GaGa and Madonna fans are never going to end their war over which artist did what first, so I’m going to let them have that debate and keep it moving.
Instead, ladies and gentlemen, let me reintroduce to you a truly original icon for the ages, the one and only Grace Jones, who at 70 years old recently shut down Paris Fashion Week with a jubilant, show-closing catwalk for Tommy Hilfiger.
For decades, the gender-bending, androgynous Grace Jones has been a major gay icon. Her career goes back to the Studio 54 days, then continued into the 1980s as she became a musical force, while at the same time establishing herself as a bonafide movie star. She appeared in blockbuster films like “Conan the Barbarian” and “A View to a Kill,” playing May Day, one of the greatest Bond girls of all time. Her filmography, though short, is a stellar commercial hit list, with one of her most memorable roles coming in the 90’s comedy “Boomerang,” in which she played a character similar to herself, the larger-than-life supermodel Strange’.
Grace Jones is too many things for words, really, so writing about her is no easy task.
She is a living anomaly, one who studied theater and languages in college but became one of the world’s biggest names in fashion, music, and film.
Born in Jamaica and raised in New York, Grace first tried modeling here in America, but her strong, chiseled Afrocentric features were a bit too much for the mainstream. So she went to Paris to give it a shot there, and her exotic look caught the attention of top fashion design houses, among them Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent. It was during this time in Paris that Grace shared an apartment with two fellow up-and-coming American models, Jerry Hall and Jessica Lange. That alone conjures up images of three gorgeous American girls gone wild in the city of lights, but actually, Lange recently went on record saying she was more of a homebody then, while Grace and Jerry were the outgoing party girls. All three turned out all right, I would say.
Today, Grace Jones is still as much the enigma as she was in her youth. In a society that is often quick to reject its matriarchs for something newer, thinner and younger, what makes Grace’s recent runway fabulosity so compelling is that she was billed on the Tommy Hilfiger show as a special guest, along with the much younger pop star and supermodel Zendaya, who collaborated with Hilfiger on the disco-themed collection.
Though perceived as a comeback, this moment of black girl magic is a continued resurgence for Grace that started ten years ago with the release of her most self-defining work, the gorgeous album “Hurricane,” featuring the haunting autobiographical single, “William’s Blood.” A sold-out world tour followed the album’s international success, along with multiple television talk show appearances, a best-selling autobiography and the electrifying, critically acclaimed documentary “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami.”
From her donning of men’s drag and hairstyles–close-cropped boy haircuts, flat- top fades and structured men’s suits –to wearing nothing at all except for the brilliant white paint strokes of Keith Haring, Grace Jones is one of the most honestly expressive artists ever to live, in my opinion. That authenticity is what her legions of devoted fans relate to and what her scores of new fans are discovering.
Get into her brilliance. Check out the gallery below and put some Grace in your face!