The sun was setting as Emily and I stood in the crowd at the main stage. It was Friday, the first night of BottleRock Napa Valley: a music festival in its third year, located in a place that’s known more for grapes and sommeliers than rock and hip-hop music. We watched as Imagine Dragons played their songs with a flurry of smoke and lighting effects behind them to accentuate the music. In the middle of their set, the elaborate lighting tricks briefly came to a halt as Dan Reynolds sang a cover of Alphaville’s Forever Young. The song choice felt a bit odd, but I didn’t think too much about it. His version wasn’t as good as the original, but it never is, unless you have chops like Jimi Hendrix (All Along the Watchtower) or Amy Winehouse (Valerie).
Fast forward to Sunday night, and No Doubt, the headliner of the festival, stepped onto the stage. Their set was filled with songs that have become familiar to millions since the mid-90’s, and with good reason. These are hit songs from a top-class band, and no one embodies the earned confidence of over twenty years of success more than Gwen Stefani. She sang with the same power this past weekend as she did when the band recorded Tragic Kingdom. She moved with the same swagger of the pre-married, pre-maternal Gwen of the 90’s.
But really I was most flabbergasted by how she not only looked just as she had twenty years ago, but she somehow looks even better now.How can this be? Is life unfair? What am I doing with myself? Several times in between songs, Gwen looked in amazement at the tens of thousands of us in the crowd and asked, Is this real?, wondering how so many would still come to see her band play. Looking at Gwen, I kept asking myself, Are you real? How does a 45-year-old mother of three look like that?
I pondered about this for a while, since that’s what we do here at A Couple Talks: ponder about shit. I came to a few conclusions.
The first, and most obvious, conclusion is that she simply makes a lot of effort to take care of herself. Gwen has said that her secret to looking good is torturing herself. This is not torture of the William Wallace variety, but a torture of the hedonist inside of us. We love junk food and calorie-filled beverages despite knowing that these things are like steroids for Father Time. We give into the pleasures of now but suffer the consequences of later. It’s a simple concept: eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and stay clean.
The second, and somewhat depressing, conclusion is genetics. Some, like Gwen, have always looked great and will continue to look great because they have won the genetic lottery. This is not to discredit those that have painstakingly worked to stay fit, but having a biological edge certainly counts for something. On the other hand, if one didn’t get so lucky in this department, it doesn’t mean he or she is lost cause; it just means that more “torturing” is required.
The third conclusion is one that often isn’t thought about when it comes to keeping a youthful look. I don’t personally know Gwen Stefani and I haven’t read too much about her, but this is what I believe to be true: she loves her life. She is driven by things that excite and inspire her, like music and fashion. She doesn’t wake up everyday to a dull existence of sitting in a cubicle from nine to five. She is kicking the shit out of life, and it shows in her youthful energy and appearance.
Most people think looks are beyond our control: we are either blessed or cursed with what our parents handed to us, they say. I’m not too sure that’s true; in fact, I believe quite the opposite: some of how we look is not in our hands, but a lot of it is. If we value the lives we lead, we will take more care for ourselves. To me, this is Gwen’s greatest attribute: not the powerful vocals, the eloquent lyrics, or the trend-setting fashion, but the vigor and drive that permeates her life, and it shows. Maybe she will be forever young; I wouldn’t put it past her.