Grace Jones: Why this extraordinary style icon continues to inspire

Grace Jones a true star and fashion icon

At WGSN, on the main subscriber site, we like to profile icons in key reports. These icons can come from anywhere, they can be new Tumblr stars, they can be 81-year-models, or they can be plus-size fashion stars. The common thread when we write about them is to think, is this person extraordinary, are they more than clotheshorses? This is the place where we profile the risk takers, the people who use fashion to break boundaries, who are trailblazers for their colour, size, age or just sheer grit.

So last weekend as I watched Grace Jones perform live for only the second time in my life, I thought all of the ways she inspires me. This second performance was like the first I saw, with her magnetic presence and wild costumes leaving a mark on my retina for days afterwards. There are very few stage artists who command your unwavering attention in the way that she does. Unpredictable, at once hilarious and slightly scary, to see her striking, lithe figure zip across the stage is mesmerising.

Synonymous with glamour and the taboo, Grace has been a Playboy bunny, model, actress and human canvas. Now an icon, her stylistic influence over other artists such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Annie Lennox is obvious. Her tough, androgynous look has enthralled fashion designers and photographers, directors and artists alike and her image has graced international magazines since the 1970’s. Importantly, she’s broken through some of fashion’s racism and been the first black cover girl of several glossy magazines, years before Tyra, Naomi, with the notable exception of Iman.

A rebel since her teens when she snuck out drinking in New York gar bars, she’s also barred from Disney World Florida for a whipping her breasts out during a live performance. She clearly revels in courting controversy and it’s this wild streak that makes her on-stage persona all the more brilliant and so damn watchable. As she sings in ‘Williams Blood’, ‘You can’t save a wretch like me’…

Here are 5 times Grace owned being the Superstar she is today:

Grace Jones wARHOL

–       The time she became (and definitely remained) living art when, introduced by Andy Warhol, artist Keith Haring painted her naked body with his beautiful mark-making skills to achieve iconic results, photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe.

–       Having lived in Paris (learning French in 3 months), Grace came to symbolise the Gallic characteristic of uncompromising and untameable, exotic beauty.

This advert, made by her ex-lover and collaborator Jean-Paul Goude for French car-maker Citröen, cannily depicts Miss Jones as both part-robot, part-sculpture and something of an aggressive driver…

–       In 1985’s Bond film A View To A Kill, the most accessible of her noteworthy film roles, Grace played baddie Bond girl May Day, where her intimidating physicality and dramatic expressions were again put to good use.

Grace jones Bond movie

In mannish suits, leather, snoods and other, more outlandish headwear, it’s imaginable that she didn’t have to act the moody and fierce villain too hard!

–       On visiting Britain for the first time, Grace went on the biggest chat show of the era and, during the interviewing of another guest, Grace decided she wasn’t getting enough of the slightly condescending BBC interviewer’s attention. She began semi-playfully slapping him.

This clip, from the very beige world of 1980’s television, has been played over and again and, while it seems tame by TV’s future standards, Grace made tabloid headlines with her behaviour at the time.

–       In her ingeniously titled autobiography ‘I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’, Grace explores the staggering but unsurprising sexism in the art and music worlds, deploring those who sought to use her sex to undermine the creative control of her own career. She also has an acute awareness of her bearing on the female soloists who have since followed in her footsteps but for whom she has a stark warning; “You are not off the beaten track, pushing through the thorny undergrowth, finding treasure no one has come across before. You are in the middle of the road. You are really in Vegas wearing the sparkly full-length gown singing to people who are paying to see you but are not really paying attention. If that is what you want, fine, but it’s a road to nowhere.”

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