the past for me. I’m in such a new place. It’s all about the fu­ture for me. Not re­ally just the fu­ture – but the mo­ment right now.

You’ve said that the process of writ­ing the new al­bum saved your life. How did it save you?

It re­leased me from that feel­ing of hope­less­ness. When I was in the stu­dio for This Is What the Truth Feels Like, it was like, I need to be here right now. This is the only place I feel good. It doesn’t mat­ter what comes out of this as far as my ca­reer – this isn’t about a hit. It’s about sav­ing my life. And it was in­ter­est­ing, be­cause I know you’re go­ing to ask me about Blake, but find­ing some­body who was go­ing through the ex­act same ex­pe­ri­ence?(blake di­vorced coun­try singer Mi­randa Lam­bert in July 2015) That was an in­spi­ra­tion. He was a friend to me when I needed a friend. An un­ex­pected gift. And that be­came an in­spi­ra­tion in the song­writ­ing.

Your re­la­tion­ship seems like an ‘op­po­sites at­tract’ sit­u­a­tion. You’re pop, he’s coun­try. You have a fash­ion em­pire, he has a ranch. It’s like a rom-com premise.

It’s def­i­nitely two dif­fer­ent cul­tures. But there are many sim­i­lar­i­ties in things that we love and our morals. It’s re­ally fun when you can learn about so many new things and share those dif­fer­ences.

Do you ever think about your legacy? The mark you’ll leave?

No. When I think of a legacy, I think of the legacy of be­ing a mom. When you’re a par­ent, you’re just like, “Gosh, I hope they like me when they grow up. I hope that I did a good job. I hope they’re gonna be happy.” The mo­ment you get preg­nant, you’re tor­tured by the fear of not do­ing it well. But I feel at peace with that right now. I’m try­ing to be pre­sent, not think­ing and wor­ry­ing about the past or the fu­ture. That’s such a waste of time, you know?

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