The Harajuku Girls are four Japanese and Japanese American backup dancers featured in stage shows and music videos for Gwen Stefani during her solo pop/dance-record career. The women also act as an entourage at Stefani's public appearances.
The Harajuku Girls are Maya Chino ("Love"), Jennifer Kita ("Angel"), Rino Nakasone ("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., which was the name of her first album as well as her clothing brand.
In 2014 Gwen Stefani announced she would be producing an animated series that was based on the characters Love, Angel, Music, Baby, and G, a character who was first introduced in the Harajuku Lovers perfume line. The series Kuu Kuu Harajuku follows the girls, known together as HJ5, as they fight evil and try to pursue their music career.
The Harajuku Girls were originally hired in 2004 as backup dancers for Gwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album. 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".
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. Also one of the Head Instructor/Choreographer for HMA's HIPHOP Team "RIZE".
Jennifer Kita (stage name "Angel/Lil Angel"), 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.
Rino Nakasone (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 most recently appeared in the new dance multimedia production "Siren Assassins" as Queen Jade. She was formerly married to Lee-J Razalan, the manager of Beat Freaks and a fellow dancer. She is the choreographer for famous Korean boy band SHINee with their debut song, "Noona is so Pretty/Replay" and various others including "Love Like Oxygen", "Juliette", "Lucifer", and "Hello" as well as choreographing Girls' Generation's "Genie", "Oh!" and "Hoot", Super Junior's "No Other", f(x)'s "Chu~♥", "NU ABO", "Gangsta Boy" and "Hot Summer", and BoA's "Dangerous" and "Copy & Paste".
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. During 2004, she appeared as one of the back up dancers for Britney Spears's Onyx Hotel Tour.
Asian-American entertainer and comedian Margaret Cho criticized Stefani and the group for reinforcing negative stereotypes of Asian women. Nakasone responded that Stefani was inspired by the Japanese fashion culture and felt honored to have been in the group. In an interview in the January/February 2006 edition of Blender magazine, Cho called Stefani's Harajuku Girls a minstrel show that reinforces ethnic stereotypes of Asian women.
- Sanneh, Kelefa (May 22, 2007). "Rated PG, With No Dirty Dancing". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- mohfire. "Love". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). Retrieved October 26, 2008.
- mohfire. "Angel". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). Retrieved October 26, 2008.
- "SHINee Strikes a Pose With Choreographer". Soompi. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
- "The Japanese Lady In Charge Of SNSD/SHINee’s Dances: Nakasone Rino". Retrieved November 6, 2010.
- mohfire. "Baby". Love. Angel. Music. Baby. v.7. (fansite). Retrieved October 26, 2008.
- ChinatownConnection.com article Retrieved on March 14, 2009.
- J-Pop World interview Retrieved on February 6, 2009.
- Harajuku Girls by Margaret Cho writing on her blog, October 31, 2005, accessed December 29, 2007
- Gwenihana by Mihi Ahn, Salon.com, April 9, 2005, accessed October 10, 2007