Red lips and cultural references: Gwen Stefani on her new beauty line

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As I sit across from her in a London hotel suite, Gwen Stefani’s hair is styled in her iconic blonde ponytail with not one single strand out place.

She wears electric blue winged eyeliner, framing her deep brown eyes, and lashings of a pinky-nude lip gloss.

We’re here today to talk about her makeup line, GXVE (pronounced ‘give’),sold exclusively at Sephora – which naturally, includes a red lipstick, the colour the star is known for.

‘Yesterday I went to the gym and I put on my red lipstick – and I looked really cute,’ she says.

‘If I only had five minutes to do my makeup, I would put on a lipstick. It brightens up the day and looks like you tried.

‘I’m really proud of the red lipstick I created, because it was one of those things over the years everyone would always ask me: “What do you wear?”

‘I love me a matte red, velvety, comfortable lipstick.’

It was where the brand started, as it was what everyone ‘wanted’ from her.

The range has nods to Gwen’s No Doubt era of aesthetic, but she’s grown up – and ditched the overt Japanese references.

The singer has faced accusations of cultural appropriation in the past, famously taking inspiration from Harajuku Girls in the early 2000s, with her image and music heavily styled off Japanese culture. She defended it by claiming ‘I’m Japanese’ after travelling to Harajuku.

So, can consumers expect to see any cultural references or influences in her new line?

‘No’, is the answer, as Gwen tells us it’s purely based on what she likes, adding: ‘There was a big “What could it be?”, and it took me two days and I realised “It’s just me, it’s everything I’ve already done, so how do I make it feel like the newest version of me?’

Though there’s so much in the way of makeup on the market, as Gwen puts it: ‘If you love makeup, there’s never going to be enough and there’s always going to be something new.

‘So the challenge for me is to make it better. I love working behind the scenes with the chemists.’

Gwen, half-joking, says that she ‘tries to get to know them to get the good stuff – I’ll send them a sweatshirt’, to build more of a relationship.

A love of makeup runs genuinely deep with Gwen – it’s not just a passing commercial fad.

‘My best friend’s mom hosted these makeup parties and so we’d go home after school and I’d want to use the makeup, and I was always putting it on my friends. It’s my passion forever.’

A cat eye is something she’s done since the age of 14, due to her love of all things vintage aesthetic – which she gets from her mum.

‘My mum grew up in the 60s, so that mod kind of thing was a look I was always going for,’ she says.

‘In No Doubt, we were really into Madness and The Specials, all that ska music. Trying to get that 80s makeup look was what I did back then.’

Even to this day, Gwen is known for doing her own stage makeup.

She says this is the drill ‘no matter what’.

‘It’s part of my ritual and I get lost into it,’ she explains.

‘I’ll listen to a prayer thing and do my makeup before going on stage every single time. It’s part of my meditation in getting ready.’

When she’s doing something like a TV interview, then she’ll go for a makeup artist, appreciating that ‘they do it better’. As she often does this same looks on herself, artists open her up to different styles.

‘I get caught in routines where I try one look and I’ll do it a whole week, then switch it up,’ she says.

‘I’ve only really gotten more open about my makeup since starting this project, GXVE.

‘But, it’s a good way to learn from makeup artists. I didn’t do any contouring, I didn’t know about different layers or makeup or techniques like underpainting – and now I’ve learned.’

Her best backstage lesson is actually very simple: wearing primer. Before this, she never thought it could achieve much, but now it’s key to making her products last.

And as for the brand’s name, there’s a story behind that.

‘When you put on makeup, you’re doing it for yourself, but you’re also doing it for the person you’re meeting,’ she believes.

‘You get ready for someone, so you’re giving to them. So I thought it was an appropriate name for a makeup line.

‘I also sign my name as GX, and have done since primary school.’

Gwen came up with the brand when she was ‘at a big turning point’ in her life and ‘had to start over’.

‘I wanted to do something new and fresh. And to leave a creative legacy – I don’t know if I’ll be doing music forever.’

Let’s hope she doesn’t give it up just yet.

These are some of Gwen’s favourite products from Sephora.

GXVE Original Me Clean High Performance Matte Lipstick, £22

Gwen Stefani wouldn’t be Gwen Stefani without a red lip – and this is her own one she’s designed.

Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush, £22

GXVE Can’t Stop Staring Lengthening & Lifting Mascara, £21

Gwen says this is a highlight from her brand.

Fenty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer, £18

When she’s not going for a red lip, it’s all about the nude tones.

GXVE Line It Up 24HR Gel Pencil, £19

The blue eyeliner Gwen was sporting when we met.

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