Grace Jones is the fearsome model, actress and singer, synonymous with Seventies and Eighties disco culture. Her striking androgynous looks created a bold visual impact, and her chameleon like costume changes make her a forerunner to modern day pop icons like Lady Gaga. But the person behind the image remains enigmatic, is there more to her than the ferocious front? Liz Kenny investigates.

Grace’s whole existence could be seen as a rebellion against her strict, religious upbringing. She was born in Jamaica in 1948, the daughter of a church Minister. “I was born into a very religious family where everything was about setting the right example for the community and having to obey orders blindly. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio, wear fingernail polish. I got beaten at school and home, I was scared everyday”, she once said about her upbringing.

Age 12, the family relocated to New York and Grace studied theatre at Syracuse University. It was here she began to explore the possibilities that the creative arts opened to her, finding a new way she could express herself. Says Grace ” I thought I was going to be a Spanish teacher until I was 16. Then I took this acting class in school and my teacher was such an artist that my whole direction changed.”

Whilst searching for acting work in New York, Grace began to find herself in demand as a model. She also worked as a go-go dancer, under the pseudonym Grace Mendoza to stop her parents finding out.

Modelling took her to Paris, where she became fluent in French, but with her non-conformist nature, she soon began to resent the restrictions it imposed on her and began to seek another direction. She landed herself a record deal in 1977, releasing disco songs. Her image was perhaps stronger than the material, though hits included ‘Pull up to the Bumper’ and ‘Slave to the Rhythm’.

In France she met and married John Paul Goude, and they had a son, Paolo. They collaborated together for many years and the partnership was responsible for the infamous album cover for ‘Island Life’ where a naked Grace contorts herself into a demented yoga pose (with the help of a little photoshop).

Other looks have included having artist Keith Haring paint her body with tribal warpaint, dressing as a man, dressing as Marilyn Monroe, images of vampires, animals, nudity and even more nudity.

graceaccordionGrace has been a champion of Phillip Treacy’s outrageous headgear and a muse to fashion designers, such as Issey Miyake. Grace says” I was born to be a star. Once I decided to accept that responsibility I would not be placed in any mold that was limiting again.”

She became a close friend and muse to Andy Warhol, who thrived on the company of outrageous characters, and Grace was in her element at legendary nightclub Studio 54, where, luckily for Grace, rollerskating naked wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

Her marriage ended and over the years she has been linked to many a muscle bound gym bunny, most recently marrying a toyboy named Attila. Maybe he can match her muscle for muscle?

Grace hinted at a softer side when she said ” I think my act has a certain scariness because I was brought up in a scary way. But I confronted it therapeutically. When I perform on stage I become all those male bullies, those dominators from my childhood.”

She is also known for her film career, usually cast as a cold blooded villain in movies that don’t trouble the awards committees. She played May Day in A View to a Kill and alongside that great thesp Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer.

Grace sums up her style thus, “my look is for girls on the run. I’m always in a hurry. For me, sunglasses are eye make-up, even at night. Half my face is sunglasses. The other half is lips. I use four colours to do my lips. My other trademark I suppose is the hood.” Grace Jones makes grown men tremble, but her ferocity has made her a fearless artist who is unafraid to take risks, willing to forge her own path, and for that we salute you!

One Response

  1. Loretta

    Nice article. I do find Grace one of a kind,however I also see a beautiful woman, gorgeous,intelligent and not just willing but able to be herself. Vintage femininity.