Why We’re Covering This: Grace Jones is a hero and an icon — and it’s her 68th birthday today!
Music icon Grace Jones’ turns 68 today — and her new autobiography, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs came out late last year. Time Out: London has published a couple extracts from it, including this great one about the making of her “I’m Not Perfect, But I’m Perfect For You” video, and how her directorial debut was stunted by misogyny.
Grace Jones doesn’t take bullshit from anyone, and that’s why we love her. Take a look at these top five moments where she fought back… sometimes literally:
1. Grace Whacks A Talk Show Host In The Head For Ignoring Her
Unfortunately, the only video of this awesome incident on YouTube features a really condescending intro — pretty much exactly what Jones is against — but the video must be seen. In it, UK talk show host, Russell Harty refuses to acknowledge Grace Jones, and keeps his back to her to talk with old white dudes. When she objects, Harty scolds her as he would a child… so she acts equally childish and whomps him upside the head a few times. Ignore Grace Jones at your own peril.
2. She Recorded a Song About Anal Sex
Grace Jones has always been beloved in the gay community. Mostly because she’s badass, and has been involved in the gay scene since the very beginning of her career… but songs like “Pull Up To The Bumper” help too. With lyrics like “Grease it, spray it, let me lubricate it/Pull up to my bumper baby”, it’s pretty easy to see why this ode to anal would be a hit on gay dancefloors. In interviews, Grace Jones has denied that the song is about anal sex, but she’s alternately said it has no sexual meaning, and that it refers instead to oral sex… either way, you can tell she’s having fun with people’s perceptions of the song, and in her new memoir, she even says “If you think the song is not about parking a car, shame on you.”
3. She Defended Her Brother To Her Homophobic Parents
When she was growing up, her very religious parents had a falling out with one of Grace’s brothers, Christian, over his desire to go into the entertainment industry, and for “walking swishy”. Grace took Christian’s side, and he followed in her footsteps, as a model and musician himself. Her other brother, Noel, on the other hand, became a megachurch pastor.
4. She Demands To Be Paid
In an industry widely known for ripping off artists, Grace Jones refuses to perform until she’s been paid. As strange as it sounds, in the music industry, this isn’t common. Usually promoters will only pay after the show, which gives them the upper hand — but Grace won’t stand for that. In an interview with the Guardian, she explained: “Why are they holding on to your money? I’m like, No that’s my money!” Right on!
5. She Calls For More Artists To Push The Envelope
In I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, she writes about how the modern artists aren’t nearly as provocative as they think they are:
They dress up as though they are challenging the status quo, but by now, wearing those clothes, pulling those faces, revealing those tattoos and breasts, singing to those fractured, spastic, melting beats – that is the status quo. You are not off the beaten track, pushing through the thorny undergrowth, finding treasure no one has come across before. You are in the middle of the road.
She also tells the story about one pop singer, renamed “Doris” (but widely assumed to be Lady Gaga) who asked to collaborate. Jones turned “Doris” down flat, despite her agents advising her to take the gig, because “Doris” wasn’t being true to herself:
Everyone around me is going: ‘You have to do it, it will be so good for you, it will introduce you to a whole new audience, you will make a lot of money’. No! It will be good for her; she will draw from everything I have built and add it to her brand, and I will get nothing back except for a little temporary attention. No one could believe that I said no, but I am okay on my own. I am okay not worrying about a new audience. If the fuck don’t feel right, don’t fuck it.
With this one, who I will call Doris, I thought she was trying on other people’s outfits: she’s a baby in a closet full of other people’s clothes, a little girl playing dress-up, putting on shoes that don’t fit. I could see what she wanted to be when I watched her doing something when she started out that was starker and purer. Deep down, she doesn’t want to do all the dressing-up nonsense; she loses herself inside all the play-acting.
If there’s one thing to say about Grace Jones — she’s always been true to herself… and an utter badass in the process.
Originally published on September 28, 2015.