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The Harajuku Girls performing on the Harajuku Lovers Tour 2005

The Harajuku Girls are four young Japanese and American-Japanese back up dancers featured in stage shows and music videos for Gwen Stefani during her solo pop/dance-record phase.[1] The women also act as an entourage at Stefani's public appearances.

The Harajuku Girls are Maya Chino ("Love"), Jenifer Kita ("Angel"), Rino Nakasone-Razalan ("Music") and Mayuko Kitayama ("Baby"). The name of the group is a reference to Harajuku, a neighborhood of Tokyo. The stage names of the women are derived from Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. brand.

Asian-American entertainer Margaret Cho launched criticism of Stefani and the group for reinforcing negative stereotypes of Asian women.[2] Nakasone-Razalan has responded that Stefani was inspired by the Japanese fashion culture and felt honored to have been in the group.[3]

Contents

History

The Harajuku Girls were originally hired in 2004 as backup dancers for Gwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album.[citation needed] The "Harajuku Girls" continued to appear alongside Stefani, and were featured in the music videos for "What You Waiting For?", "Rich Girl", "Hollaback Girl", "Luxurious", "Crash", "Wind It Up", "The Sweet Escape", and "Now That You Got It". Gwen appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and introduced the dancers as her "imaginary friends".

Cast

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Maya Chino

Maya Chino ("Love") during a stage performance of Harajuku Girls

Maya Chino (stage name "Love") grew up in Tokyo. She started out doing ballet when she was three years old and also tap danced. Before dancing with Gwen Stefani, she was a backup dancer for South Korean singer BoA. She is now living in LA, and teaching Hip Hop lessons to kids at an academy called HoriPro Music Academy[4]

Jennifer Kita

Jennifer Kita (stage name "Angel/Lil Angel"), born 1978, is a Japanese-American from Torrance, California. After graduating from South High School, Jennifer moved to San Diego and studied hip-hop at Mesa College. She later joined the dance troupe Culture Shock San Diego, where she performed for two years, then joined the hip hop entertainment company Urban FX, where she danced for a year. Even though it is not yet properly confirmed, they say that Jennifer Kita's stage name of "Angel" may have changed to "Lil Angel" after Stefani mentioned "Lil Angel" in the new Harajuku Lovers Fragrance advert.[5]

Rino Nakasone Razalan

Rino Nakasone Razalan (stage name "Music"), born June 11, 1979, grew up in Okinawa. She became interested in dance after watching music videos by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson and mimicking their moves. At the age of nineteen, she went to Los Angeles to study dance. She later taught dance at a performing arts centers, and joined an all-female dance group "Beat Freaks", which competed and was runner-up in America's Best Dance Crew. She is married to Lee-J Razalan. Rino also choreographed for many Korean groups such as SHINee: Replay, Love Like Oxygen, & Juliette; f(x): Chu~♡; and Girls' Generation: Tell Me Your Wish.[6]

Mayuko Kitayama

Mayuko Kitayama (stage name "Baby"), born February 14, 1984, grew up in Osaka. She eventually moved to New York, where she practiced in several dancing studios, after dancing in Japan for several years.[7]

Criticism

In an interview in the January/February 2006 edition of Blender magazine, American comedian Margaret Cho calls Stefani's Harajuku Girls a "minstrel show" that reinforces ethnic stereotypes of Asian women.[8]

Writer Mihi Ahn said of Stefani's Harajuku Girls: "Stefani has taken the idea of Japanese street fashion and turned these women into modern-day geisha".[9]

References

  1. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/22/arts/music/22stef.html
  2. ^ ChinatownConnection.com article Retrieved on March 14, 2009.
  3. ^ J-Pop World interview Retrieved on February 6, 2009.
  4. ^ mohfire. "Love". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). http://lamb.kuuchuu.net/?love. Retrieved October 26, 2008. 
  5. ^ mohfire. "Angel". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). http://lamb.kuuchuu.net/?angel. Retrieved October 26, 2008. 
  6. ^ mohfire. "Music". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). http://lamb.kuuchuu.net/?music. Retrieved October 26, 2008. 
  7. ^ mohfire. "Baby". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). http://lamb.kuuchuu.net/?baby. Retrieved October 26, 2008. 
  8. ^ Harajuku Girls by Margaret Cho writing on her blog, October 31, 2005, accessed December 29, 2007
  9. ^ Gwenihana by MiHi Ahn, Salon.com, April 9, 2005, accessed October 10, 2007

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