She’s Not Just a Girl in the World

Gwen Stefani performs during the 2017 Wal-Mart Shareholders Meeting in Fayetteville, Ark. (Jason Ivester/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

Anne Helen Petersen does some of today’s best pop-culture writing, and for Buzzfeed News, she digs deep into Gwen Stefani  — who’s just started her Las Vegas residency, following in the footsteps of Celine and Britney. Did you not think you needed to read 7,500 words about Gwen Stefani? It turns out: you do.

Somehow, though, we’re still surprised every time Stefani tells us who she is. When Shelton was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive last year, it was treated as a moment to reflect: How did someone like Stefani end up with someone like him? Some might see the shift in Stefani’s public image as an inevitable ideological trajectory: the social liberal who, with age and distance from school, mellows into a more conservative version of their once radical self. But Stefani was never radical. She remains a white girl who grew up in the hotbed of the conservative movement in Orange County; she has always seemed annoyed by accusations of appropriation, reticent to claim feminism or the advocacy that stems from it, and has always spoken openly about her wish for a traditional family life.

Back in the ’90s, Stefani was the antidote to the caricature of the angry feminist. And if then she insisted on having it both ways — being just like the other girls, but not like the other rock girls — it follows that over the last two decades, she’s become an original brand ambassador for “having it all.” She’s evolved into an avatar of the cool, hot, successful working mom, even as she rejects the sorts of feminist conversations that have drawn that ideal into question. And she’s still less interested in being the kind of woman or the star you want her to be than the one she’s always been.

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