Everything You Need To Know About Gwen Stefani's Past Relationship With Tony Kanal

Since rising to fame in the '90s, Gwen Stefani has proven time and time again that she's a lot more than "just a girl." The SoCal native's career includes leading the ska-pop group No Doubt, making hit music as a solo artist, flexing her acting skills in films like "The Aviator," designing a clothing line, and judging budding talent on "The Voice."

Somehow, in between juggling multiple projects and repeatedly reinventing herself — Stefani has played up a variety of personas including a bindi'd punk princess, the blond bombshell, and, most recently, a country singer— the multi-talented star has also made time for some high-profile romances. Currently, she lives a super glamorous life with husband Blake Shelton, but before the two hit it off on "The Voice," Stefani was married to Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale from 2002 to 2016.

The relationship that started it all for Stefani, though, was her romance with fellow No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal. The two dated for seven years, and it was love at first sight for the singer. Stefani recalled in an interview with Howard Stern, "I was so in love and obsessed with Tony Kanal, and he knows that. ... As soon as he opened the car door I was like, 'I love him.'"

Gwen Stefani was smitten with Tony Kanal

Before No Doubt would go on to become a household name and Grammy award-winning band, Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal were young and in love. As Stefani told Howard Stern, the two were still in their teens — Stefani was 17 and Kanal was 16 — when they began dating, and the songstress was head over heels. "Tony was my first real boyfriend and I was tragically obsessed with him," she told Variety. "I depended on Tony for so many things, like to help me with my homework, everything just to survive and live."

According to Stefani, she was the one who initiated the relationship, telling Spin that she "forced" Tony to date her. "He wasn't even interested. When we made out that first night, I think he thought it was more of a one-night kiss. But then we started going out and after the first year, I was going 'When are we getting married?'"

Even after their relationship dissolved, the No Doubt frontwoman remained attached to her ex. "When we broke up, I still forced Tony to kiss me," she admitted to Spin. "I was in denial. I might have lost the title of girlfriend, but in my eyes we were still together. For, like, a year, he didn't have to come to my house when I demanded it. He didn't have to do anything, but when he felt like it, I was there. It was horrible."

Their breakup inspired No Doubt's first major hit

Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal's breakup wasn't easy, especially for Stefani, but there was a silver lining to the split: It put the band on the music map. In an interview with The Guardian, Stefani explained, "After Tony broke up with me, I realised I had something to say." Fueled by heartbreak, she started writing what would become "Tragic Kingdom," No Doubt's diamond-certified 1995 album. "Even in that record, when you say the words 'Tragic Kingdom,' my heart still kind of is, like, broken cause those songs were about a really sad time for me," Stefani remarked on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2021.

"Don't Speak," one single off the album, became the group's biggest radio hit, per Billboard, and was directly influenced by Stefani and Kanal's rift. "I think when Gwen and I were breaking up, the lyrics [of 'Don't Speak'] then became just about our break up," Kanal shared with Complex. "Because it was so real, and we were living it, all that stuff came up in that song. That's the real deal. That's our lives, and that's what was happening to us at that time. It was a very, very intense period of our lives, and it was all put out there to share with everybody."

Despite their publicized split, the two remain friends

No Doubt's early success coincided with Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal's rocky breakup, and the split almost tore the band apart. Looking back on that time in their music career, Kanal told The Guardian, "We were on tour for Tragic Kingdom for 28 months. We were going through the breakup, and in every interview, we were talking about it so we were opening this wound on an hourly basis. It was so brutal but I don't know how we made it through."

However, by 1997, when Stefani had already moved on to a new boyfriend, Gavin Rossdale, it seemed that the worst was behind them. Kanal told The Buffalo News that year, "Obviously there's a whole past we both have behind us, and we can't deny it. But at this point, we're just two very good friends in a band. [...] Right now, all we want to do is get through this tour and make music."

Stefani seemed to echo her ex's feelings years later in her solo song "Cool" (lyrics include, "It's good to see you now with someone else. And it's such a miracle that you and me are still good friends. After all that we've been through, I know we're cool"). In 2019, the singer revealed to Billboard, "It was always so weird to have been in a band with the person I was pretty much obsessed with and worshipped. Then he broke up with me and we became friends."