The conversation is rarely enthralling about people who are not Grace Jones. Her almost 50-year attention-grabbing mystique and effortless uniqueness paid off in enormous ways for Jones and for those afterward who look like her.
Jones was aware of the kind of attention she normally got but at the same time, it did not seem like she was ever really obsessed with challenging what her audience thought of her.
Through the music, the movies and modeling at the meccas of the global fashion industry, Jones made sure to leave the impression that became all-too-familiar by the late 1980s. She was a black woman who blurred the lines on gender aesthetics through the abundant use of androgynous insinuations.
Jones’ image as the Jamaican-born hypersexualized American superstar is often credited to Jean-Paul Goude, a one-time lover, photographer and hypeman. Living and loving within the space of the 1970s and 1980s New York art scene exposed Jones to the legendary avant-garde artists including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring among others.
Goude eventually became the father of Jones’ only child through the course of their affair. He is also known for writing about that affair in the memoir Jungle Fever and one time describing Jones as “beautiful and grotesque at the same time” in what was meant as unconventional praise.
It is tempting to succumb to the belief that were it not for her proximity to the leaders of the expensive bohemian culture in The Big Apple, Jones would have been just like any other woman with dreams of fame. Things could have even been worse because of her skin color.
Indeed, connections helped – becoming friends with the likes of Issey Miyake did help Jones in the long run. But it would be unfair to look at her network and discard the originality of her determination to become who she eventually become.
Jones dropped out of Syracuse University on an impulse of joining a play by a troupe in Philadelphia. But that decision also meant there was no more a home to go back to in Syracuse, and Jones knew this, seeing that her father was a strict conservative Pentecostal preacher.
The gamble she took on her own future is what fundamentally made Grace Jones. Such risk-taking is essentially daring to cut through the noise and distractions and get to the essence of your potential.
On this occasion of her 72nd birthday, Face2Face Africa looks at three other times Jones dared to tell us who she is and what she is about.