BY NIA HUNT
A living legend at age 72, Grace Jones boasts an illustrious career spanning over four decades and encompassing her varied talents. One element that has remained constant throughout her modeling, music, and acting careers is her famously subversive fashion sense. Her androgynous looks, complemented by her regal poise, have cemented her as a pop culture icon and a symbol of beauty. She has ascended to such eminence that tributes to her legacy often feel underwhelming, especially since she is almost never discussed during Black History Month. Grace Jones is long overdue for reverence as a paragon of style throughout all of her endeavors, and this year’s Black History Month is a perfect opportunity to give the supermodel, actress, and musician her rightful recognition.
Born on May 19, 1948, Jones began her career in fashion as early as the 1960s, during her adolescence. Transcending the discrimination of the Jim Crow era, Jones was sought after by the fashion industry specifically because of her exceptionally dark complexion. After emigrating from Jamaica, Jones became so immersed in New York City’s social scene that she procured a modeling contract with Wilhelmina Models. She was instantly embraced by such prestigious names as Kenzo Takada and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, and her countenance was proudly displayed on the covers of Vogue and ELLE. Her extraordinary loveliness made her beloved among distinguished photographers like Jean-Paul Goude and Hans Feurer, and her new, elevated status granted her friendships with Giorgio Armani, Andy Warhol, and many other celebrities.
The 1970s, the era of disco, fittingly saw the launch and success of Jones’s music career. Utilizing what she had learned from her time in the fashion industry, Jones spent the early part of the decade lip-syncing to music in Paris nightclubs, flaunting garish outfits that she had sewn herself. She was finally signed to Island Records in 1977 and released her debut album Portfolio that very same year. The following year, her sophomore album Fame was received by audiences with massive acclaim, as it became an instant hit in the nighttime dance scene and charted in the United States, Canada, Italy, and Sweden. It was during this time that Jones refined her signature androgynous look, often wearing an ensemble consisting of hooded capes, fur coats, and suits.
Jones amassed a large gay following with her gender non-conforming aesthetic and flamboyant demeanor. In an era in which queerness was becoming more visible but still stigmatized, a woman defying gender norms while embracing her own marginalized (racial) identity naturally resonated with her LGBTQ admirers. Additionally, Jones frequented the famed discotheque Studio 54, which was also a safe haven for patrons of all genders and sexualities.
Jones ventured into acting during the 1980s while continuing with her music career. On the cover of her 1981 Nightclubbing album, she wore a sleek, black jacket, a look that she would recreate on the promotional poster for her musical short film “A One Man Show” in 1982. Jones landed her first acting role in 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, in which she was clad in a leather bikini to play the fierce warrior Zula. A year later she went on to play the Bond villain May Day in A View to a Kill, exuding cold deviousness in her hooded biker jacket and spandex that flattered her lithe frame. Jones’s most daring, experimental looks appeared in the 1986 film Vamp, where her white face paint and bright red wig were paired with a wardrobe that included a red, form-fitting dress and a metal bikini with a spiral breastplate atop the painted symbols in her body.
Jones’s unorthodox elegance has carried on throughout subsequent decades with endless fashion statements, regardless of the event. At New York Fashion Week 2006, she was seated in the front row of the Hammerstein Ballroom wearing a black leather Diesel outfit consisting of a black bustier, a hooded leather jacket bedecked with pearls and metal studs, and thigh-high boots. On October 30, 2013, she performed at the combined premiere of the Vogue Pop Up Club and fifth anniversary of Westfield London in a twisted, metallic headpiece, a shawl that resembled a puffer jacket, high-heeled sandals, and fishnet stockings. Most recently, her strutting the Paris runway at Tommy Hilfiger’s Spring 2019 showcase set social media ablaze, amazing many by possessing the same gorgeousness in her advanced age. She was indeed the centerpiece of the disco-influenced Tommy x Zendaya fashion show with her multicolored jacket, a golden, belted bodysuit, and fishnet stockings.
Naturally, Grace Jones has inspired a plethora of contemporary artists. Pop phenomenon Lady Gaga undoubtedly emulated and expanded upon Jones’s uniqueness, and Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox declared her decades-long adoration for the multitalented fashionista. Jones commands a regal presence with her dark skin and natural hair, and her pride in her Afrocentric features is aspirational to modern Black artists like Rihanna and Solange. Furthermore, being celebrated for those ethereal attributes signals to the dark-skinned female performers of the future that they are as beautiful as their idol and have the potential to achieve the same heights. Grace Jones still walks this earth after a lifetime of monumental accolades, and she deserves to know once and for all that she is a significant part of Black history.
Pictures sourced from Getty Image
About the Writer
Nia Hunt specializes in youth fiction and art critics. She is especially passionate about fashion and have published a plethora of articles for multiple publications. Nia brings creativity to every project and always looks forward to captivating readers with her eloquence.