Afrobella of the Week — Grace Jones, The Definition of Fierce

When was the first time you laid eyes on Grace Jones?

Come on, you know you remember. Maybe she freaked the bejesus out of you as a child in Conan the Destroyer.

Or maybe you remember her as James Bond’s intimidating villainess lover in A View to a Kill– as IF the aging Roger Moore could possibly have taken on Grace Jones in the Eighties.

Maybe the first time you became aware of the force of nature that is Grace was in her iconic turn as Strangé in my third favorite Eddie Murphy film, Boomerang. Seriously, she was just so perfect in that film. I loved Boomerang because it’s hilarious and sophisticated, smart and significant — and also it features two of the Caribbean’s most instantly recognizable actors sparring with each other. Jamaican Grace Jones and Trinidadian Geoffrey Holder gave that movie extra panache, for sure!

Back in junior high, Grace was described as “socially sick.” While that description certainly leaves much to be desired, Grace is certainly as um, on-the-edge and self-expressive as divas get.

If you ignore her in an interview she just might smack you in the face. If invited to sing The Little Drummer Boy on a children’s television show, she might show up wearing a surprisingly anatomically correct outfit. In 1998, she was banned for life from Disney World for baring her breasts during a performance. Why? Because Grace Jones is unpredictable like that. Does that make her crazy? Possibly.

I can’t even imagine what her performances in the Seventies must have been like, when she was on some kind of S&M punk rock trip. Fans have recalled performances where she hurled champagne bottles into the audience, smoked joints on stage, performed naked, stormed off stage and then stormed back on as though nothing has happened. Mind you, this is according to The World of Grace Jones, an internet experience quirky enough to be her official website. A vintage Grace Jones performance sounds like an exercise in insane dramatics. But despite her reputation for bad behavior, she’s still so… compelling. There’s just something about Grace.

As one of the world’s most iconic supermodels, Grace Jones was muse to many and collaborated with some of art and fashion’s all time greats. Andy Warhol and Jean Paul Goude photographed her extensively in the Seventies and early Eighties. Keith Haring painted her for her music video “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)”. In those years, Grace Jones was a fashion trendsetter, considered one of the motivating forces behind the Eighties power suit movement.

Regarding her hair, she’s taken it to the nth degree. She goes beyond the TWA in this totally random and super Seventies video clip of her getting a haircut. Just when you expect her to come out androgynous chic with the shaved head, she’ll switch it up and go full-on glamazon on you. Please check out her makeup in that video clip, it is beyond perfection.

In fact, there are so many video clips of Mz. Jones looking unbelievably fly, it was hard to decide what clip to share with you all. In the oddly compelling video for I’ve Seen That Face Before, Grace gives us a potent dose of close-up fierce all while playing an accordion and speaking French. Huh?

My favorite early Grace Jones video is Private Life, which might be too much one-on-one face time with a very intense Grace on a Monday morning for y’all. But I love the song and again, the makeup. For lessons in black women wearing blush, check that out.

My first memories of Grace were likely formed by the video for Pull Up To The Bumper. That was her most popular song in my neck of the woods, and I was delighted to find this slightly truncated clip of her performing it at the Prince’s Fashion Rocks event in 2003.

Grace was brilliantly paired with Stella McCartney’s fashions, and she absolutely kills it.

Loving the baby locks on her. Grace appears to be settled down and in love now, so I hope the rumors of her trashing apartments and torching the underside of spoons aren’t true. But you never know — that’s Grace Jones for ya.

VH1, here’s a reality show pitch — Grace Jones, Brigitte Nielsen, Naomi Campbell, and Janice Dickenson in the ultimate Surreal Life battle of the amazon women. I think I know who would win, and finally, we’d all get to watch Naomi Campbell get the beatdown she seems to desperately need.

Whether you love her or loathe her, respect her or fear her; Grace Jones is a true original. She’s the most out-there Afrobella of the Week yet!

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Comments

  1. jerseybred says:

    “Pull Up To The Bumper” was the joint over here too.
    I love her role in Boomerang, she gave birth to perfume (classic). Everytime Boomerang comes on, I only watch it for the GRACE JONES part. Oh and don’t forget the scene in the restaurant.

  2. chinkquita says:

    YES!! I was wondering when Grace would be featured. I do distinctly remember the awe I felt the first time I saw both Grace (the 2nd picture) and Iman as a young child, and I’m thrilled that she is finally Afrobella of the Week.

  3. mezzo_soprano says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU for paying homage to one of the First top Supermodels that I know of. I absolutely adore Grace Jones for all that she is. She has always remained true to herself and is one of the most original artists out there. She is the epitome of the term DIVA and I agree with you Bella, I would pay to see her on a reality show with Janice, who she supposedly had a “relationship” with years ago, Naomi and Brigitte. That would be must-see TV, for real. I can’t say enough how much I admire Grace for always being herself and not conforming to the standards set by others. I think thats why she is loved by all. Her son is in his early 20′s now and she still looks good. Thanks again for posting about La Grand Dame Grace!

  4. I saw Grace Jones perform “Put some Grace In Your Face” live at the Sound Factory in NYC back in the early 90′s and she peed on the stage…LOL

    Grace is an icon and she is the spitome of fierceness and wild abandon. Love her!

  5. thank you for the post on Grace, i remember seeing her in the early days of Ebony magazine. i could not take my eyes off of her. studying her face confirmed for me that beauty is in the bones. her face is amazing.

  6. Courtie says:

    What a great post! I have always been fascinated by Grace. I knew she was fierce before I even knew what fierce was. That clip of her singing “Still Life” was great.
    Also, I hadn’t seen that video from Fashion Rocks.
    Love it!

  7. Thanks for giving Grace her props! As a not yet out gay boy in high school in the late 70s, I was always drawing and sketching my favorite Divas: Diana, Donna, and Grace. Grace continued to be my muse many years after I first discovered her. Let’s not forget the video for ‘Demolition Man’ with all the Grace clones marching in step. She was the rare Black female that MTV played in the early 80s. That face, those cheekbones, the style and attitude…she is the definition of FIERCE!

  8. Grace defies description. I love that she just shattered the feminine beauty ideal in the 70′s. She is the epitome of all the positive connotations of the term ‘fierce’!

  9. EMPRESS says:

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU!I am so elated to see you post Grace! You have profiled the two women I patterned myself from Grace and La Josephine. They are true Divas. Lawd I can’t take it! You should see my screensaver. It consist of Josephine, Grace, Eartha and Ms Carroll but mostly Josie and Grace. Thank you so much. Oh and she didn’t have a relationship with Janice, they did a 3some with Dolph.

  10. AndSoThen says:

    I never cared for Grace, I felt she was a talented trainwreck, but I love that she existed then and is still around now, undeniably stunning lady, its good to hear she is well and has love in her life.

  11. Grace is beyond fierce, but despite all of her considerable swagger my favorite clip of her I saw quite by accident many years ago. She was on British comedian Ruby Wax’s show, and they’re in a restroom putting on makeup and just chatting like girlfriends–all her armor is off, and she just came across as this wonderfully fun, sexy, adult woman with whom you’d love to chat about girly things like makeup. I’ve never seen a clip or mention of it since, but it made me want to write a screenplay for Grace to capture the breadth of her persona (and I’m not a screenwriter). I almost hate Strangé for the way that role overdetermined her–certainly for at least a generation (although the restaurant scene–which she ad-libbed–was priceless).

  12. afrobello says:

    I will always be a slave to her rhythm! Seeing her at the AIDS dance-a-thon in the late 90′s was quite an experience. Strangé rules!

  13. I just screamed aloud. You reminded me of my childhood fear of this woman. I will now face said fear and read this post. Thank you afrobella, for make up tips, hair care guides , and now…phobia therapy. :)

    AJ

  14. Lovely post. Grace most definitely is the definition of fierce! I’ve long admired her originality and physical beauty. I agree with Coffy – her face is amazing. Another excellent choice!

  15. Last year I showed up to a party with my newly shorn head and not enough confidence to pretend I wasn’t self-concious about the new me. A white guy (a friend) announced in a room full of white people that I looked like Grace Jones. I was shocked and revulsed because my immediate image of GJ was the frightening character she played in James Bond. Fast forward a year, several inches of hair, and re-watching Boomerang later, and I feel like being compared to GJ is a compliment! She is a magnificant creature with a striking face and I adore her. Fave memory from Boomerang is when she rubs her panties in the scientist’s face. “That is the essence of Strange!” Priceless.

  16. Hi! Just wanted to let you know I went natural again. I posted the pic on my blog. I was trying to hold on to my relaxed ends and struggling to keep my transition style tight.

    This weekend I cut it out and I feel so free.

    I’ll definitely be checking your spot for product advice since I’m back.

  17. LBellatrix says:

    In your YMIB interview you say that Nubian women need to embrace and enhance their natural beauty. Grace Jones is and has always been the perfect example of what happens when you work with what you’ve got instead of trying to conform to everyone else.

    As a dark-skinned sister who’s never lived outside of the Midwest (but has often traveled outside of it, thankfully!), I have always looked up to Grace Jones, not just because of her beauty but because of her eagerness to explore all that the world has to offer. I tell people that I’m somewhat jaded by celebrities and don’t get too hot and bothered over them, but if I saw Grace Jones I might just pass out.

    THANK YOU for making one of my inspirations your Afrobella of the Week! :)

  18. JUstMYwOrD says:

    Although I can note Grace’s accomplishments, there was more to cringe over than to applaud. So am I missing something here? I was always taught that beauty was an inner quality that was supposed to shine through to the outward. Last I checked peeing on stages and other crude behaviors/foul language hardly epitimize beauty. As a mother of three very beautiful and distinctly different little girls, I encourage my daughters to identify what is beautiful in themselves as well as others. In the same respect I don’t mince words over the areas where they need to grow either. I said that to say this, if I were to add this kind of behavior to the list of what is an appropriate form of expression, well then myself and many other parents, teachers, etc., should just throw away their better judgement and just let kids express every thought that comes into their mind–if their is no such thing as tasteless and inappropriate behavior, what’s the point of parental guidance, teachers, or even laws for that matter? I understand art is all about freedom and expression, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, as a natural born gifted artist, I do not believe that all expression is art. Expression in it’s purest forms, was not to just be heard, but to be understood, and for many true artists that is still what its all about. There’s nothing more frustrating than pouring you heart into a project only to see that people just don’t get it–case and point Van Gogh. But still a line has to be drawn between creativity and just plain old crude behavior. Art should make a statement relative to those veiwing it and should be used to inspire others to reach deep withing themselves to give something back to others. Art is a gift and shouldn’t be mistreated,abused, or slandered. Although I commend Grace Jones for being a trail blazer in her day, and sculpting a place for her beauty in a world that was resistant to challenging the status quo, there’s not much else I appreciated about her expression and found much of her untamed and obnoxious behavior comparible to that of a toddler, but at least in the toddler’s case, they don’t know any better.

  19. JUstMYwOrD says:

    That being said, Afobella I still admire your ability to see things in a glass half full kind of way–it’s just that from what I remember, Grace Jones was the product of a christian home and didn’t just begin defying the status quo of a narrow minded society, she defied any and everything there was to defy even plain old common sense and sensibility (should that be commended too?), Primarily her defiance was targeted towards her parents upbringing, from what I recall—which pulls this conversation into a completely different direction, bringing into question whether or not strict rules can literally make your kids throw away discipline all together and just become buck wild! To me, that’s what Grace is, a tragic case of a beautiful girl who just went buck wild. All I’m saying is yes self expression and inner beauty should be encouraged for all, but when it comes to expression, we’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

  20. JUstMYwOrD says:

    Sorry, Afrobella, I mispelled your name up there :)

  21. Grace Jones is THE diva!!! LOVE HER!!!

  22. Great Post bella and awesome choice!! Grace Jones kicks ass!!

  23. knitnbytch says:

    She looks fabulous at 58! She really did kill it in the video clip!

  24. You mentioned so many things about GJ that are beautiful, but no one gave a shout out about HER SKIN. To put THAT flawless, gorgeous skin on top of THOSE cheekbones and stack it on THOSE LEGS…whew! God was really doing his thing with GJ!

    “Pull Up to My Bumper” is still the jam. I used to work at Starbucks, and I knew the company was growing up when I heard THAT on one of our HearMusic discs!

  25. Some one may have already stated this but, did you know she’s the famous pastor Noel Jones’ sister. That girl was fierce!

  26. She’s also on Lil Kim’s NOTORIUS K.I.M. album…loves her!

  27. Pia Small says:

    Grace Jones is unstoppable! That woman mixed femininity and fierceness with master skill. Thanks for the clip, that was a real treat!

  28. sidekick says:

    Love Love Love Grace Jones!!!

  29. “(should that be commended too?),”

    Yes, that should be commended as well because without her defying your interpretation of good sense, Black women would never have been recognized or accepted in the fashion world. Without her, there would be no Tyra, No Noami, No Beyonce, No Rihanna. Grace was fearless and because she was fearless and undefined, she allowed the possibility for others to be undefined. Of cours, you being a Christian, would probably feel more comfort in the expect roles of Hattie McDaniels or the role limitations of Diahann Carole. However, give her credit because at least I as a black woman was allowed individuality. Individuality that is slowly being destroyed and returned to the role of sapphire.
    Climb out of your ivory tower and join the rest of us in the moat below because being a christian, doesn’t make you any better than she is, when you use it to judge.
    If you want to get technical, Noah was a drunkard, Solomon was a whore, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and I could go on. Don’t be such a hypocrite!

  30. I first saw Grace on Wolfman Jack’s midnight Special in the late 70′s. She commanded attention as she performed “I’VE GOT TO LIVE OR DIE”.The next song was “LA VIE IN ROSE”. I caught her live in conceert twice; Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A, 1982, where I placed a magnificent hat on her head. And Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. @ 1998; I was in the back of the packed house and started singing at the top of my lungs, “I”M WHAT YOU WANT…I”M WHAT YOU NEED”. As the people turned around to see where the singing was coming from, I squeezed my way through them and ended up front and center in no time flat.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] respect and Afrobella love to Grace Jones. She remains the very definition of fierce. If you want to channel some of that energy, get yourself a Grace tee from Cut It Out Apparel. And [...]

  2. [...] respect and Afrobella love to Grace Jones. She remains the very definition of fierce. If you want to channel some of that energy, get yourself a Grace tee from Cut It Out Apparel. And [...]

  3. [...] Jones is a beauty icon for many reasons – she is one of my major beauty influences, in fact. And this iconic image cements exactly why. She’s always been a genius collaborator, an [...]

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