, 2019-11-19 08:00:00,
Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images
If you were of conscious mind in the mid-aughts, you might remember when Gwen Stefani was obsessed with Japanese culture. So much, in fact, that she enlisted four “Harajuku girls” to be her backup dancers in music videos and on tour, while also accompanying her to various public appearances.
The girls — four dancers named Jennifer Kita, Rino Nakasone, Mayuko Kitayama, and Maya Chino — were also given nicknames after the title of Stefani’s album, and apparently contractually obligated to only speak Japanese in public. Stefani sang about them in her single, “Rich Girl,” (as pointed out by Vice in 2018): “I’d get me four Harajuku girls to (uh huh) / Inspire me and they’d come to my rescue / I’d dress them wicked, I’d give them names (yeah) / Love, angel, music, baby / Hurry up and come and save me.”
Now, this was 2004, and it was a different time back then. The presence of a white woman basically using four Asian women as ornamental props didn’t cause much of an uproar. But some people noticed. Comedian Margaret Cho spoke out at the time, saying, “I want to like them, and I want to think they are great, but I am not sure if I can. I mean, racial stereotypes are really cute sometimes, and I don’t want to bum everyone out by pointing out the minstrel show.”…
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