To refer to the legendary Grace Jones as “one-of-a-kind” seems trite and lazy; while that description is technically true, when it comes to her, in many ways, the phrase is simply too small—and definitely too limiting.
Through modeling, singing, and acting, Grace Jones has remained the ultimate triple threat; her remarkable career, which took flight in the ‘70s once she became an international model, has cemented her standing as a global icon.
Beyond the photographs, music, and movies, it has often been assumed who the real Grace Jones is—and in her recently-released book I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, written with Paul Morley, you get the feeling she rejoices in being an enigma.
Jones was raised in a very strict, religious Jamaican upbringing, and as soon as she could, she ventured to the United States where she could be more experimental. It would be Philadelphia and New York that had a hand in helping her naturally develop her persona and shape who she would eventually become as a businesswoman and international figure who still very much remains in control of her brand.
Jones, through her encyclopedic knowledge of icons and innovators in the fashion industry, discusses the origins of her modeling career, where due to racism in both the states and abroad, she faced many challenges and setbacks because of her unique looks and dark skin tone. She was even once told by an editor at Essence that she couldn’t be put on the cover because she was always seen with white men. (She eventually became the magazine’s cover girl due to her undeniable popularity.)
A modeling career that she never coveted to begin with led to an [accidental] singing career, although an abysmal audition with the then-little known Gamble and Huff almost kept her away from the microphone altogether. Eventually, she became a mainstay at Studio 54, becoming known for disco staples like “I Need a Man”and “La Vie en Rose.”
Throughout the book, Jones regales readers with anecdotes that most will certainly fine interesting: She was one of the first to be offered to sing “Boogie Wonderland;” her forgetting to put Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards on Studio 54’s guest list is what led to their song, “Le Freak;” fellow model Iman was originally supposed to play Strangé in Boomerang; and she flatly refused O.J. Simpson as her substitute date at the Grammys because she “must have seen what was coming.”
Where the book hits its climax, especially for this generation, is when Jones boldly and honestly calls out today’s entertainment industry, referring to the “pupils” who have emulated their “teacher”: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Annie Lennox, and Rihanna. While she doesn’t exactly say she’s flattered by the mimicking, she lets it be known that her finger is always on the pulse of the industry. There is, however, the mysterious “Doris” whom Jones spends great length discussing. Of Doris, Jones asks, “Does she look happy? She looks lost, like she is desperately trying to find the person she was when she started.” For those guessing, “Doris” may or may not be Beyoncé, but with Jones, speculation isn’t necessarily everything.
Central to the book is Jones’ reiteration of how aware she is of her image and how she reveres and respects originality. To this day, she still refuses to play it safe and be boxed in any category, whether it is sexually, racially, or artistically. But while she acknowledges her trailblazing, iconic place in the stratosphere, she is aware that she must keep it moving; for Jones, “It’s time for something else to happen.”
LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.