Grace Jones: The standout

My Jamaican 55

Observer senior reporter

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

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This is the 23rd in our daily series highlighting 55 Jamaicans who broke down barriers and helped put the country on the world stage. Each day, one personality will be featured, culminating Independence Day, August 6.

FOR Grace Jones, the worlds of music, modelling and the movies have all been her playground.

Born in Spanish Town on May 19, 1948 as the daughter of a minister of religion, Jones grew up in a strict Christian household and has often remarked in interviews that this has significantly contributed to her behaviour later in life.

At age 13, she moved to New York to join her parents who had migrated a few years earlier. Jones soon began her modelling career in New York state, then in Paris, working for fashion houses such as Yves St Laurent and Kenzo, and appearing on the covers of Elle and Vogue. She worked with photographers such as Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Hans Feurer, and became known for her distinctive, androgynous appearance and bold features.

In 1977, Jones secured a record deal with Island Records, initially becoming a star of New York City's Studio 54-centred disco scene. In the early 1980s, she moved toward a new wave style that drew on reggae, funk, post-punk, and pop music, frequently collaborating with both the graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude and the musical duo Sly and Robbie. Her most popular albums include Warm Leatherette (1980), Nightclubbing (1981), and Slave to the Rhythm (1985). She scored Top 40 entries on the UK Singles Chart with Pull Up to the Bumper, I've Seen That Face Before, Private Life, and Slave to the Rhythm.

Hollywood would soon come calling. It started slowly with a number of low-budget flicks. By 1984 she made it mainstream in the fantasy drama Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. The following year she was cast as a Bond girl in the James Bond movie A View to a Kill. In 1986 she played a vampire in Vamp, and acted in and contributed a song to the 1992 Eddie Murphy film Boomerang.

Jones continues to shock and thrill audiences. In 2012, she earned a new legion of fans when she performed at the the Diamond Jubilee concert in honour of Britiain's Queen Elizabeth II. While singing Slave To The Rhythm, Jones performed with a hula hoop for the entire four minutes of the track.




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