As a guest on The Ellen Show, singer Gwen Stefani probably expected plenty of laughs – comedian and host Ellen DeGeneres is famous for her humor, after all. But by the end of her interview, Stefani found herself in tears thanks to DeGeneres’ words.
Music has practically always been a part of Stefani’s life. As the future star grew up in Anaheim, California, her parents introduced her to the works of folk hero Bob Dylan and country legend Emmylou Harris. Then later, her older brother Eric played her British 2 Tone tunes that blended ska music with punk.
And it was Eric who would give Stefani her chance to become a musical superstar. In 1986 he started putting together his own ska group called No Doubt, and he invited his little sister to be a backing singer in the band. Stefani therefore began her career as a performer somewhat out of the spotlight.
Tragedy befell No Doubt in 1987, however, when the band’s co-founder and lead singer, John Spence, killed himself shortly before they were due to perform a gig for music executives. Then, when trumpeter and replacement lead singer Alan Meade later left the band, Stefani subsequently stepped into the role of vocalist.
By the early ’90s, No Doubt had a deal with Interscope Records as well as an energetic following across Southern California. But their eponymous debut sold poorly, and their first tour didn’t attract a big audience, either. At the time, grunge was the dominant style, in sharp contrast to No Doubt’s ska-inspired sound.
And while No Doubt’s second album, The Beacon Street Collection, sold three times as many copies as their debut, it still didn’t give them their breakthrough. When the band’s third record, Tragic Kingdom, was released in 1995, however, it proved to be a turning point in their trajectory.
Some of the songs most commonly associated with Gwen Stefani come from Tragic Kingdom, including “Just a Girl” and “Don’t Speak.” Much of the music was inspired by Stefani’s relationship and subsequent break-up with Tony Kanal, a British-American guitar player who just so happened to be No Doubt’s bassist.
And Tragic Kingdom brought No Doubt huge commercial success as well as a handful of industry accolades. In 1997 they were nominated for two Grammys: Best Rock Album and Best New Artist. The following year, moreover, “Don’t Speak” won two nominations of its own in the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group and Song of the Year categories.
Along with her rise to fame, Stefani had also found love again. She first met Gavin Rossdale, frontman for the band Bush, when No Doubt performed on the same bill in 1995. And just as she had in the past, Stefani let her relationship’s trials and tribulations inspire her songwriting – this time on No Doubt’s fourth album, Return of Saturn, which came out in 2000.
No Doubt’s greatest success was yet to come, though. In 2001 they released Rock Steady, an album infused with reggae and dancehall sounds, thus veering from their signature style. And the album contained the band’s most successful singles ever in the U.S. – including “Underneath It All,” which made it into the Billboard Hot 100’s top three.
Once again, No Doubt received Grammy nods for Rock Steady’s hit singles. “Hey Baby” won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 2003, and “Underneath It All” was given the same award a year later. In addition, Stefani shared a 2002 Grammy with rapper Eve for their collaboration “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.”
And following the release of Rock Steady, Stefani experienced some landmark events in her personal life, too. Seven years after she met Rossdale, the pair said “I do” at St. Paul’s, a church in London, in September 2002. A couple of weeks later, they had a second wedding in LA.
Then, finally, Stefani was ready to venture out on her own – musically speaking, anyway. In November 2004 she released her first solo album, titled Love. Angel. Music. Baby. And once again, her songs provided a glimpse into her state of mind. “What You Waiting For?” dealt with Stefani’s decision to embark on a solo career and her plans to start a family, for instance.
Love. Angel. Music. Baby. gave Stefani her first number-one song in “Hollaback Girl,” a brass-laden anthem released in 2005. At the time, it was also the only track ever to have sold more than one million downloads in the U.S. It seemed that Stefani could do no wrong.
Meanwhile, Stefani began to build a family with Rossdale, as the pair welcomed the first of their three sons, Kingston James McGregor, on May 26, 2006. A second solo album capped off an exciting year for Stefani. And although The Sweet Escape was given a lukewarm critical reception, its title track was nominated for a Grammy.
Eventually, Stefani and Rossdale would welcome two more baby boys: Zuma Nesta Rock in August 2008 and Apollo Bowie Flynn, who arrived in February 2014. Stefani also worked on her third solo record as well as another album with No Doubt following the band’s 11-year hiatus.
In the midst of all her success, Stefani picked up a few famous friends, too. One of them was talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who on a December 2018 episode of her show discussed how she’d heard one of Stefani’s biggest songs before the rest of the world – and in a rather strange place, too.
The track was called “Used to Love You,” a song released just after Stefani had gone through huge heartbreak. You see, in August of 2015 she and her husband announced their split. Rossdale had allegedly had an affair with Mindy Mann, the couple’s Australian nanny.
At the same time, Stefani and Rossdale said in a statement to Access Hollywood, “While the two of us have come to the mutual decision that we will no longer be partners in marriage, we remain partners in parenthood and are committed to jointly raising our three sons in a happy and healthy environment.”
Three years after the split, Stefani appeared on The Ellen Show, and there the pair discussed the song that Stefani had shared with the talk show host in her bathroom, of all places. “It was a memorable moment,” DeGeneres recalled of being allowed to hear the audio.
Meanwhile, Stefani had her own feelings about the emotional experiences that she and DeGeneres had shared over the years. “You know what? I will always be so grateful for those conversations with you. Let’s get serious here for a second… I’ll always remember that moment,” the singer said.
And the talk show host seemingly took Stefani’s words to heart. Indeed, DeGeneres quickly became serious and heartfelt in what she said to the singer. “Gwen, you know, she deserves everything she has. She deserves this love,” DeGeneres claimed to everyone watching.
“She deserves the life that she has and the career, because she went through a lot,” DeGeneres continued. With that praise, Stefani simply couldn’t contain her own emotions. “Now I’m crying on TV!” the singer exclaimed, perhaps worrying about her makeup.
Still, DeGeneres continued with her ode to the Grammy winner. “I mean it. I love you, and I hated to see what you were going through, and you didn’t deserve it,” DeGeneres said. Stefani replied, “You’re making me cry,” to which DeGeneres eventually responded by handing her a tissue.
Then DeGeneres resumed with her normal humorous interviewing approach – but not before delivering one final touching thought. “That’s why I love her so much, because she doesn’t even understand how great [she is],” the talk show host said of the singing sensation on her couch.
Fortunately, though, things had more than turned around for Stefani. In the wake of her divorce, in March 2016 the singer had released her third solo record, This Is What the Truth Feels Like. She also came back to the screen as a coach on TV show The Voice.
And through The Voice, Stefani encountered country music star and fellow coach Blake Shelton. When they first met, both she and Shelton were married, but by the end of summer 2015 both had split from their respective significant others. Was this the beginning of something beautiful?
Yes, from there, Stefani and Shelton’s friendship quickly became flirtatious. In October 2015 they appeared together on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and viewers noted just how palpable their chemistry was. And a month later, it was confirmed that they were indeed dating.
Stefani admitted to Ryan Seacrest in November 2015 that she and Shelton had found common ground because they had both been in the midst of their respective divorces. “To be super honest, it is kind of crazy we both went through the same thing at the same time,” she said.
And nearly two years after that interview, Stefani and Shelton were still going strong. In October 2017 fellow Voice coach and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine even told Howard Stern that the pair were “so in love it’s disgusting.” Levine added, “I have a pretty unique perspective on it, and it’s real, man.”
By December of 2017 Stefani and Shelton were collaborating both romantically and creatively in public. Furthermore, they duetted on the title song of Stefani’s fourth solo release – a festive holiday-themed album called You Make It Feel Like Christmas.
Of course, a love as strong as Stefani and Shelton’s started to bring up a big question for the couple: would they tie the knot? They faced marriage rumors less than a year into their courtship, in fact, and none other than DeGeneres helped fuel the mounting speculation that the couple would wed.
In fact, during the same interview in which DeGeneres’ kind words brought Stefani to tears, the talk show host attempted to trick the singer into admitting that she was set to marry Shelton, too. “So, Blake told me that y’all are engaged now,” DeGeneres said naughtily.
“No, he didn’t. No, we’re not,” Stefani retorted. But DeGeneres wouldn’t stop her ruse. “He told me you’re engaged. So let’s talk about that,” the host replied. As Stefani laughed, she asked – possibly in a bid to evade answering any questions on the topic – “What are you talking about?
Stefani then cleared things up once and for all – or so she thought. “We’re not. We’re not engaged, and we’re not married. And he’s my boyfriend still,” she said emphatically of her partner. DeGeneres’ cheeky reply was purely to ask, “When will you get married?”
The answer to that question remains unclear. Nevertheless, in an Instagram post on Christmas Day 2018, Stefani referred to Shelton as her boyfriend when she shared that he had touchingly “recorded [a] song that [she had written]… and put it on his Christmas record.
At the same time, Stefani’s career was once again flourishing. After leaving The Voice, she went on to take up a residency at the Zappos Theater in Las Vegas, where she was due to perform for a 46-date stretch from 2018 through to late 2019.
The show, according to a July 2018 Orange County Register report, “chronicles the story of the now -year-old’s life – for better and for worse – thus far.” And, for Stefani, that alone made the whole process “rewarding” and doubtless cathartic for her at this stage.
Such an accomplishment had also given Stefani pause to reflect on all that she had achieved since she had joined No Doubt in 1986. “Life just goes by so fast. You have this career where it doesn’t feel like work, but you work hard and the passion is driving you,” she reminisced.
And all of that culminated in a Vegas residency, which Stefani said felt “very ‘end’ for me in a lot of ways, like chapter-wise.” But she also knew that she “still [had] all of this information to share with people,” which likely means it’s nowhere near the end of her career. And no matter what happens, she “feel[s] super proud” of all she has accomplished – just the way her friend Ellen DeGeneres seems to be, in fact.