Amazing Grace: Grace Jones in profile
This week sees the birthday of one of the most iconic female figures in popular culture, Grace Jones. Starting her career in modelling, she later became an actress and singer, releasing ten albums between 1977 and 2008. She left her mark most notably on the 70s and 80s, but still continues to be a formidable force. Over the weekend, online Australian magazine Music reported her announcement of a third and final show to follow two highly-anticipated appearances during Vivid Sydney’s Modulations event between 22nd May and 6th June.
Before Rihanna (who’s credited her as an inspiration) was even born, Grace was high profile in the fashion, music, film, and art worlds. Beverly Grace Jones was born in Jamaica on May 19th 1948, moving to New York at the age of 13 where she lived with her grandparents.
She was spotted in a nightclub by fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez and began modelling in New York State before working in Paris for fashion houses including Yves St Laurent and Claude Montana, later featuring on the covers of Vogue and Elle magazines. She’s been the muse of artists Jean Paul Goude and Andy Warhol, her unique appearance epitomising the sharp, geometric look characterising the early and mid-80s.
Speaking to Interview magazine in 1984, she discussed her signature androgynous look, saying: “I don’t care. I like dressing like a guy. I love it. When I was modelling I used to do pictures where I would dress up like my little brother. No make-up and I looked like a boy.” At one point confessing to owning more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, Grace also counted furs as being more valuable to her than diamonds.
1984 also marked the height of her career in film; having appeared in Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, she went on to take a starring role in Bond film A View to a Kill. Both films required her to play very tough, physical characters, something she took full delight in: Arnold is reported to have complained about her being too rough, whilst she took on and performed many stunts herself.
Her fiery and unpredictable nature has been the cause of a few controversial moments: she is subject to a lifetime ban from Disney after exposing herself during a live performance, and was famously aggressive toward TV presenter Russell Harty.
In recent years, Grace has dedicated herself to her music and other projects; her last film appearance and album releases were in 2008. Grace rejected a 2010 request by Lady Gaga to collaborate on the basis that she wanted to work with “someone who is more original and someone who is not copying me, actually”, but three years later appeared to have reconciled her differences with Mother Monster to be photographed with designer Philip Treacy.
Eccentric, unique, and utterly irreplaceable, Grace Jones is a true one-off – happy birthday!