"I remember being this 17-year-old girl, in love and really excited about my future with the boy that I thought was going to be my husband and we'd have babies," recalls Gwen Stefani. "Then I learned that I could write songs and that's when my life changed."
As her fans will already be aware, the blonde bombshell has since discovered having babies and writing songs are two things that can be combined. And her successful forays into the worlds of acting and designing have demonstrated that she has even more strings to her bow.
A California girl at heart, Gwen was born in the city of Fullerton on October 3, 1969, but grew up in nearby Anaheim with her father Dennis, mum Patti Flynn and siblings Jill, Eric and Todd. Her sassy attitude may owe something to the family's Irish, Scottish and Italian heritage, but the pretty performer's life wasn't always as glamorous as it is today.
Long before making her mark on the pop charts, she studied at California State University and took on a variety of service jobs, including a spell cleaning floors at a fast-food restaurant. Things took a dramatic turn when her brother Eric encouraged her to sing backing vocals with his band No Doubt, however. Gwen would soon become the group's lead singer and develop a crush on its handsome bass player Tony Kanal.
The chisel-jawed musician, who was born to an Indian family in London, initially rebuffed the young chanteuse, fearing any romance could get in the way of the band's success. "It was pretty much an unspoken rule that nobody dates Gwen," he later recalled. "You know, you had her older brother in the band and he was real protective - it was almost like a bunch of brothers and our sister."
Gwen's charms eventually proved irresistible, though, and by the early Nineties, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea took the group under his wing, Gwen and Tony had become inseparable. Ironically, it was their break-up a few years later that provided the inspiration for one of their most successful singles, Don't Speak
, which helped the album Tragic Kingdom
to staggering international sales in excess of 14 million.
They say that when one door closes another opens and just as her relationship with Tony came to an end, new opportunities began to come her way. She was backstage at a concert by the British band Bush at the time one of America's biggest bands despite remaining relatively unknown in their home country when she first met its understated lead singer Gavin Rossdale. The rocker, who was known for his shy demeanour and good looks, soon became the new man in her life and together they became one of the A list's most glamorous couples.
Never one to rest on her laurels, even when she's falling in love, Gwen started looking for new ways to express her creative talents. The 5ft 6in star got the chance to cut her acting teeth by playing Jean Harlow in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator
, and her passion for funky clothes also found an outlet with the launch of her clothing label Love Angel Music Baby in 2004.
The off-beat collection shared its name with the singer's phenomenally successful debut album, which catapulted her to a whole new level of stardom and made her one of the music industry's most recognisable female stars.
It would seem the lass who fantasised about becoming a mother never quite went away, though. And the svelte chanteuse realised her teenage dream albeit a little later than originally planned when she and Gavin welcomed their first child, a little boy called Kingston James, in May 2006. The couple's second son, Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale, followed in August 2008.
And, despite the bold, streetwise personality she is known for, the 'Hollaback Girl' insists she is still a hopeless softy at heart. "I'm really emotional," she explains. "I don't fight with people I can barely fight with my husband, because I'll just wind up crying instead."