Gwen Renée Stefani (born October 3, 1969) is an American singer and the frontwoman of the ska/rock band No Doubt who launched a successful solo career in late 2004.
Stefani was born in Fullerton, California. Her father, Denis, is Italian and her mother Patti is of English and Scottish descent. She has a sister, Jill, and two brothers, Eric and Todd. She attended California State University, Fullerton, and Loara High School (class of 1987), where she was on the swim team. Her first job was scrubbing floors at a Dairy Queen, and she once worked at a department store. Her brother Eric founded No Doubt in 1986 with his friend John Spence, but eventually left the band to pursue a career in animation on The Simpsons. He was the keyboardist for No Doubt. Stefani became the group's lead singer after original frontman John Spence committed suicide in December 1987.
The band's second studio album, Tragic Kingdom, took three years to make. During this time, the band almost split up. The album was released in 1995 and spawned several hits, beginning with "Just a Girl". Following the success of Tragic Kingdom, Stefani became highly popular and recognizable; the tension this produced with the other members of the band was touched on by their video for the song "Don't Speak". Many of the album's songs, including "Don't Speak" and "Spiderwebs", were inspired by Stefani's relationship and breakup with fellow band member Tony Kanal. Stefani had dated Kanal for eight years until he ended the relationship because he needed more space. She slipped into depression after touring for Tragic Kingdom.
The album also spun off the moderate successful hits, "Excuse Me Mr." and "Sunday Morning", which were released as singles fourth and fifth, respectively.
Stefani met Bush guitarist Gavin Rossdale in 1996 at a concert she was playing with No Doubt. On September 14, 2002, they were married.
Stefani duets with Prince on the song "So Far, So Pleased" from his 1999 album Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic. The same Prince produced album features rap by Eve of Ruff Ryders, who later collaborated with her. Stefani's solo efforts found early success in a pair of popular 2001 duets, the "Southside" remix with techno artist Moby and "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" with rapper Eve. In fact, Stefani became the first artist in history to win both Best Male Video and Best Female Video awards at the MTV VMAs, for "Southside" (credited as "Moby featuring Gwen Stefani") and "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" (credited as "Eve featuring Gwen Stefani") respectively, both in 2001.
The first solo single Stefani released was "What You Waiting For?" It debuted at number one on the Australian singles chart and at number four on the UK chart, and peaked at number forty-seven on the U.S. chart, making it a relative American flop for Stefani. In Canada, it managed to climb to number eleven, but almost instantly dropped out of the top forty. The song was also only seldom played on Canadian radio. Even though it did not perform all that well on the charts, it was a dance hit, climbing to number nine on the U.S. dance club play charts. However, the song received little audience on dance radio, and ultimately did not peak in the top forty.
Stefani's debut solo album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., was released in the United States on November 23, 2004. It managed to sell more copies in its first week than any No Doubt album (350,000), debuting at number seven, impressive for a debut solo artist. (Although her previous status is what most likely debuted it at such a high number.) Her album was certified platinum (1,000,000 copies sold) after only four weeks of sales.
The second single, "Rich Girl", another duet with Eve, was produced by Dr. Dre. It is partly a cover of the song "If I Was A Rich Man" written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. It shot its way into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number seven, and number three on the Pop 100. It was also featured on a Pepsi commercial, starting on Super Bowl Sunday, 2005. The music video lived up to its name, featuring Stefani and Eve dancing on a pirate ship, where young Asian girls determined the outcome of their adventure.
Love. Angel. Music. Baby.'s third single, "Hollaback Girl", produced and co-written by the Neptunes, was released in April of 2005 and became one of the fastest rising songs of the year. In only its sixth week, it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making Stefani the first white, non-urban or non-American Idol artist to reach the top spot since Nickelback in 2001/2002 with their hit, "How You Remind Me". The song held this position for one month, until Mariah Carey's sixteenth number-one, "We Belong Together", knocked it off the top spot. It subsequently remained in the top ten for an additional two months. In Australia, the song debuted at number one, where it hailed for one week, selling over 5,000 copies.
When the song was released in the UK, it debuted at number eight. The following week, it duplicated the same position, confusing many. Due to its large audience in North America, critics assumed that it was a sure-fire number one. Then, in its third week, it fell to number eleven, unable to climb to a higher peak. Despite not being as successful as predicted, it did manage to sell in excess of 50,000 copies, illustrating that Stefani wasn't going to be halted so easily. "Hollaback Girl" also helped Love. Angel. Music. Baby. climb to a new peak of four in the UK, now going on to achieve a gold certification.
In May 2005, while "Hollaback Girl" was enjoying its success, speculation about the next single from Love. Angel. Music. Baby. grew intensely. At first, it was rumoured that "Bubble Pop Electric", an urban-influenced track about a classic 1980s date was going to be the next single. At the end of the month, "Cool", a happy-go-lucky pop song about a disastrous relationship that didn't result so horribly, was rumoured to be the next single. As no other song on the album was being thrown into the mix, it was evident that it was going to be one of the two songs. Finally, on June 16, 2005, "Cool" debuted on the Billboard Pop Airplay chart at number forty-four, putting a rest to the ongoing rumours.
"Cool" premiered on TRL on June 30, 2005. The video, filmed in Lake Como, Italy, sees Gwen paying homage to her Italian heritage as well as 1950's bombshells Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren, and Brigitte Bardot.
It also debuted in Canada at number thirty-five.
The release of her solo album has also brought attention to Stefani's entourage of four Harajuku girls. Named Love, Angel, Music, and Baby by Stefani, the Harajuku girls are named for the area around the Harajuku Station of Tokyo, Japan, known as a popular shopping destination and fashion center for teenagers. Following the style of their namesake area, Stefani's Harajuku girls are usually flamboyantly dressed (sometimes in a somewhat "Gothic Lolita" style). They have been featured in her music videos and press coverage and on the album cover for Love. Angel. Music. Baby., and have a song dedicated to them on the album.
However, Stefani's adoption of this component of Japanese culture has drawn criticism from some quarters; for example, Mihi Ahn at Salon.com writes: 'Stefani has taken the idea of Japanese street fashion and turned these women into modern-day geisha, contractually obligated to speak only Japanese in public, even though it's rumored they're just plain old Americans and their English is just fine... she's swallowed a subversive youth culture in Japan and barfed up another image of submissive giggling Asian women'.