Today at work, I was flipping through a magazine while waiting for the guy from IT to come replace the toner in the 8th floor copy machine. I was pleasantly surprised to see Gwen Stefani—ska princess, mommy of two, and lifestyle guru—staring back at me, her Marilyn Monroe-hued hair glowing against the already glossy pages of the style section. Then, I took a good hard look at myself in the reflective surface of the microwave in the copy room. I replayed the lyrics of No Doubt’s “Staring Contest” in my brain a few times. (Such a cute girl/I’m so jealous/I wish I looked exactly like her./What’s it like to have that body?/I’m gawking while I wonder.) And it got me thinking: What makes Gwen Stefani so freaking cool?
5. Never, EVER leave home without your red lipstick.
I cannot tell you how many times this little trick has saved my life. Impromptu job interview? Check. Realizing that your ex and his new girlfriend are behind you in line at Starbucks? Double check. Silly photo shoot with your best friend in Central Park? Double, triple check.
Having that extra boost of confidence that only the reddest of lip hues can give you can be all that you need to overcome an obstacle, or remind you to unleash your inner wild child.
4. When life hands you Tony Kanal, make a chart-topping record out of it.
Here’s what my last break-up looked like: Me, my Han Solo pajama bottoms, a pint of Rocky Road, and a fifth of Sailor Jerry’s. Not pretty. I was a total mess. And let’s be honest, you probably would have been too.
But Gwen Stefani wasn’t. Instead of letting her roots grow out, quitting the band, and staging drive-bys at Tony Kanal’s new girlfriend’s house, she put all of the negative energy from her break-up into songwriting. Tragic Kingdom, the album born from the ashes of Gwen’s failed relationship earned nominations for Best Rock Album in 1995, went triple-platinum in record sales, and encouraged the re-birth of the ska revival. Seriously?! While I was barely able to get out of my sweatpants, Gwen was starting a revolution for broken-hearted young adults everywhere. Instead of getting mad, Gwen Stefani got even. And then some. She made Tony practice songs like Don’t Speak, Tragic Kingdom, and End It On this at every band rehearsal for months.
3. Be Healthy. No excuses.
Have you seen Gwen Stefani’s abs? I have. And I’m drooling. This girl is DEDICATED. She’s in her forties, she has two kids, and she looks like she doesn’t even know what the word “Nutella” means.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a self-diagnosed choco-holic in the worst way. I will eat a box of cookies faster than you can say “Willy Wonka.” And I have a hate-hate relationship with anything involving an elliptical. But let’s face it. Gwen Stefani looks healthy. She isn’t a stick-skinny supermodel, but she also clearly didn’t spend the weekend eating all the marshmallows out of a box of Lucky Charms like I did.
Gwen Stefani makes me want to go to Pilates. She makes me want to sample quinoa and kale and turn down the occasional cupcake. She’s like that friend that always makes you go jogging with them on Saturday morning; you hate them at first, but by the end of the day, you’re glad you got off the couch. I’m never going to have Gwen Stefani’s abs. Ever. Mostly because I love brownies and milkshakes and sugary cocktails. But you’ve got to admit, her new album Push and Shove wouldn’t totally suck to listen to at the gym.
2. Set a Positive Example for Young Women.
Meg Cabot (author of the Princess Diaries and All-American Girl) and I have one very important thing in common: we both see Gwen Stefani as a positive role model for young females.
Why? Because I’ve never seen Gwen Stefani on the cover of US Weekly flashing her crotch or flipping the bird at the paparazzi. I’ve never heard any crazy stories about her doing cocaine, or exhibiting overtly inappropriate, sexual behavior. I’ve never even seen her in one of those Stars-Without-Make-up columns in magazines at the nail salon. When she is in the public eye, she always looks and acts presentable and professional. Her fashion sense is flawless, and she really doesn’t strike me as the kind of celebrity who would have a meltdown over the wrong brand of hummus, or punch a photographer in the face.
Gwen Stefani taught me how to be “one of the guys,” while maintaining an air of femininity (see no. 5: Red Lipstick). She’s edgy and cool without being sloppy or prissy. On stage, she’s jumping around and playing with the dudes in her band, but in the world away from fame she’s always spotted playing with her sons, Kingston and Zuma. She describes this phenomenon of being a girly-tomboy in her hit single, Hey Baby: I’m the kind of girl that hangs with the guys/Like a fly on the wall with my secret eyes./Taking it in, try to be feminine/With my make-up bag, watching all the sin. It must have been rough to be the only chick on a tour bus with three guys. But Gwen pulled it off effortlessly.
1. What You Waiting For?
Look at your watch now/You’re still a super hot female/You got your million dollar contract/And now they’re waiting for your hot track./What you waiting for?
She’s in a ska-rock-pop band. She has two adorable babies and a husband, a successful solo career, two fashion design labels, and an international fan base. Gwen Stefani is the queen of having it all.
Me? I struggle to work full time, study for midterms, keep up with my writing, spend time with my friends, and make it to yoga class on time. And trust me, I do not do any combination of these things gracefully. But Gwen Stefani does. And she gives me hope that maybe someday I’ll be able to juggle as well as she can.
Never give up on your passions. Creative energy is all around us in the universe, but it is up to us to make time for it in our busy lives. And who says you can’t do it all? It is entirely possible to have a successful career, time to spend with your family, and personal hobbies to indulge your creativity. You just have to be willing to work for it.
As Gwen would say: Take a chance, you stupid ho.
What you waiting for?