Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
This is the life story of one of the most iconic musicians and fashionistas in history. She’s a rebel, an iconoclast. A bit mannish, a bit womanish, a bit old, a bit young. Completely unpredictable, indefinable and wild in heart and soul. I am speaking of Grace Jones.
Although the labels attached to her: Jamaican/American/Christian/Atheist/Singer/Straight/Bi/Afro-Carribean/European can’t really describe this woman. She was actually famous and in full throttle in the 80’s when I was a kid. I remember seeing her as a kid and thinking – whoa! I think I’ll stick to Kylie Minogue.
In fact, I will be honest that was not even really aware of Grace Jones or her influence on music and fashion until a few years ago when I found the video for Slave to the Rhythm on YouTube and I was blown away by the avante-garde strangeness of the video clip and the funky, jazzy, 80’s optimism of this music. After this, I just couldn’t get enough of her.
Her biography traces her beginnings in a middle-class, high achieving and deeply religious family in Jamaica. Early fragmentation in her family meant that her and her siblings were looked after by an abusive and horrible uncle. She overcome that early trauma and with fiery determination, she snubbed her nose up to her religious origins.
Her mother lived in the US and eventually called on her and her siblings to join her there. America suited her young free-spirited soul much more than Jamaica and she thrived there. She went to Paris became a successful model, becoming best friends with Jerry Hall, Jade Jagger and many other beauties of the time.
I found it fascinating and astonishing in a way that she was able to simply shuck off the label of ‘black woman’ and just self-identify simply as a woman or a European woman, in America, which so loves to put people into categories and boxes. She talks in the book about the extreme situations of racism that she faced in America as a young model and singer trying to make it in the disco scene and getting a modelling contract. Yet it’s with a stubborn determination and strength she dresses down these men telling her she wasn’t pretty or she was ‘too black’, literally telling them to fuck right off – and it’s immensely satisfying to read!
Grace Jones with her strong, feline and almost manly look and her charismatic way of holding herself. Her fiery, determined nature was not about to be made to feel inferior to anyone for any reason at all. And the world heard that message and bowed down to her.
As someone who has struggled in some periods of my life with self-confidence, reading about the way Grace Jones moved through the world (like a bulldozer rather than a timid flower that we women are taught to be) this was a revelation and it had the unintentional affect of making me give much less of a shit about what anyone thinks of me.
This is a very empowering book for women of colour, but also simply for any woman who has a striking, unusual look who simply don’t fit the typical mould of beauty. The motto, according to Grace Jones is: be the exotic bird you were always meant to be…that you were born to be. I loved this book, if you like reading about the decadent 80’s as well from an icon who lived through it, you will enjoy this.