Gwen Stefani’s fingers are bathed in ice. She has diamond rings on almost every finger. She’s wearing a striped top and jeans, but the finger bling reminds me, This is Gwen Stefani. I didn’t really need reminding, Stefani looks the same as she had since she first became ultra-famous 20 years ago. If she ages at all, it would seem like she does it backward. It’s this timeless physicality that had me, before meeting her, composing a list of questions about her beauty routine. I wanted the answers for reasons other than this interview, even; I basically aspire to be 48 years old and look like I’m Benjamin Buttoning, too.
But I didn’t wind up asking Stefani any beauty questions because we’re in Dubai and that’s kind of all we can talk about—neither one of us has ever been here. Stefani is here to play a private concert for Marriott Rewards and SPG members at the opening of The Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Dubai (one of the many perks for Marriott Rewards and SPG members who have enough points racked up to be a part of experiences like this; past partnerships have included concerts with musicians like Ellie Goulding, Demi Lovato, James Bay and CHVRCHES).
While most artists might just fly in and out for the show, Stefani is soaking up the city. Her affinity for travel makes her the ideal candidate to perform at the Renaissance Dubai’s inaugural event. “I love culture,” she says.
Before Stefani was set to hit the stage, she spoke to NYLON about how happy she is to be alive, exploring Dubai, being labeled “punk,” and the future of No Doubt.
I can’t believe we’re in Dubai! What are your plans while you’re here?
I’m here because of the opening of the hotel. I get to play tonight, and that’s going to be incredible because I hadn’t played in a long time. I didn’t tour last summer, and since then, I’ve been taking shows whenever they come around. It’s just so fun because when you don’t do it a lot, and then you do do it, it’s really exciting. Traveling the world has been the biggest gift out of everything because it just opens your heart up. [Dubai] is just full of so many different cultures coming together, and it’s just really, really fun.
What’s been your favorite moment in Dubai so far?
We went to this high-end perfumery. I thought we were going to go to a bazaar or something—[but] I love perfume so much and just all of the oils and things like that—but it was this small little boutique and this expert perfumery guy. He’s so passionate, and he knows everything. I have created perfumes before on a commercial level and at the end of the day, creating the juice was really fun and really hard because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was certainly with a team of people, but to work with him yesterday and learn about what he knows was really fun. He made me some perfume. It’s really light, really pretty. Then we went into the desert and got to go on those Land Rovers that look like they’re from the 1940s. They had no top on them. It really felt like we were on a safari. I was like, “This is so Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and everything that you see in a movie.” It was so beautiful. We got to see a falcon show with the guy that came from South Africa that’s been training this falcon since it was a baby. We went to this stone wall, and inside of it, we had dinner. There were locals that came out and did a drum dance for us. We ate lentil soup. It was just really cool.
What have you been up to today?
We’ve been here talking about tea all morning, which is one of my biggest passions. I’m such a huge fan of coffee, tea, and culture and I don’t know. It’s weird because I’ve been in Christmas mode, so all of the sudden, I feel like I went into this whole weird, crazy, foreign world.
You’ve had a challenging few years.
I did my last record, and before that, I had a really rough few years, and it was even before it got rough, rough. Even when I did that last No Doubt record, I came off having a baby, Zuma. Doing that show was so intense with No Doubt. We hadn’t been together since my solo record, so it was amazing, but I think I really physically and emotionally killed myself. I came from that tour just drained. I knew they had been waiting, and we were going to make this record, and there was a lot of pressure. We tried to write it, but it took so long, and I just don’t think I had anything left in me to bring. It has to come from within.