In Her Own Words: Gwen Stefani Explains the Inspiration for Her New Urban Decay Cosmetics Line

Think ska-meets-Marilyn-Monroe chic.

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

I know some people think my look is dramatic, but for me, it's simple—it's just who I am. I've always been obsessed with makeup. Growing up in the '70s in Orange County, California, I would come home from school, and my girlfriend's mom had tons of Mary Kay, so we'd ask her, "Can we play makeup?" and then we would do that for hours. I started wearing things like Dr Pepper Lip Smacker and eyeliner to school around seventh or eighth grade. I had this eye pencil that I'd burn with a lighter so the tip melted a bit, and then I'd use that on the insides of my lashlines.

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I\'m obsessed with Old Hollywood glamour and Marilyn Monroe

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Once I got to high school and discovered the music I was into, my look started to change. I was really influenced by ska, which was sort of a throwback with a retro vibe. And I used to watch the Old Hollywood movies on AMC, so I wanted to be Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. That's when I thought, Okay, I need to have a cat eye—that's how Marilyn did her eye makeup. All through high school, I wore it with a pink lip. I worked at the Borghese makeup counter in the mall, and they had this lipstick called Firebird that I used to wear. It was a really pretty fuchsia—that color was huge for me! Red lipstick is another one of my favorite looks, but I didn't even start wearing it until after high school. I can remember the first time: My grandma had bought me one of those palettes that had five different colors, and I tried on the red in the rearview mirror of my car and was like, Oh, that's the look. I love that.

In the '90s, I was into a thin, chola brow. In Anaheim, where I grew up, there were all those [chola] girls with so much style, and I did the same thin, arched brows. Looking back on it now, I'm like, Oooh—I don't like it as much. These days, I prefer thicker brows and a clean eye.

All along, I've tried to contrast the makeup and blonde hair with a tomboy kind of style. I'd feel uncomfortable if I looked too sexy. I never wore high heels and didn't even own a handbag until I was in my mid-30s! Maybe it's because I hung out with guys all the time or maybe it happened by chance, but for whatever reason, that's my style.

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(Image credit: Courtesy Urban Decay)

1. "I don't know how people put on lipstick without lip liner. If you want that sharp, defined look, you need it— especially with red, which is so glamorous."Urban Decay Gwen Stefani 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil, $20, and Lipstick, $18, in 714. 

2. "This is a very, very self-centered palette; it's all the shades I wear. My everyday color is Steady, a rose gold, and if I need a little sparkle, I put Pop, the iridescent coral, on top. The browns are for darkening my crease." Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Eyeshadow Palette, $58.  

3. "I trim my brows so they're not out of control, and then I use these two brow powders to fill them in." Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Brow Box in Bathwater Blonde, $30. All available at

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Stefani with UrbanDecay chief creative officer Wende Zom

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"The girls who work at Urban Decay are from Orange County, so their aesthetic and attitude and the way they look at makeup is very similar to mine. It makes so much sense that we would work together. It's just perfect!" 

This article appears in the March issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now. 

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Jennifer G. Sullivan

Jennifer Goldstein is the former beauty & health director of Marie Claire and co-host of the award-winning beauty podcast Fat Mascara. In her quest to uncover the world's beauty secrets, she’s gotten tattooed in New Zealand, dug up turmeric in India, harvested shea nuts in Ghana, and squeezed enzyme-rich eggs from salmon in Norway. She can pluck eyebrows like a pro and has read the FDA monograph on sunscreen labeling and effectiveness—but she still can’t get liquid eyeliner to look the same on both eyes.