Find out what Gwen has lined up for her dazzling Las Vegas residency show.
Gwen Stefani spent her childhood and adolescence in Anaheim, California, a suburban girl living just a stone’s throw from Disneyland. Founding No Doubt with her older brother, Eric, the hybrid ska/punk/rock band would help propel Stefani into the musical limelight with their 1995 breakout album, Tragic Kingdom. The band’s unique sound coupled with Stefani’s platinum blonde hair, red lips and punk rock fashion sensibility, brought the singer to Rockstar status in the 1990s.
Her first solo album, 2004’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and L.A.M.B. fashion label, catapulted her into the music and style icon stratosphere in the early 2000s. Follow up albums like 2006’s The Sweet Escape and No Doubt’s 2012 reunion album, Push and Shove continued to showcase her talent, as did 2016’s This Is What the Truth Feels Like album which was undoubtedly her most personal record to date as it covered her divorce and sub sequential romance with Blake Shelton.
This summer the hitmaking mom of Kingston, 11, Zuma, 9, and Apollo, 4, is preparing to embark on her Las Vegas Residency at Zappos Theatre at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. It’s called, what else? Gwen Stefani: Just A Girl – an homage to her first single to make the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and her own personal anthem that she says still holds true today. Allison Kugel sat down with Gwen to discuss this new chapter in her life and career.
Allison Kugel: Was this Las Vegas Residency a family decision? Did you sit down with your three boys and say, “Mom’s going to perform in Las Vegas instead of touring. What do you think about that?”
Gwen Stefani: Honestly, my kids don’t really have too much of a say on what the schedule’s going to be. But as a mom, if you look at my touring for the last ten years, I haven’t really toured. In the past, I did tour for seven years. I’ve been thinking about doing the Vegas show for a while now. The Las Vegas Residency will really work for me as a mom, because it’s these little chunks of time where you can fly in and out, and it’s workable.
Allison Kugel: What does performing live give you, personally and energetically?
Gwen Stefani: Being on stage for me, I always forget how much it’s a part of who I am. I’ve done it for my whole life, pretty much. I always think I don’t want to do it. I always think it’s fine if I never do it again. Then when I get on stage, even when I’m sound checking, I’m like, “Oh My God, I love this!” I love my music, I love being up there, I love the attention and I love being able to share that love with people and get that exchange. I don’t understand why I like it so much.
Allison Kugel: It feeds your soul. You’re connecting with source and you’re in a zone.
Gwen Stefani: It’s my gift. It’s what I’m here for. I’m obviously at the end of my journey of being a musician…
Allison Kugel: Why would you say that?
Gwen Stefani: Well because of my age, and I’ve been doing it for thirty something years. It’s perfect for me to be able to do a Las Vegas show, because not only does it work for me as a mom, but it also works creatively. It’s a new challenge. It’s going to be a way to express myself and do my whole catalog of music that defines every single period in my life; all the crises and all the joys. Creatively, I couldn’t have done it any sooner. I had to have all these songs. It just feels like the perfect next chapter for me.
Allison Kugel: You’re taking the audience on a journey of your life, and to do that you have to have lived.
Gwen Stefani: Exactly! And I also think people who are going out for that weekend in Las Vegas, it’s so different from, for example, if I’m performing in Philly and it’s about Philly culture, and the audience is just coming out for that one night and getting a babysitter. You know what I mean? This Vegas show is a bigger commitment for people. They’re going for the weekend and they’re making a memory. It’s a big commitment for people, and they’re coming to me from all over the world.
Allison Kugel: And they’re going to get a more intimate experience with you than they would in a stadium setting.
Gwen Stefani: It is a much smaller audience than I’m used to, under five thousand people. It’s going to be so different and that’s something I need. When you’ve toured for however many years I have, it’s super awesome, but let’s do something new! That’s why even doing The Voice for the last couple of years was so inspiring for me. I think everybody wants something challenging and new to look forward to.
Allison Kugel: You went to see Jennifer Lopez’s Las Vegas show, All I Have. I’m assuming the two of you discussed her Las Vegas Residency. Did she give you any advice?
Gwen Stefani: Me and Jennifer, I’ve always looked up to her in the sense that we’re exactly the same age, and I remember when No Doubt was coming out and she hadn’t done Jenny from The Block yet, but she had that song out, Waiting for Tonight. At the time I was working with Prince and he started comparing me and Jennifer, and at that time I didn’t even see how I was in the same category with her. She was Jennifer Lopez and I was in a band called No Doubt (laughs). But now here we both are doing these residencies all these years later, and we’ve known each other through the years. She’s always invited me to her kids’ birthday parties and things like that. She is a crazy worker. I cannot believe how much she works! I know I do, but I look at her and I’m like, “Wow!”
Allison Kugel: It doesn’t seem human, right? Multiple television shows, Las Vegas Residency, albums…
Gwen Stefani: I know. I don’t understand it. Going to see her, and I’d never seen her do a performance live, I was studying the production of her show. The show was incredible, and she works so hard on stage. I admire her a lot and it was so inspiring to see… and scary! When I came backstage to talk to her afterwards, she comes out of the dressing room looking like a Barbie Doll. She was breathtaking on stage, but when you see her up close, it’s like, “What?! It’s not possible. You are so gorgeous!” She was just so glamorous. We talked for awhile and she was like, “Yeah, I’ve just done 100 shows…” And I’m like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of shows!” (Laughs) And she still has forty more to go. She’s really enjoyed it, but she said it is challenging.
Allison Kugel: I think you’ll find it challenging, but one of the best experiences of your life.
Gwen Stefani: It is challenging, and as performers we have a completely different perspective on doing a concert than the audience. The challenge isn’t about us. We’re going to be us every time we get up there. We may have that one night where we’re off because of whatever might be going on. A lot of times, you just never know what you’re going to be like on stage. But at the same time, we’re pretty much consistent. It’s really about the audience. What are they going to be like and are they into it or not?
Allison Kugel: What are you presenting to the audience, artistically, with your Just A Girl Las Vegas Residency? You’re also a fashion designer and you have a strong aesthetic vision. Between the sets and the costumes, how will everything tie together on stage?
Gwen Stefani: I’ve really tried to put together a show that has a nostalgic feel. The show is full of hit songs that are recognizable and take you back to that time period in your life. And of course, the real reason for doing Vegas is the costumes. I’m working with Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn who I’ve been working with now for, I don’t know how many years. They are just incredible. They did Jennifer [Lopez’s] show, and they’ve also worked with Jennifer for years. They really get me. I think there’s going to be about five costume changes, which is a lot for me considering that with No Doubt I never did any.
Allison Kugel: The title of your Las Vegas show, Just A Girl, is the title of one of your biggest hits, but it has a double meaning for you. You’re always saying, “I’m just a girl from Orange County…” Is that your way of keeping yourself grounded?
Gwen Stefani: Honestly, I think if you really knew me or saw my family and how I grew up, I am 100% the same person I have always been. When I wrote that song, Just A Girl, I was twenty-five years old, going to college, still living at my parent’s house, and I was very naive. I had a boyfriend at the time that lived at his parent’s house. I was driving one day and I’m thinking, “Wow! I really have a different position in this world, being that I’m a female.”
Allison Kugel: Did something happen that made you stop and think, “I’m going to be treated a certain way because I’m a girl.”?
Gwen Stefani: It was just more of a realization that I had. I think we all do as females. I’m walking down the street and some guy just whistled at me? What does that even mean? Suddenly, you’re aware of your sexuality and that you’re ascribed a certain value because of it. It was when that hit me, that I wrote the song, Just A Girl. Nobody was paying attention at the time. Nobody was ever going to hear the song. I didn’t even know how to write a song. It was just so naive. I guess I wanted to figure out a way to say, “This is my DNA.” And really, my DNA is I am just a girl from Anaheim [California]. I’m just me, and I’ve never been anything else. I know that’s what got me to this point, by being honest, real and sharing my story with people. That’s all we can do in this life, and I’m nothing more than that. But at the same time, by using my gift, being aware of it, trying to respect it and being confident in it, I’ve gotten this far.
Music is so powerful, and for a song like that to still be relevant twenty years later? In a way, it’s even more relevant now. We have so much going on with female empowerment and what’s our place? When I read the lyrics of that song I think, “My gosh, that must have been a Godsend,” because I know I didn’t think that up on my own. I always thought it would go out of fashion, or I’d be too old to say “just a girl” but it still works.
Allison Kugel: What’s your routine before you step out on stage? Do you pray? Do you meditate? How do you gear up to give your best performance?
Gwen Stefani: I don’t meditate. I’m a prayer. I pray, but first I do my makeup (laughs). My makeup is huge for me. I have this song called War Paint. Putting on my makeup and getting ready, there is a kind of meditation in the preparation. Makeup is art, and it’s like getting into character when I put it on. I’ve always done my own makeup for shows. And the praying for me is really important. We do a group prayer circle. In the last few years, and when I toured for the last show, the prayer is not just before, but also during [the show]. When I think about how ordinary I’ve always been, and to think that I’ve created all these songs, I don’t know where they come from. I always think that it’s got to be a channeling and it just comes through me. It’s a spiritual thing that has been given to me to share. When I’m in the music, the music takes me right back to those moments in my life. And some of those moments are sickening, you know what I mean? Certain memories are upsetting. That’s why I say this is not just a show for me, it’s my life. It’s real for me and I think that’s why I’m very anxious about it.
Allison Kugel: It’s going to be a tremendous spiritual, emotional and physical undertaking.
Gwen Stefani: And I’m very lazy (laughs). I like to not have to work out and not have to be committed to something. And I love to be with my children, of course. But it is such an amazing opportunity and they don’t just hand them out to everybody. I feel really honored to be able to do it. I’m thrilled to see who’s going to show up and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to look back on this and say, “I can’t believe I did that!”
Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl Las Vegas Residency opens June 27th at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino’s Zappos Theatre. Order tickets at https://www.caesars.com/planet-hollywood/shows/gwen-stefani.