Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grace Jones: the Original Femdom Icon

Grace Jones: “God, I’m scary. I’m scaring myself. It’s great! That’s beautiful.”

Today is the birthday of Grace Jones. The model, actress, singer and style icon, born May 19, 1948, is one of the most iconic women I know. About three weeks ago I accepted a challenge about how you can link almost anything to kink. The topic I choose was roses and at some point it became kind of personal and I didn't finish the post. Red string of faith and so on, which Grace Jones turns out to be part of.

grace jones classic look

Iconic
If anyone qualifies as the quintessential femdom icon it is Grace Jones. The only reason she never became one is timing. Born in an age before the word femdom came in vogue, a time where a candid confession of how you enjoyed BDSM was a sure way to be carried of to the isolation ward - securely strapped down obviously - Grace Jones stood out then as she still does today.

Information on Grace Jones is scant. Most of it gets recycled over and over again. One snippet that I love is the rumour about how Arnold Schwarzenegger complained she was "too tough" during the filming of Conan The Destroyer. Few people can add that to their resume, but despite these amusing stories Grace Jones remains an enigma. Her autobiography is forthcoming this Autumn, don't expect it to lift the mystique of a woman who considers herself scary.

grace jones by william yang 1988
Grace Jones by William Yang (1988)

I like my women wild, a lot wilder than most men. It is something that has nothing to do with kink, I'm mildly kinky at best compared to others. It is about finding compatible partners, being bored easily, the joys of an adrenaline rush and several parts thrill-seeking. Unfortunately there are not that many wild women of the kind I like out there. Almost every girl I've ever met thinks of herself as a wild one, but for most of them it is just a label. As for the real wild ones: being a nutter isn't the same as being wild. Wild yet smart - smart is so sexy - that's the killer combination I'm looking for. Grace Jones is wild and ticks all the relevant boxes but perhaps a bit too wild for me. Yet she manages to combine a wild exterior with a shrewd and controlled personality, an extremely rare yet highly attractive combination. Oh yeah: her visual aesthetics are breath-taking, but that is just an afterthought.

grace jones, smiling, swimming
A smile: a woman's most dangerous weapon,
even if you're supposed to be scary.

Of course she is too much to handle for me, just look at all those legendary stories that surround her. In 1983 she appears on a talk show. Feeling left out of the conversation she starts slapping the host. Guess that was a first for the BBC as well.

Born on Jamaica, she was initially destined to become a school teacher. Poor pupils, it reminds me of the final scene in Weird Science. After moving to New York, she turns to modelling. Not everybody appreciates her beauty, so she leaves for Paris where here modelling career takes of. When she returns to New York in the early 1970s she is a frequent and rather notorious visitor of the infamous club Studio 54. In terms of her femdom pedigree some of her entrées are legendary - the one where she enters the stage, holding a leash with a naked man on all fours crawling behind her - probably is the most famous one of them all.

grace jones fits a dress
Supermodel, definitely.

Singer and actress
Grace Jones' singing career took of in 1977, a little later than her acting career, with her version of "La Vie en Rose", forever one of my personal favourites. According to producer Tom Moulton, Grace Jones personally selected that track because she found it so sensual. The Icon To Be released several more records and in 1981, her album "Nightclubbing" was the source for two classic songs. "Libertango" tells about the darker side of Parisian night-life. It is a combination of tango and reggae. The track is quintessential Grace Jones, an inexplicable mash-up of menace and accessible on the outside but the longer you listen, the more enigmatic the music becomes. The other hit song from that album is "Pull up to the bumper". Some found the lyrics sexually suggestive and as usual a number of American radio stations decide to boycott it. Later Grace Jones said the song wasn't necessarily suggestive. To me that is a double negative, so in essence it is a non-denial. Or in conclusion: the song was meant to be sexually suggestive.What else did you expect?

grace jones a mayday in james bond - a view to a kill
May Day

"Nightclubbing" was her international breakthrough and while she kept on releasing albums, within a few years she took a break from singing to focus on her acting career. In 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger starred alongside her in "Conan the Barbarian". The year after that she joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the world when she played the Bond girl in "A View to a Kill". By that time Roger Moore was way too old (and boring) to play 007 which made her character May Day (born on May 19) all the more stand out.

grace jones by keith haring
Grace Jones by Keith Haring

In October 1985 she released "Slave to the Rhythm", her biggest commercial success. Initially the title song was meant for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, a bunch of guys who scared those old enough to remember with the terrors of a nuclear holocaust. Even today "Slave to the Rhythm" is one the 1980s most recognized songs, if only for the intro. And no I am not going to repeat that! Grace Jones kept releasing tracks ever since but nothing ever matched "Slave to the Rhythm." In 1987 she recorded "Victor should have been a jazz musician". It made the top 40 in the Netherlands and Belgium, but hardly anyone remembers it. Still, it is my very own favourite Grace Jones song. One can only image what could have been if she had set her sights on a career in jazz.


Smart has always been sexy
Under that wild exterior, there is a woman who exactly knows what she wants - and gets! For her first three albums Grace Jones worked together with Tom Moulton. The name probably doesn't mean anything to you but he is the man who in the 1970s invented both the remix and the 12 inch song. For Warm Leatherette she relied on Sly & Robby, a well-known Jamaican musical duo. They produced her next two albums including Nightclubbing, as well. In 1985 she made another shrewd choice when Trevor Horn, the man who famously "invented the eighties" took over. Grace Jones had him produce "Slave to the Rhythm" her biggest success to date. And by the way, red string of fate and so on, Trevor Horn also produced Seal's "Kiss from a rose."

Fashion icon

Grace Jones is not only a model, actress and singer but looking back more than anything she is a style icon. Her brand of eccentric elegance is impossible to mimic. It has grown more impressive over the years. Musically, copy cats include the likes of Lady Gaga, of whom she said:

“I’d just prefer to work with someone who is more original and someone who is not copying me, actually.”

When people think of Grace Jones as a style icon, the first thing that comes to mind are those fabulous album covers. Her unique looks and flat hair, combined with her beautiful dark skin and ultra fit body make her stand out, defying both gravity as well as time & space. Nowhere is this better to be seen than on "Island Life", her 1985 compilation album and my all-time favourite Grace Jones album cover.


Grace Jones album covers island life, living my life, slave to the rhythm and nightclubbing
Some of her fabulous album covers


Femdom
So how about that femdom stuff you promised? I am surprised you have to ask. It shines through everything she does, but apparently you missed it. Just look at the type of character she played in movies like "Conan the Barbarian" and "A View to a Kill." Remember how she dragged a naked guy on stage in Club 54 years before that? Did you ever read her lyrics or see the way she dresses? The song titles should be enough: "Warm Leatherette" "On your knees", "Use me", "The hunter gets captured by the game" and of course "Slave to the rhytm", but perhaps she meant something else with that.

Men were on their knees from the start.

The easiest way to learn about her femdom pedigree is to read her 2010 Guardian interview with Simon Hattenstone. If you are to lazy to read it, here are some highlights:

" I hold out my hand for a reproving slap. But that won't do. "That is not a slap on the hand. That's a bend over. Wahahahahahahah!" So I do as I'm told. Thwack. Thwack . Thwack. Thwack."
"You're lucky I've not got my whip! My hands were cold, so that heats them up a bit. Good for circulation. And the red wine."
"No. I think the scary character comes from male authority within my religious family. They had that first, and subliminally I took that on"

grace jones - bow down
Bow down!

On Your Knees
In a 2015 interview with disco producer Tom Moulton, he mentions how the men around her behaved like slaves in her early days:

"They were like her slaves, just looking at her all goo-goo eyed"

Still not convinced Grace Jones is the original femdom icon? Take a closer look at the video of her 1979 single "Get on your knees". In the end all the boys get on their knees for Miss Jones. Just watch the final minute of the clip, around 3:15 or so.




In 2013 The Kink Realm featured Grace Jones in their Kinky Black History Month, but the article is a bit light on content. A better article is State of Grace, published by The Guardian in 2008. Grace Jones was brought up in a very religious household, there are many bishops in her family.

'I hated my dad, he was so strict. But now I love him, because they didn't make him bishop for a long time because of me. There was an article in Ebony magazine about me with a photograph of the family around the piano. My dad wasn't in it, but the fact that it was released in a magazine ... he was supposed to cut me off, like in the Bible it says, If your right arm offends, you cut it off. He said, "I don't care, I support my daughter".

grace jones artwork
Grace Jones art work

Religion has been formative for Grace Jones, growing up she objected to the female role in Church society:

“I knew that I didn’t want to grow up to be like my grandmother. She could never say anything at all. She just lived through all that abuse in the name of religion."

Whether she's into femdom or not, in that very same Telegraph interview she suddenly expresses an interest in men who cook and wear high heels.

"She leans confidentially toward me. "It's nice to have your boyfriend cook, don't you think?" she asks. "And to put some heels on him once in a while, hmm?" She cocks an eyebrow at me. "You should say 'let me see you walk in these and feel what I feel a little bit'. It's important that the sexes understand each other. And actually if a guy has really nice legs, a beautiful muscle that can look really good, really interesting. Mmm...""

Finally there is a 2008 interview with The Quitus that kinda sums up why I like Grace Jones so much: Love for Art, Rebel, Family and Not One For Being Pushed Around.


Grace Jones mosaic



Iconic
Madonna is more famous but Grace Jones is more iconic. Just remember: fame fades, whereas icons grow over time. You will never read this Miss Jones, but you turn out to be part of my very personal red string of faith. Even though you don't scare me, nor does the red string of faith, there is so much coincidence, it becomes harder to ignore every single time. Many happy & healthy returns!


grace jones life size mural
Your own life size mural, now that's what I call iconic.

The cover of her 2008 album Hurricane features a production line of chocolate Grace Jones heads. Grace Jones was entirely cast out of chocolate, divided into 16 body part.


Grace Jones inspecting chocolate copies of herself for her 2008 album hurricane
grace jones - hurrican - 2008 album cover


In the end, Jones believes, it is fear that often keeps people from living their lives most fully and openly. So: Grace Jones: hard shell, soft interior.

"If you care for someone, you don't stop caring. You can't forget the one feeling that brought you together in the first place."
- Grace Jones

steve mccurry afghan girl near peshwar, grace jones in same pose
Iconic of a different kind.
Steve McCurry's famous picture of an Afghan girl. Look at the eyes.
On the right Grace Jones mimicking that pose.

Update
Grace Jones released her memoir - I'll never write my memoirs - on September 18

No comments :

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...