The actress and singer, Grace Jones, began her career as a supermodel during the late 1970s and early part of the 1980s. She was born Grace Mendoza on May 19, 1954, in Spanish Town, Kingston, Jamaica. She is American, was raised in Syracuse, New York. She attended the Syracuse University where she studied theatre.
Signing with one of New York top agencies, Jones launched her modeling career in the 1970s. Her look being to strong for the American magazines at that time, she moved to Paris where she became a star. Her singularity, ebony skin and her electric, yet over-the-top and sometimes overwhelming personality attracted people to her like a moth to a flame.
The daughter of a Pentacostal minister, Jones seemed born to rebel against the confinements that religion, stereotyping and the role of sex would want to impose on women and most particularly on her.
Grace hit all the hottest clubs, both straight and gay. In New York, she partied with Andy Warhol at Studio 54. In Paris, she and her friend, the future supermodel Jerry Hall, partied every night at the Club Sept, one of Paris’s most popular gay clubs of the 70s and 80s. Outrageous and indomitable, Paris welcomed her with open arms.
Europe’s fashion scene seemed the place to be for a girl like Grace. She became a favorite of the European designers. The French couturiers, particularly Azzedine Alaia, adored her and made her their muse. Photos of her promoting their lines remain some of the best of the designers.
Like all supermodels, Grace Jones was able to spin her singularity into success in other domains. She has a 2 ½ octave vocal range. She secured a deal with Island Records around 1976. She recorded three disco albums, Portfolio (1977) Fame (1978) and Muse (1979). The string of club hits gained her a huge gay following. Her Muse album produced hits such as “Sorry”, “That’s The Trouble”, “I Need A Man” and the unforgettable reprise of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”. It is around this time that Warhol too made her his muse.
In the 1980’s, Grace found herself adapting to the new musical tastes of the new wave music era. She began working with Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin. Her much acclaimed Warm Leatherette album was released in 1980 and her Nightclubbing album in 1981. They including restyled songs previously performed by Sting, The Pretenders, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, The Normal, Roxy Music and Flash and the Pan. Her original tunes, “Pull Up to The Bumper” and “I’ve Seen That Face Before”, were Billboard Top 20 hits and also topped the Billboard club/dance categories in the USA.
This period in Grace’s musical life was also accompanied by an equally dramatic change in her appearance. Now married to photographer and artistic director, Jean-Paul Goude, she adopted an androgynous look, which she sports on her Nightclubbing album cover. Her low cut, faded haircut from this era was adapted by black men all around and world and still continues to be popular today in Africa. She dressed like a man and wore tailored suits. Her style greatly influenced other artists like Annie Lennox.
She worked with Trevor Horn on her 1985 Slave to the Rhythm album and then with Nile Rodgers. After leaving Island Records, she collaborated with Nile Rodgers on her 1986 Inside Story and scored the hit, “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)”. In 1989, Grace released her Bulletproof Heart album. Its “Love on Top of Love-Killer Kiss”, became a N° 1 club hit on the US charts. That hit was produced by David Cole and Robert Clivilles.
Grace’s shows and costumes were outrages. She earned the reputation of being far ahead of her time. She would perform with live savage animals. In one such show, she had a live tiger. Placed in a cage, Grace and the tiger began growling vixiously behind a curtain as if in a battle for dear life. When the curtain disappeared, Grace was alone in the cage with a slab of raw meet in her mouth, presumably the remains of the tiger!
Scenes like this came as no surprise. Grace always had a flare for the sudden and unexpected. Eratic and most unpredictable, in 1981 Grace went upside the head of the British talk show host, Russell Harty, on live television and on the set of his own talk show. Apparently, she didn’t appreciate that he turned from her to interview his other guests. So she slapped him down!
Grace Jones is also an accomplished actress. In the 1970’s, she starred in a number of low budget, sexually explicit films. Then true mainstream acting fame came along to the supermodel when she starred opposite of Arnold Schwarzenegger and NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain as the Amazon, Zula, in the 1984 cult classic, Conan the Destroyer. Known for being aggressive and no one’s pushover by anyone’s standards, Schwarzenegger complained numerous times to the director about her being too rough with him during filming. She later attended Schwarzenegger’s 1986 Cape Cod wedding to Maria Shriver. Andy Warhol was her date for the wedding.
In 1985 she became the first black Bond Girl, when she starred opposite of Roger Moore and Christopher Walken in the Bond flick, A View To A Kill. Jones’ energetic performance was widely considered the saving grace –no pun intended- of an otherwise lackluster film. In one of the most memorable scenes, Jones’ May Day flipped Bond over telling him that she preferred the top role! Grace also appeared in numerous motion films including the vampire flic Vamp in 1986 and Boomerang in 1992 opposite of Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry, Eartha Kitt and Robin Givens. She too starred as the warrior Umpatra in an episode of the Beastmaster television series.
In 1988, Grace was nominated for Razzie Award in the category of Worst Supporting Actress for the film Siesta. In 1998, she also caused great controversy at Walt Disney World when she exposed her breasts during a performance. That led to her being banned from the theme park. Not mellowing with age, Grace again made headlines in April 2005 when she got herself chucked of a train by the British police after tussling with a ticket inspector.
As an artist, her music continues to appear in movies and serve as samples to many rappers and singers.
Grace continues to make high profile appearances. In 2002, she performed with Luciano Pavarotti in a benefit for Angola. In Paris, she regularly sits front row at many a show for designers like Alexander McQueen. In February 2006, she was the guest of honor at the Diesel fashion show. She set the runway afire with her usual flare and fierceness. This has prompted many to circulate rumors of an impending comeback.
Grace Jones married her bodyguard Atila Altaunbay in 1996. She has one son, Paulo, from her previous marriage to Jean Paul Goude.
Her slapping Russell Harty polled in at N°1 on the BBC’s 2006 most shocking talk show moments. She ranked N° 19 in the UK’s Channel 5 list of “World’s Greatest Supermodel”. She was ranked N° 82 on VH1’s “Greatest Women of Rock & Roll” list.
FILMS & MOTION PICTURES
Shaka Zulu: The Citadel (2001); Wolf Girl (2001) (TV); “BeastMaster” (1999) TV; Palmer’s Pick Up (1999); McCinsey’s Island (1998); Cyber Bandits (1995); Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller (1995) (VG) (voice); “Bellezas al agua” (1993) TV; Boomerang (1992); A Reggae Session (1988) (TV); Siesta (1987); Straight to Hell (1987); Vamp (1986/I); A View to a Kill (1985); Conan the Destroyer (1984); Deadly Vengeance (1981); “Musikladen” (1978) TV; Attention les yeux! (1976); Gordon’s War (1973);